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JUNE 2017


understanding of the military, and then to utilize those officers


State Goes to School

Multiple opportunities for State personnel to study or work

alongside DOD personnel already exist, but as an institution we

often do not make the most of those opportunities or capitalize

on the skills, abilities and

insights that our officers

gain from spending a year

in a military environment.

Let’s look, for instance, at

the National Defense Uni-

versity, with which I have

recent, firsthand experi-

ence, having served as its

senior vice president from

October 2013 to July 2016.

NDU is unique, even

within Defense. It is sometimes referred to as “The Chairman’s

University” because it operates under the guidance of the Chair-

man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and is required to have all

the military services represented in roughly equal numbers. This

is especially valuable for State Department personnel assigned

to NDU, because it means that one is exposed to all of the differ-

ent service cultures as opposed to just one dominant culture as

would be the case, for instance, at the Army War College or the

Naval War College.

NDU also hosts 90 to 100 foreign military officers each year,

many of whom go on to become service chiefs and ministers

of defense. Officers from USAID, the intelligence community,

Department of Homeland Security, Commerce and several

other agencies also comprise the student body. The result

is an incredibly diverse

environment that exposes

students to multiple

agency and international

perspectives. The students,

all of whom are mid-

career professionals, are

encouraged to broaden

their horizons, challenge

their assumptions and

build new networks. The

yearlong master’s degree

programs offered by each of NDU’s five colleges represent

“joint” education in the broadest sense.

NDU also offers the largest number of opportunities for

State personnel at the FS-1/GS-15 level to get training outside

of the department, although “education” is a more appropri-

ate term. The distinction is compelling and was explained to

me this way: Training involves teaching someone how to do

A National Defense University convocation ceremony in 2014.


We can only guess at how

many disagreements between

State and DOD never reached a

crisis level because the people

involved understood each

other’s cultures.