NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Two-hundred ten U.S. Naval War College (NWC) National Security and Decision Making (NSDM) students completed the 2014 NSDM course and NSDM Final Exercise (FX), Feb. 28, at NWC in Newport, R.I.
The top 25 graduates were bestowed the James V. Forrestal Award for Excellence in Force Planning and were provided an opportunity to execute their learning with a panel of senior national security practitioners.
"This course has done so much to broaden my horizons," said Army Col. Paul B. Riley, NSDM student and Forrestal award winner, following his brief with the senior panel. "It's sharpened the edge of my intellectual sword. Our strength was collective brainpower and harnessing that brainpower in a way where everyone felt like they could contribute."
"The problems of the next generation are so complex, that the tools and our understanding that we've gathered in our career up to this point are insufficient for dealing with the complexity of what's to come. We have to learn how to think through these things.
"This course has opened our eyes to everything at the strategic level; help us understand the things that we're seeing; and even help us forecast what we think will happen next," said Riley.
The 10-week course is part of NWC's year-long resident program and is designed to prepare senior level joint and international officers and civilians for executive positions in large national security organizations. Major attention is given to joint and allied perspectives at the theater level or above and studies stress the growing complexity of decision making at higher levels of responsibility and authority.
"NSDM is unique in that there are three sub-courses," said Cmdr. Brent Gaut, NSDM student at NWC. "You never just concentrate or focus on just one discipline."
The course curriculum consists of three primary areas of study; security strategies, policy analysis and leadership concepts at the strategic level.
"This is mostly a Pentagon-focused product," said Jim Cook, a NWC professor.
The products produced by the students are "something you expect to be briefed to the service chiefs, Joint Chiefs of Staff or Secretary of Defense," Cook added.
Following completion of coursework, students culminate their learning in seminars, groups of 13 to 15 students, and undergo a competitive two-week graded capstone, the NSDM FX.
During the exercise, seminars are required to develop a 45-minute presentation, followed by a question and answer period where they defend their strategic choices.
"Students are asked to assess the future security environment, out for the next 20 years and identify the major challenges and opportunities," said Cook. "Based on that assessment, students must develop national strategies and talk about how the joint force will be employed to achieve the objectives of their strategy. Finally, students must tell us what the joint force will look like and what kind of capabilities it will have."
At completion of the course, graduates will have enhanced their ability to rigorously analyze the proposals of their staffs, choose wisely among competing strategies, integrate decisions into comprehensive plans of action and implement their plans through effective leadership of subordinate organizations.
"It's teaching us senior leaders to be critical thinkers," said Guat. "It gives us the tools to look at and analyze different situations and scenarios we might find ourselves in. If you're given the opportunity to come here, take advantage of it and embrace the opportunity."
The NWC remains dedicated to its mission of educating and developing leaders by providing current, rigorous and relevant professional military education programs to the maximum number of qualified officers and enlisted personnel, civilian employees, and international senior enlisted leaders and officers. These leaders have trust and confidence in each other and are operationally and strategically minded, critical thinkers, proficient in joint matters, and skilled naval and joint warfighters prepared to meet the operational level of war and strategic challenges of today and tomorrow.
By U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl
Naval War College Public Affairs
Navy News Service
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