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Program History/Relevance

Since its inception in 1992, the Special Operations/Irregular Warfare master's degree program along with the recently added Joint Information Operations graduate curriculum has prepared more than 900 officers, warrants, and, more recently, SNCOs to fill key positions in both DoD and foreign defense establishments throughout the world. Characteristic of the programs in the Defense Analysis Department is the fact that although its curricula have evolved over time, its over-arching mission to develop critical thinkers and capable operators, planners and commanders for the rigors of irregular warfare (IW) has not changed. 

Unlike any other course of instruction in DoD or in civilian academia, the Special Operations/Irregular Warfare graduate program is 100% dedicated to the study of IW and was recognized by the Joint Staff as a "center of gravity" in the education of IW strategists and campaign planners.  Senior SOF leadership considers the Defense Analysis Department "the SAMS for SOF." 

Under the guidance of Dr Gordon McCormick, a visiting professor from the RAND Corporation, and then student CDR Bill McRaven (now Admiral and USSSOCOM Commander),  NPS developed a course of instruction some 20 years ago specifically built around operational art and strategy with an emphasis on the use of special operations forces.  The proposed course of instruction was so well-received by SOF students enrolled in other programs on campus that the NPS Superintendent arranged for the curriculum to be briefed to the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, who immediately chose to sponsor this unique program.  After helping to create this program, CDR McRaven would subsequently become its first graduate.

Over the years, the Special Operations/Irregular Warfare graduate program has undergone many changes. In 1994, sponsorship of the program switched to USSOCOM to reflect the growing demands for a joint curriculum.  In 1995, two senior service school equivalent fellowships were added (the department has since added a third position). In 2001, the curriculum—which formerly had resided under the banner of the Special Operations, Low-Intensity Conflict (SOLIC) academic group—was promoted to an academic department and re-named the Department of Defense Analysis.  The role the late GEN Wayne Downing, USA, played in transforming a curriculum to department status cannot be overstated.

In 2003, the department was opened to international officers and other students from the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program. In 2004, the department was designated as a key and developmental course of instruction for Civil Affairs and PSYOP officers, and in 2005, a new second curriculum, Joint Information Operations (JIO), was added to the department's offerings at the behest of the Deputy Secretary of Defense.   The JIO program is now sponsored by the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.  Today students are awarded either a Master's of Science in Defense Analysis or Joint Information Operations upon successful completion of their program.

Due to the nature/relevancy of its dual curricula, the department has seen a large spike in students within the last few years.  On average, 150 resident students comprised of joint SOF, conventional, and international officers, are enrolled at any one time.  A conscious decision was made by SWCS and supported by USASOC in 2007 to increase the number of SF, CA and MISO officers attending NPS as an alternative for ILE/MEL 4 education.  The result was a commitment to send 55 - 60 USASOC students a year to NPS.  In addition, SWCS agreed to support and pay for a MILFAC PhD position at NPS.  This position is currently filled by an Army SF LTC.

Today the department features an array of one-of-a-kind courses that reflect the programs' deliberately interdisciplinary nature. Students enrolled in the SO/IW curriculum are provided instruction in courses as diverse as Seminar in Guerilla Warfare, Anthropology of Conflict, Math Modeling, Culture and Influence, International Terrorism, and Dark Networks. Similarly, students enrolled in the Joint Information Operations curriculum are provided instruction in courses such as Warfare in the Information Age, Public Diplomacy to Psychological Operations, Electronic Warfare Principles and Applications, The Rise of Religious Violence, and Conflict in Cyberspace. In addition, the department draws upon other courses and programs throughout the Naval Postgraduate School to support its two curricula. The department is also home to two nationally prominent research centers, DoD's Information Operations Center for Research and the cutting edge CORE Lab, an intel/ops fusion center teaching social network analysis and related IW analytical methodologies.

Complementing the interdisciplinary nature of the program itself are distinguished faculty who have been deliberately drawn from a variety of academic disciplines and backgrounds, including:  Political Science, Economics, Cyber Security, Anthropology, Mathematics, Sociology, History, Org Theory, and Strategy Development.   Currently, the department features twenty-one full-time faculty, many of whom have been recognized for their subject matter expertise and/or instructional excellence.  In addition to this collection of world-class PhDs, the CIA added a faculty position to the department in 2010.  NSA is considering the same.

The Defense Analysis Department prides itself in its direct support to the warfighter. Examples of this support include faculty trips to Iraq to support the development of their counter-terrorism force and oversight panel; reach back support for CJSOTF-A information operations; the completion of a SOF counter-insurgency study that informed DoD's Guidance for the Development of the Force process; the field testing of the groundbreaking Lighthouse data collection tool in Afghanistan; the drafting of the VSO and Afghan Local Police handbook; and recent sponsored research on a wide range of operational-related issue areas, including the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, manhunting, unconventional warfare, information operations and military transformation. Since 2008, the Defense Analysis Department also has been working in collaboration with the City of Salinas to develop a "counter-insurgent strategy" for countering the city's rising problem with gang violence. 

It is no wonder that NPS graduates are in high demand on TSOC staffs, at JSOC and HQs SOCOM, and on JTF/COCOM staffs. Our graduates have excelled at all levels of command from SF Group, Brigade, AF Wing, Component, COCOM, to Assistant Secretary of Defense.  Our international officers have excelled on the NATO SOF HQs Staff, in ISAF, in command of their nation's SOF, and as Deputy Ministers of Defense or Chiefs of Police.  On a recent visit to Afghanistan, it was noted that nearly all SOTF and ODB commanders were NPS graduates.  Several NPS graduates have commanded conventional Task Forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan and have written testimonials to the value of the NPS IW education.  It was this feedback from the field that led SOCOM to propose NPS as the location for the IW Roadmap- mandated IW Academic Center for Excellence.

The Department of Defense Analysis is uniquely positioned to educate the leaders of tomorrow in the challenges of 21st century conflict.

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