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The Naval War College bases its programs on three core courses (Strategy and War, Theater Security Decision Making and Joint Maritime Operations). The College of Distance Education offers the same courses as adaptations of the resident offerings, the difference being in the style of presentation. Students may complete the courses through various programs. Courses may be completed in any sequence.

Strategy and War (S&W)

This course is founded on the Clausewitzian premise that "war is a continuation of policy with the addition of other means." Strategy is the bridge that connects the state’s goal with the operations of its military forces. Students are familiarized with the fundamentals of foreign policy and military (joint and combined) strategy. In addition, the course assists students in developing a coherent framework for analysis of decisions involving the use of force to achieve national objectives.

The course is presented through a series of historical case studies examining specific examples of strategic-political interaction. The course, however, is definitely not intended to be a study of history for its own sake. The case study topics have been carefully chosen to focus on historical situations that illustrate the enduring and recurring concerns of the strategist. The principal concerns interwoven throughout the course are:

  • the political determinations and objectives of war
  • the alternatives to war as an instrument of policy
  • the international environment, institutions, and alliance structures through which policy, strategy and military operations interact
  • the comparative merits of joint and combined warfare strategies and operations
  • civil-military relations in peace and war, all examined with reference to political and strategic problems and options.

Theater Security Decision Making (TSDM)

The TSDM Course, taught in our Fleet Seminar Program, Web-Enabled Program, and CD ROM-Based Program, are designed to engage intermediate-level military officers and U.S. Government civilians in the challenging complexities of the contemporary national security environment. Although these courses offer a broad security studies curriculum that encompasses the strategic and theater-strategic levels, particular emphasis is given to understanding decision making challenges and processes at the theater-strategic level of the combatant commands.

Concepts are studied and applied to case studies of complex real-world issues. Selection of course concepts and materials is predicated on the belief that an individual in a command position or serving in a large, complex national security organization cannot simply rely on discrete disciplines, but rather needs to apply many disciplines relevant to different situations. For this reason, the TSDM course employs a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on selected concepts from political science, international relations, strategy, leadership, psychology, management, economics, anthropology, and other cognate disciplines. All instruction seeks to utilize the broad academic and professional experience of our students and focuses on making and implementing critical decisions within the command and staff environment.

Areas selected for special attention are:

  • National defense strategies and military strategic concepts.
  • An exploration of the “whole of government” approach of national power to include economic, diplomatic, information, and military tools.
  • The roles and challenges of the different U.S. combatant commands.
  • Regional knowledge and cultural awareness from a combatant commander’s perspective.
  • An understanding of the tools associated with critical thinking and deciding among complex national security policy alternatives.
  • Clear and effective writing and briefing skills.
  • Organizational structures, processes, and procedures and the skills necessary to excel in large, complex organizations.
  • Management techniques and skills that complement leadership skills.
  • The evolving domestic and international economic, political, and military environments affecting theater security.
  • The defense resource planning and allocation process and its relationship to staff functions.

Joint Maritime Operations (JMO)

The Joint Maritime Operations (JMO) Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase I Course is an in-depth study of the operational level of war throughout the range of military operations. This course meets the Officer Professional Military Education Policy (OPMEP) requirements and complements the learning objectives of the Theater Security and Decision Making (TSDM) and Strategy and War (S&W) curricula. Where TSDM and S&W emphasize our national military strategy development as well as a nation’s imperative for matching strategic goals to policy, using historical and current case studies, JMO is a practitioner’s course which prepares students to excel in the operational arena and to excel through effective operational planning and joint force application to achieve appropriate military objectives. Although maritime and sea service contributions are emphasized, all Services’ capabilities are studied with ultimate focus on joint operations from the combatant and joint task force commander levels. Via extensive study of numerous case studies, the JMO student is challenged with four enduring questions from the perspective of a joint task force commander and his staff planners:

  • What conditions are required to achieve the objectives? (Ends) 
  • What sequence of actions is most likely to create these conditions? (Ways)
  • What resources are required to accomplish that sequence of actions? (Means)
  • What is the likely cost or risk to the joint force in performing that sequence of actions?

The ability to answer these questions is the very essence of the Joint Maritime Operations course.