Message from the Chair

Our Approach to Educating Our Students

Welcome to the Defense Analysis Department (DA) at the Naval Postgraduate School. Our traditional motto is, “train for certainty, educate for uncertainty.” In short, educating students is the most important activity we do. Our central focus is preparing our students to perform exceptionally well as leaders in the world they will face after graduation, both in their next assignments, and also for a lifetime.

Complexity and rapid change are dominant characteristics of living in the 21st Century. In close coordination with our students, our faculty and staff conduct an extensive array of graduate research efforts that directly enhance the national interests of the United States and its allies by focusing on innovative, agile and creative solutions. However, our research is designed to seamlessly integrate into the classwork you will take. We teach and we research; they are inseparable activities.

What makes NPS and DA different from most civilian universities? First and foremost, as a graduate school, NPS inverts the common educational paradigm. At most civilian universities, research is driven by individual faculty interests and equities that are defined by standard academic disciplines (anything from History and Philosophy to Aerospace Engineering and Robotics). Faculty members are incentivized to do work that is important to themselves and to their disciplines. Graduate students serve essentially as apprentices; students work for the faculty. At NPS and DA the opposite is true. Faculty members acknowledge, keep abreast of, and contribute to the latest developments in their chosen disciplines, but our focus is on the development of human capital: our students. Bottom line difference: at NPS the faculty work for the students, and all of us together pursue the core national security mission.

What is DA’s critical value-added to the national security mission? Irregular Warfare

As DOD’s premier research university, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) is ideally suited to host a variety of Irregular Warfare (IW) education activities and outreach initiatives.

Besides employing top-tier faculty from the best PhD programs in the country, NPS is ideally situated to take advantage of educational and research partnerships that add value to the NPS experience.

  • Partners include the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Stanford University, and the entire emerging technology/innovation ecosystem of Silicon Valley.
  • NPS manages its own test ranges/restricted operating spaces -- land, maritime, and air -- and has the ability to teach and conduct research at the highest classified level.
  • NPS is less vulnerable to foreign intelligence penetration than non-DOD entities.
  • NPS is one of the only educational organizations worldwide that has the direct joint and combined warfighter connections and educational capacity to meet irregular warfare education requirements at the tactical, operational, and strategic level of the United States and its allies.

IW History: NPS stood up the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict (SOLIC) curriculum in 1992 with the assistance of then-NPS student CDR William McRaven (Admiral, USN, Ret.). The Department of Defense Analysis (DA) evolved to become the recognized leader in IW education as one of over twenty educational departments at the NPS.

DA is comprised of three graduate curricula, each granting a Master of Science degree.

  • Special Operations and Irregular Warfare (formerly the SOLIC curriculum) is the only one of its kind: 100% dedicated to the study of IW and the human domain of conflict. (Code: 699)
  • Information Strategy and Political Warfare (formerly Joint Information Operations) ensures Military Information Support Operations professionals are exposed to both the technical and non-technical aspects of information strategy, to include strategic communications, psychological operations, electronic warfare, cyber operations, and military deception. (Code: 698)
  • Applied Design for Innovation (AD4I) was established in 2021, and is sponsored by Naval Special Warfare Command. AD4I students employ experiential learning geared towards the challenges of innovation adoption, and directly tap into the Silicon Valley technological ecosystem (Code: 697).
  • All three curriculum align neatly with the lines of effort laid out in the Irregular Warfare Annex to the 2017 National Security Strategy. Our curricula were purposely built to engage all the resident expertise at NPS when addressing the issue of IW in Great Power Competition.
  • Historically, about one-quarter of the DA student body has been officers from our international partners and allies. We are a joint and combined educational unit.

DA is also home to several IW-focused labs and Centers.

  1. The student-conceived Common Operational Research Environment (CORE) Lab is a space for innovative IW analytical methodologies, looking to better understand and/or exploit both dark and friendly networks.
  2. The Coalition for Open-Source Defense Analysis (CODA) Lab, is a cutting-edge data science effort that has been successful in predicting outbreaks of violence by leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to rapidly analyze multilingual social media content at global scales. CODA Lab research has clearly illustrated that while mass media unifies populations, social media divides.
  3. The DoD Information Strategy Research Center (ISRC) facilitates research and exploration of information warfare strategies and concepts, conducts field experimentation and analysis, and supports graduate-level education on political warfare and operations in the information environment.
  4. The Littoral Operations Center (LOC) co-sponsors the NPS Wargaming Innovation Hub, supporting COCOMs and allies worldwide.

These IW-focused labs are just a small representation of the myriad of labs and centers resident at NPS that also study robotics, autonomous vehicles, and military ethics.

Conclusion: The Defense Analysis Department’s three graduate curricula provide the necessary critical thinking and analytical skills and knowledge to ensure that the execution of U.S. National Security Strategy in the realm of Irregular Warfare is forward-looking, agile, and innovative.

Douglas A. Borer, PhD.

Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Defense Analysis
Naval Postgraduate School