The National Defense University is accredited to award the master's degree by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The MSCHE, established in 1919, is a voluntary, non-governmental, peer-based membership organization dedicated to educational excellence and improvement through peer evaluation and accreditation. NDU is a member of the Washington Consortium of Colleges and Universities.
CISA is also conditionally accredited by the J-7 to provide Joint Professional Military Education II to senior service college selectees for approved programs.
CISA History and Evolution
The College of International Security Affairs began as a construct of the Defense Leadership and Management Program (DLAMP) in 1997. Designed as a Department of Defense (DOD) civilian education initiative, DLAMP was tasked with providing civilian DOD employees with professional military education, including enrollment in graduate level courses in subjects relevant to their work experience. The existing War Colleges at the time (including Army War College, Marine Corps War College, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Naval War College, National War College, and Air War College) were not structured to absorb the high number of students the policy-makers behind DLAMP had envisioned. As a result, the Center for the Defense Leadership and Management Program (CDLAMP), the first incarnation of CISA, was established within National Defense University.
In its nascent form, the CDLAMP program was designed to provide senior professional military education on national and international security issues to select civilians working for the Department of Defense. The mission statement from that time emphasized establishing and strengthening relationships between civilian and military leaders at the strategic level, and identified its central goal as the education of students in grand strategy, the international and domestic strategic environment, interagency processes and leadership and decision-making principles.
The first class of the new program arrived in Spring of 1998 and began classes in Force and Statecraft, The Geostrategic Context, Civil Military Relations, and National Security Decision-Making. In 2001, CDLAMP added an evening program component to its course offerings, expanding its outreach to a broader demographic of government employees, including civilians from the State Department and Capitol Hill. That same year, CDLAMP was renamed the School for National Security Executive Education (SNSEE), reflecting its evolving mandate and expanded course catalogue, which included a new graduate degree program dealing with the war on terrorism. In addition to opening the program to include a wider group of U.S. Government employees, SNSEE responded to a 2002 DOD counterterrorism initiative and began admitting International Counterterrorism Fellows to take evening courses alongside their American counterparts. As interest in the program grew, SNSEE began offering a formal certificate program for International Counterterrorism Fellows (CTFs) in 2003. That same year, SNSEE was acknowledged as the flagship of the DOD's Regional Counterterrorism Fellowship program.
In 2004, National Defense University began transitioning SNSEE's certificate program into an accredited Master of Arts degree program, and by 2006, SNSEE had developed and initiated a 10-month master of arts (MA) in Strategic Security Studies for the fellows in its International Counterterrorism Fellowship Program. At the time, SNSEE's CTF program contained 20 international officers, police, and partner civilians. The new MA degree was also offered to SNSEE's evening students from across the U.S. interagency and Congressional staffers. International fellows who expressed an interest in interacting with U.S. counterparts had the option of taking evening classes. At the same time, SNSEE also opened its evening courses to students taking the Naval War College program on Capitol Hill. The leadership of SNSEE began discussions with the Joint Staff J-7 concerning also transitioning the program into a single-phase JPME venture, but it was decided to delay until a future date when the program had matured further.
Under the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004 (PL 108-136), which authorized the Regional Defense Combating Terrorism Fellowship (CTF) program, in 2008 SNSEE was designated as the DOD flagship for education and the building of partnership capacity in combating terrorism and irregular warfare at the strategic level. That same year, SNSEE was designated the 5th and newest college of the National Defense University, and it underwent its final name change; becoming the College of International Security Affairs (CISA). At this time, CISA's international fellows became more fully integrated into life at NDU, and they participated in the NDU distinguished lecture series, were allowed to take electives at the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and graduated alongside the other colleges in June 2009. Starting with the class of 2009, all of CISA's International Fellows have been awarded a war college diploma for successful completion of the program.
In 2009, the CTF MA program size grew to 60 students with the inclusion of 20 U.S. Government civilian professionals in the overall student body alongside 40 international partners. Since 2009, these American students have hailed from across the interagency, including Department of Defense/OSD, National Counterterrorism Center, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Transportation, Defense Intelligence Agency, Office of Naval Intelligence, Department of State, and Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration. Even with the inclusion of American students, however, international officers, police, and security professionals have remained about two-thirds of the CTF program student body. During the 2010-2011 Academic Year, the U.S. Army detailed a lieutenant colonel to the CTF program, and upon graduation, the Army G-3/5/7 awarded the officer Senior Service College credit.
During the 2011-2012 Academic Year, the CTF MA program included four officers from the U.S. Army and one from the U.S. Air Force, all of whom have been awarded constructive credit for their services. In 2010, CISA adapted its program once again in response to a request from U.S. Army Special Operations Command, establishing an additional location at Ft. Bragg, NC, and writing curriculum to underpin the evolving role of Special Operations Forces in the combating terror, irregular warfare, and building partner capacity missions. This program's curriculum focused on institutionalizing lessons from irregular conflicts in conjunction with CISA's existing, strategic-level courses on the 21st century security environment and strategic planning. The first class at Ft. Bragg consisted of 20 special operators; in 2011-2012, the class doubled. In 2011-2012, CISA once again responded to an emerging strategic need as it hosted its first cohort of the South and Central Asia Studies program, often referred to as the Afghanistan-Pakistan, or Af-Pak, Hands program. Developed at the request of the Director of the Joint Staff in late 2010 to support the needs of the joint warfighter, the inaugural Af-Pak Hands program at CISA consisted of 23 U.S. officers returning from deployment to Afghanistan or Pakistan, providing them with an opportunity to reflect, study, and build upon their substantial experiences in theater, and, thereby, better prepare them to return and contribute to mission success. For the Af-Pak students, CISA adapted its joint education program, developing focused courses in South and Central Asian history, politics, and security issues, and in irregular warfare to support U.S. strategy and policy in a theater declared a vital national interest to the United States. The Af-Pak officers and the CTF students are integrated in several core and elective courses, thereby enriching the experience of students in both programs. The Af-Pak hands in the CISA SCAP program are fully integrated into the CTF program for core courses, electives, academic exercises, and distinguished lectures and professional development opportunities.