Fall 2018 - 60650- PA 383C - Policy Development

Shaping Defense Policy

The Department of Defense (DoD) is a large, complex and consequential enterprise. It spends nearly $600 billion a year, employs almost three million people and conducts activities that have major domestic and international ramifications.  

This graduate level seminar deals both with results and with processes—what our defense policy is, and how it is made and implemented. The objectives of the course are to (a) use DoD as an example of the way in which policies are developed and carried out in large organizations, and (b) help graduates who take defense-related jobs to orient themselves within the national security establishment, whether they are working in the Pentagon, at OMB, on Congressional staff or in defense-related corporations.

Course Outline

Because most students have not had experience with the military, the seminar will start with an overview of military terms and organizing principles. Students will become familiar with the basic documents that shape the institution, beginning with Title 10 of the United States Code. Following that, the course will follow a logical progression from the articulation of national security strategy, through decisions about military organization and resources to responses to current security issues. 

The course is organized around my belief that the Defense Department, like all organizations, must focus on five basic concerns: purposes, money, people, things and information. An organization’s success in addressing those concerns—in this case, DoD’s ability to achieve its mission—is determined by a sixth key concern: the quality of its leaders. These topics make up the “meat” of the course. Students will spend one or more class sessions on each of the following themes:

Background: overview of DoD and of the military services; the difference between war fighters and resource providers; the roles of key leaders.

Purposes: what are we defending ourselves against (or fighting for)?

National Security Strategy: who writes it, what influences it?

National Defense Strategy: threat-based v. capability-based approaches.

Money: the defense budget.

The budget development process.

Budget trends.

People: recruiting, training and rewarding the force.

From conscription to the all-volunteer force.

Who should serve (and who should not)?

Pay and benefits.

Things: acquisition and logistics.

Figuring out what to buy and how to buy it.

Maintaining the defense industrial base.

Information: management, public relations and intelligence.

Internal communication and coordination.

Communication with the public.

Intelligence–information about the external environment.

Leadership: developing the officer corps.

Special topics: cyber war, terrorism, U.S.-Russia relations

Thinking about the future: anticipating threats, determining roles and missions, adapting to a shrinking Defense budget.

Because this is an election year, students will have an opportunity to study and critique the major candidates’ positions about national security issues.


NOTE: All of the class readings except those listed below will be posted on Canvas.

Amos A. Jordan, William J. Taylor, Jr. and Michael J. Mazarr, American National Security, Sixth Edition (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Buy.