Graduation from the Distance Education Program requires satisfactory completion of a series of three requirements.

  1. Eight core, online courses.
  2. One elective, enhanced program, or research project.
  3. In person attendance at two summer resident programs.

Each requirement is composed of numerous lessons. The lesson is the basic unit of instruction and consists of selected readings and other educational materials that support accomplishment of course objectives, followed by application of the material. Course performance is evaluated through writing and exercise requirements. Individual student requirements are subjective in nature, based on required study and designed to ensure that course objectives are attained.

NOTE: Please click below to expand descriptions of each program and their course offerings.

First Year Studies

DE2300 - Orientation to Strategic Leader Education (No Credit Hours)

This course is voluntary and designed to prepare the student for education at the strategic leadership level.
Click here for more information about DE2300.

DE2301 - Strategic Leadership (3 Credit Hours)

The Strategic Leadership course provides the doctrinal foundation of the Army War College curriculum. In this course, students examine the foundations of leadership at the strategic level with an emphasis on evaluating competencies and challenges and civil-military relations. Students also evaluate strategic decision making to include critical and creative thinking, and ethical decision making. Finally, students apply Strategic Leader competencies and decision making factors to a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment.

DDE Orientation for Class CL16.

DE2302 - National Security Policy and Strategy (4 Credit Hours)

The National Security Policy and Strategy course is focused on American national security and foreign policy formulation. This course provides a theoretical framework for analyzing the international context for security issues. Students examine the interagency process for developing and implementing U.S. foreign and security policies, making the connections between the various external and domestic influences at play. Finally, students are introduced to a methodology for formulating and assessing national security strategies that employ all instruments of national power.

DE2303 - War and Military Strategy (4 Credit Hours)

This course examines the history and theory of war and military strategy, providing students with a strategic level understanding of the military element of power. The fundamental nature and evolving characteristics of varying levels of conflict provide students with insights about how war and conflict shape strategic thought and military practice. Studying classic and contemporary masters of strategic thought provides a foundation for examining war and formulating current and future military strategy.

DDE students making their way to Bliss Hall through the Hall of Flags.

DE2304 - Global and Regional Issues and Interests (3 Credit Hours)

This course examines the key strategic factors that provide opportunities and challenges for US strategy and policy makers in a world of increasing great power competition. The focus is on viewing issues and interests from a primarily non-US viewpoint. Students first explore how the People's Republic of China and Russian Federation view the world, their national interests, major strategic initiatives, and a case study for each. They then have the opportunity to select and conduct a deeper study of one of seven world regions - the Americas, Arctic, Europe, Greater Middle East, IndoPacific, Sub-Saharan Africa, or Russia/Eurasia. The course concludes with an exercise where students build a US strategy for their focus region.

DE2306 - First Resident Course: Strategic Leadership in a Global Environment (3 Credit Hours)

The First Resident Course (FRC) - DE2306 Strategic Leadership in a Global Environment is designed to explore topics that prepare students for strategic level leadership. The U.S. operating environment is continually evolving and poses new challenges for senior military and political leaders. This course is designed to synthesize the first year curriculum and prepare students for their second year studies. Students interact with faculty experts from a wide variety of fields in order to deepen an understanding of the nature of strategic leadership and broaden the appreciation for the substantive security issues confronting our nation's civilian and military leaders. In addition to the synchronous guest lectures and seminar opportunities, students participate in webinars with a variety of embassy, agency, and think tank organizations. This experience explores the application of the diplomatic elements of national power and civil-military relationships in an interagency environment. Throughout the course, students are adequately prepared for greater leadership development and ultimately to serve as strategic advisors to senior military and civilian leaders in an increasingly complex environment.

Second Year Studies

DE2307 - Contemporary Security Issues (3 Credit Hours)

DE2307 is a survey course that challenges students to examine contemporary and future concepts that will influence U.S. National Security and war fighting over the next twenty years. The course provides materials that will provoke student critical thinking on aspects of warfare in the 21st Century, to include globalization, irregular warfare, space, cyber warfare and leveraging information in the operational environment (network-centric operations) that incorporate land, sea, air, and space technologies. Students will investigate such emerging issues associated with Defense, Joint, and Army Transformation. This course acts as a catalyst and resource for students to draw upon as they broaden their knowledge of future joint force capabilities in their role as strategic leaders.

DDE Graduation 2013.

DE2308 - DOD Organization and Processes (3 Credit Hours)

DE2308 provides the student, as a future leader in the strategic environment, with information and tools to increase his/her strategic leader technical competency and understanding of DOD structure and function and how DOD integrates into the overall national security structure. Its content furnishes the student with knowledge of the systems and processes that help senior national and military leaders translate theory into military strategy, plans, actions, and resources. The course examines the interactions of systems and processes including the Joint Strategic Planning System (JSPS) and DOD Decision Support Systems including the Joint Capabilities Integration & Development System (JCIDS); the DOD Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) process; and the Defense Acquisition System (DAS). [The course also explores doctrine for unified direction and organization, joint command and control, joint and multinational operations, and interagency, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organization coordination.] The material in DE2308 is a logical follow-on to that of the First Year courses and sets the stage for the remainder of the Second Year core courses.

DE2309 - Theater Strategy and Campaigning I (3 Credit Hours)

DE2309 focuses on the operational strategic aspects of planning at the theater level. Students will look at the development of theater strategy, and how it links to the overarching guidance received from the civilian leadership. They will also examine how the combatant commanders implement decisions made by that civilian leadership. Finally, the course sets the stage for theater operations by examining the capabilities of the Services, interagency capabilities and joint logistics. This course consists of three blocks designed to explain how combatant commanders translate national strategic guidance into theater strategies. The first block will address Services and interagency capabilities. Block two covers theater strategy and goes into detail regarding one important aspect of that strategy: theater security cooperation. The final block will examine Security, Stability, Transition and Reconstruction Operations and Counterinsurgency Operations.

DE2310 - Theater Strategy and Campaigning II (4 Credit Hours)

Theater Strategy and Campaigning II utilizes the concepts covered in DE2309 (Theater Strategy and Campaigning I) to address how combatant commanders translate national and theater strategies into the precursor products required to plan a campaign in an operational environment. The course introduces the emerging concept of design and addresses the fundamentals of operational art and joint doctrine for campaign planning. Students will examine the employment of military forces to attain theater-level strategic and operational objectives through the design, organization and integration of theater campaigns. Students will gain an understanding of the fundamentals of campaign planning and learn how to prepare the key planning products a joint force commander would use to create a campaign plan. This course uses joint and Service doctrinal material, historical case studies and two on line labs to reinforce key concepts and learning objectives. DE2310 continues the process of building upon war fighting concepts introduced in the previous courses.

Gettysburg Trip 2013.

DE2312 - Second Resident Course: Strategic Leadership in Current and Future Warfare (3 Credit Hours)

Strategic Leadership in Current and Future Warfare examines strategic leadership and its application to the use of military forces in current and future warfare. In the process students assess and discuss the current issues facing the defense establishment, develop a better understanding of the interaction of the elements of power, and expand on their knowledge of the relationships between the Department of Defense and those organizations that influence the implementation of national security strategy (e.g., interagency, media, NGO, IO). This course is designed to be the capstone course for the Distance Education Program and builds upon and compliments the previous two years of study. Just as in the First Resident Course, students attend expert lectures by current military and civilian leadership, participate in seminar discussions, staff rides, case studies and exercises and exploit the full resources of the United States Army War College. The students also participate with invited guests from the Commandant's National Security Program.

Elective Program

Electives provide students with instruction in a specialized subject which will build on the knowledge gained during the two-year program. The list of course offerings varies from year to year. Examples of courses that are traditionally offered follow.

DE2333 - Economics and National Security

This course is designed to provide the students a familiarity with the field of political economy focusing on those economic concepts, actors and processes that have implications for national security. The course is not an economics course, but rather seeks to examine the political impact that economic phenomena have on the United States as it conducts national security policy. From the perspective of U.S. national security, three major issues of the international economy are especially important. The first issue involves the nature and organization of the global economy. The second issue involves the global economy, including the international monetary system, trade, economic interdependence, and debt and financial crises. Related to the financial status of a nation-state, the final issue involves the problem of fostering economic development in developing countries.

DE2334 - Seapower for a New Era

DE2334 is designed to enhance USAWC Distance Education students' comprehension of a maritime perspective on the execution of the National Military Strategy and joint/combined operations around the globe. Students will analyze the U.S. Maritime Forces' cooperative strategy and naval operations concepts. They will then examine the roles, missions and force structure of the Aviation, Surface, Underwater and Expeditionary components of the Navy, including the Navy's interdependence with the U.S. Coast Guard and other interagency partners in Homeland Defense. The course closes with a campaign analysis of a historical naval campaign, which allows students to study a complex expeditionary naval operation, some of the fundamental naval warfare tasks, and how naval forces can support a land campaign. This elective course is designed to specifically enhance the Joint education experience of a USAWC Distance Education student. The purpose of the course is to expand the students' comprehension of maritime strategy and provide an appreciation for strategic direction of the U.S. Maritime Forces to enhance their ability to make or influence strategic decisions in the future.

DE2335 - Airpower and Modern Warfare

DE2335 introduces Distance Education students to the evolution of airpower in warfare, examines its employment in the contemporary national security environment, and considers its potential roles in the strategic environment and types of conflict that frame the 21st century. Students will become familiar with the origins of airpower and decisions regarding its employment throughout history, analyze this influence on the evolution of airpower doctrine and strategy in the current 21st century strategic environment, and develop an appreciation for the future direction of airpower in support of U.S. national security policy and strategy. DE2335 primarily uses course readings and a Blackboard forum to support course objectives. At the end of this course, students should be able to apply the skills acquired in the strategic leadership, strategy, theater strategy, and campaigning courses to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the nature and theory of airpower. Students completing this course should have a broader perspective on the use of air power, to include its capabilities and its limitations. In addition, students should use this study to further their abilities to assess other theories and ideas about war, strategy, and decision making to better prepare them to meet future challenges they will face as senior leaders in the national security process.

DE2338 - Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA)

A secure U.S. homeland is the Nation's first priority and is a fundamental aspect of the National Military Strategy. The Department of Defense (DOD) protects the homeland through two distinct but interrelated missions: Homeland Defense (HD) and Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA). Elective DE2338 addresses DOD support of U.S. civil authorities for domestic emergencies and for designated law enforcement and other activities. This elective will discuss the role of joint forces within the domestic operational environment, with particular emphasis on DSCA roles and processes, as well as DoD's relationship with other federal organizations, such as FEMA. It provides a detailed review of the Joint and Army doctrine that governs the activities and performance of U.S. armed forces in DSCA operations and the doctrinal basis for interagency coordination during domestic DSCA operations. In addition to reviewing appropriate military doctrine, the elective will also focus on the mechanisms for providing DSCA that exist in law, policy, and Department of Defense directives.

DE2340 - Energy and National Security

Together with their Army War College resident program colleagues (elective WF2245), this blended course allows distance program students to use the “energy security triangle” – supply, economics, environment – to evaluate national energy strategies of both the United States and other nations. They will analyze the impact of energy policy choices regarding fossil-based and sustainable energy sources on issues such as climate, infrastructure (e.g., the electric grid and pipelines), and trade. Students will use the Quadrennial Energy Review and energy analysis from government and commercial sources to evaluate U.S. energy policy and strategy. Finally, they will explore how operational energy affects the deployment, employment, and sustainment of military forces.

DE2342 Peace and Stability Operations

DE2342, Peace and Stability Operations builds senior leader understanding of the principles, policies, doctrine, challenges and effective practices of peace and stability operations at the strategic and operational levels. This elective has been designed to include in-depth coverage of how the United States (U.S.), the United Nations (UN), and our future multinational partners will approach peace and stability operations now and into the future.

DE 2348 - Negotiations

Everyone negotiates; not everyone negotiates well. This course will improve your personal and professional negotiation skills using the systematic techniques of principled negotiation. Armed with these techniques and a little practice, you will be able to conduct, analyze and influence negotiations from the routine to the complex and from the tactical level to the strategic level. Students use materials from Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiations, a lecture series specifically developed by DDE in cooperation with the U.S. Military Academy Negotiation Project, and other related readings. Students discuss and practice negotiation techniques using short Blackboard forums. Negotiation exercises are conducted during the online Elective and later during the Second Resident Course Negotiations Graduate Seminar. Evaluative requirements for this Elective are four Blackboard forums and an essay. The forums consist of either answer or response discussions on course readings or role-based negotiation exercises.

DE2349 - Cyber Operations

This elective examines the national strategic direction and conceptual development of Cyberspace Domain Operations along with the effect information age technology has on U.S. forces' ability to develop and implement an effective Cyber threat deterrent. Students explore, in depth, the implementation of Cyberspace policy and doctrine with a view toward discerning possible effects upon command and control structure, tactics, techniques and procedures, and transformation. The outcome of this elective is the student possessing a better perspective on the integration of Cyberspace Warfare at the joint, strategic, and operational levels. The student will be able to assess and understand how information age technologies affect the strategic direction of U.S. Forces and be able to articulate Cyberspace Warfare Operational concepts as these relate to Joint strategy, DOD transformation, and asymmetric operations. Each student will complete a 1500-word unclassified essay concerning an aspect of Cyber Warfare at the national or strategic level, having a significant effect on the conduct of military operations.

DE2360 - Gray Zone Considerations

The gray zone resides somewhere between the traditional or classical notions of war and peace. It is not a new concept, yet it has grown in prominence in recent years, particularly as the United States and its allies and partners grapple with the growing number of adversaries who wish to challenge us in the gray zone and the complexities of operating outside our traditional comfort zones. This course examines the concept of the gray zone and challenges students to evaluate in what manner strategies, especially military strategies, should reflect how to prepare for and counter competition and conflict in this operating zone. The course will give students an intellectual basis for analyzing strategic implications regarding challenges in the gray zone - the large and growing area outside traditional thinking on war and peace. The course will include readings, review of video and audio material, seminar dialogue, and case studies.

DE2371 – U.S. Involvement in Vietnam

This course provides students the opportunity to synthesize many of the concepts studied throughout the U.S. Army War College curriculum through analysis of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945 until 1975. American interaction with Vietnam began 20 years before the start of the Vietnam War. Despite four Presidential Administrations' desire to avoid a costly land war in Asia, war escalated in 1965 with the deployment of over 100,000 additional Service members. The Vietnam War became the longest U.S. conflict of the 20th Century and perhaps the most controversial in U.S. history. Despite a vast application of U.S. military power, war aims were not met. The Vietnam War is a seminal event in U.S. history and its conduct and outcome continues to influence debate regarding the application of U.S. military power. Throughout the U.S. Army War College curriculum, you have studied an array of concepts and theories that are critical to the effective application of military power at the strategic level.  By analyzing the U.S. involvement with Vietnam through the lens of these concepts you will draw insights with direct applicability to rendering judgment of current and future use of military power.

DE2375 - Space Force Operations

This course will introduces students to the modern space environment, focusing on the national and theater strategic levels of war, and will provide an opportunity to study and evaluate key strategic space decisions. The purpose of the course is to expand students' comprehension of global and theater space strategy, their historical mindedness, and their ability to apply strategic thinking to develop sound strategic decisions in the Space strategic layer. Outcomes include analysis of the origins, dynamics, and major events in the development of Space forces; evaluation of key U.S. Strategic Space decisions to build Space forces and organizations leading up and for the duration of the Space cold war; and evaluation and analysis of the lessons, challenges and opportunities facing the United States in Space domain and Space strategic layer. The course will examine the space medium as a critical domain in the Department of Defense and the relationships between the National Command Authority (NCA), the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), and the Joint Staff, along with U.S. Space Command and Service force providers. The course will also explore evolving Space policy, current issues and law issues; and issues senior commanders face while directing and missioning space force enhancement and space control elements.

DE2380 - Gods and Nations - Understanding the Religious Dimension

This course provides a broad overview of approaches to war found in the five major world religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism to facilitate strategic understanding of contemporary conflicts. Students first examine how foundational texts in each religion discuss war. Next, the seminar considers subsequent historical developments in each tradition, noting the complexities and differences emerging within each over time. With this background in place, the course goes on to explore how these religious heritages continue to influence attitudes and actions through the analysis of select case studies, including Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the influence of Christian millennialism on U.S. Foreign Policy, Salifi Jihadism and its many offspring (e.g., Al Qaeda), the rise of Vishva Hindu Parishad in India, and recent conflicts between Buddhist majorities and Muslim minorities in such nations as Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Throughout the course, students will examine rival scholarly findings and conclusions concerning the extent to which religion influences both intra- and inter-state conflicts.

DE2381 – Women, Peace, and Security (WPS)

This course aims to answer the fundamental question of "how can understanding and practicing a 'whole-of-society' perspective transform conflict and lead to more enduring peace and stability?" Employing a gender perspective in conflict prevention and resolution requires an understanding of the complex factors that intertwine social constructs, armed conflict, security cooperation and international peace-building efforts. In this course, students will explore these concepts through the lens of historical perspective, the US strategy for implementation of Women, Peace, and Security principles, and the DoD role in global efforts across the competition continuum.

DE2383 – Science and Technology

Science and technology (S&T) developments are fundamental to advancing military modernization. This course surveys the organizations, processes, and technology areas employed by the DoD and Services, including Special Operations, in support of acquisition programs. Special emphasis will be on assessing opportunities, challenges and considerations for senior leader decision-making related to science and technology programs. Topics explored include: overview of key technologies such as hypersonic missiles and robotics; DoD and Service organizations and key processes for S&T development; and future technology considerations and military application.

DE2384 – Responsible Command

This course is designed to provide students with a focused forum to stimulate dialogue and discussion on matters pertaining to command and leadership, and to enable those students entering into command or director positions the opportunity to think about their future roles at the 0-6 level and beyond. The course challenges students to redefine their understanding of the role of a commander, particularly at the operational and strategic levels. The course is divided into three blocks and involves readings, discussion threads, online journaling, and an oral presentation (student recorded video) of their Command or Leader Philosophy. Written assignments and oral presentations provide opportunities for students to integrate, evaluate, and synthesize course materials, in light of the current strategic environment and the challenges of command.

Defense Strategy Course

The U.S. Army War College has offered the Defense Strategy Course (DSC) a nonresident course, to U.S. Army Active and Reserve Component officers since 1984. This course is a four-month online Distance Education program boarded by Army Human Resources Command offered twice each year. Regular Army (RA), Army Reserve (USAR), and Army National Guard (ANG) boards select fifty RA, twenty-five USAR, and twenty-five ANG officers for each course. (Please contact the relevant component POC, below, to request consideration for enrollment). For ATRRS, the school code is 217 and the course # is DSC. Officers enrolling in the Defense Strategy Course must:

  • Be a Captain/O-3 or higher, either serving in a 3-Star or higher staff position or designated by their component’s FA59 proponent, OR
  • Be a Major/O-4 or Lieutenant Colonel/O-5 having completed Intermediate Level Education (ILE) Common Core / equivalent schooling, AND
  • Not be enrolled in, or have completed, a Senior Service College Program (MEL-1))

Historical Background of the DSC:

In 1984, Former Secretary of Army Marsh tasked the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (DCSOPS), LTG William R. Richardson, to develop a non-resident course of instruction at the U.S. Army War College develop a correspondence course of instruction for Active Army and Reserve Component officers on Geo-Politics. The Defense Strategy Course was duly established and the Army designed DSC as a continuing education program for MEL-4 qualified Field Grade Officers. It has continued to provide this service for more than 34 years and has over 4,500 graduates.

Purpose of the Defense Strategy Course:

To improve student understanding about the role of the Department of Defense in the development of National Security Policy and Strategy (NSPS) within the contemporary international environment. The DSC includes four blocks of instruction totaling 16 lessons. Each lesson takes approximately 10-15 hours to complete (on a weekly basis). Of note, there is also an orientation block, with prerequisite assignments which are due prior to course start.

  • Block 1, Foundations of Strategy, provides an understanding of how and why the strategic level of defense enterprise is different, and how to communicate to its leaders.
  • Block 2, Strategic Theory, examines classical thinking about strategic theory, military schools of strategic thought, and who strategic thinkers apply theory to practice.
  • Block 3, Strategy in Practice, reviews the Strategy Formulation Framework, international relations, civilian control of the military, the DoD strategy development process, and the processes involved in execution of Title 10 responsibilities.
  • Block 4, Contemporary Strategic Challenges, addresses the current strategic environment and the role of the combatant command and component commands.

Evaluation Criteria:

Students are evaluated based on weekly online discussion posts, check-on-learning quizzes, and four strategic document assignments.

Course Completion Recognition:

No formal Military Education Level is awarded for completion of the Defense Strategy Course, nor does it provide graduate or undergraduate college credits. No formal academic evaluation report is written upon completion of the course. However, all students who complete the course will receive a Certification in Strategy and Policy Development signed by the Commandant of the U.S. Army War College. Army officers may also include this course on their Officer Record Briefs (ORBs) as a school completed, using the MILPO code designation WUI.

Course Dates for 2024:

  • DSC 24-01 dates (15 Jan - 05 May 2024)
  • DSC 24-02 dates (15 Jul - 03 Nov 2024)
  • DSC 25-01 dates (13 Jan - 04 May 2025)
  • DSC 25-02 dates (14 Jul - 02 Nov 2025)

Interested Army officers may request consideration for enrollment as follows:

Regular Army: Your branch manager should contact the Active Duty DSC quota manager.

Human Resources Command
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue
Fort Knox, KY 40122
DSN: 983-6417
COMM: (502) 613-6417
POC: Mr. Kurt Wahl
Email Address:

Army National Guard: Through Command Channels to:

Ryan King
TRADOC Team Chief
111 S. George Mason Drive
Arlington, VA 22204
Office: (703) 601-7066
Cell: (908) 752-3113
POC: MAJ Ryan King
Email Address:

Army Reserve: Through Command Channels to:

Commander, HRCOE
ATTN: AHRC-OPL-L (RC Military Schools)
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue
Fort Knox, KY 40122
COMM: (502) 613-6450
POC: Mr. Russell G. Guzman
Email Address:

Other interested personnel (officers from other services, DoD civilians, international officers, etc.) may inquire about enrollment by contacting the POCs below.

POCs for Defense Strategy Course:

Defense Strategy Foundation Course

The Defense Strategy Foundation Course (DSFC) is a 12-week online program of study for GS 14 and 15 level civilians from the Department of Defense's Defense Senior Leader Development Program (DSLDP). This course is only for selectees to the DSLDP Program. DSFC is a prerequisite for all DSLDP students attending Senior Service College. The DSFC focuses on the National Security Strategy policymaking process and the relationship of the national instruments of power to defense strategy.

The Purpose of the Defense Strategy Foundation Course:

To improve student understanding about the role of the Department of Defense in the development of National Security Strategy within a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous international environment. The DSFC is divided into four sections of 10 lessons, each requiring approximately 7 to 10 hours to complete.

  • Section 1, Course Introduction, is designed to prepare students for taking the course using an online format and to introduce them to the concept of critical thinking.
  • Section 2, War and Military Strategy, examines classical thinking about strategic theory, the military schools of strategic thought, the international system, strategy formulation framework and states and strategy.
  • Section 3, The Department of Defense, reviews traditional American perspectives on Defense and the role of the DoD, civil control of defense, the interagency framework, and homeland security.
  • Section 4, Policy Development and Security Environment, examines uses of history in policy making, globalization/economic development, the current strategic environment (both opportunities and threats), cultural relations and dimensions, multinational operations, centers of gravity analysis and Strategy at the Combatant Command Level.

Evaluation Criteria:

Successful completion of the course includes participation in online forums (threaded discussions) and a written essay.

Course Completion Recognition:

No formal Military Education Level is awarded for completion of the Defense Strategy Foundation Course nor does it provide college course credits. All students who complete the course will receive an Army War College Certificate signed by the Commandant of the U.S. Army War College.

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