Elliot School to teach top ranking govt. officials with new contract

High-ranking Department of Defense military and civilian leaders will be walking among students, faculty and staff this semester as part of a new joint venture between GW and the U.S. Government.

The DoD recently granted the Elliott School a contract to direct the Pentagon’s National Security Studies program starting in January. But similar programs at other universities around the country have been met with student opposition.

In this five-year multi-million dollar contract, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program will join with the Elliott School to offer a series of four-week, two-week and three-day courses for high ranking government officials.

“It is gratifying to know that the Elliott School is helping to educate military and civilian leaders and contributing to U.S. national security,” said Michael Brown, the dean of the Elliott School, in a press release.

The classes offered include a defense policy seminar, an executive course on national and international security, and a senior manager course in national security, and most of the classes will be held on campus.

The program was first offered by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and then, starting in 1996, by Syracuse’s Maxwell School, partnered with Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies.

The program has been met with some opposition in these universities. According to the Daily Orange, the student newspaper at Syracuse, in 2004 the Student Environmental Action Coalition spent a year campaigning against the program through teach-ins and outdoor protests on campus. The Harvard Crimson reported that in 1991 anti-war activists held a sit-in the offices of the National Security Program at the Kennedy School of Government.

Joanna Spear, director of GW’s Security Policy Studies Program and director of the new National Security Studies Program, said in an e-mail that more than the money, she valued the prestige associated with winning such a contract.

“It is a great feather in GW’s cap to have been able to win it,” she said.

Spear said the other schools that applied this year were a team of Syracuse University and Georgetown; Harvard and Johns Hopkins made up another team.

David Alan Grier, the Elliott School associate dean for academic programs, attributed the Elliott School’s success to the accomplishments of President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Dean Brown and Harry Harding, the former dean of the Elliott School.

“(Winning the proposal) does say that GW can compete at this level. Twenty years ago we wouldn’t have been competitive for this,” said Grier.

Over the next year the school will run four different training programs of different lengths for them. There will be three or four programs a year for the next five years. Elliott School professors, as well as faculty members from other schools, will teach the classes.

“It is nice for our students to know that the Faculty who teach them are also teaching such high-flyers from the Department of Defense,” said Spear.

Grier said the contract “will give students the feeling that they are at a big and important school.”

Elliott School administrators spent six weeks this summer developing a proposal to submit to the Department of Defense where they outline curriculums for the four courses they will offer over the next five years.

Caroline Donovan White, the associate director of ESIA international education, helped put the proposal together.

She said the curriculum is “very modern and up to date,” as it addresses current international issues as well as skills like dealing with the media.

“It was very interesting trying to figure out what the participants really needed to know about in international affairs in order to do a good job in defense and foreign policy,” said Spear.

Grier said changes to GW’s curriculum next year will allow students to take more classes in security studies. Spear said the graduate level Security Policy Studies program will be adding a new concentration in Security and Development, and some aspects of this issue will be integrated into the Department of Defense program.

Grier said: “We (the Elliott School) give you practical training, but we’re trying to look ahead. That’s what the Pentagon needs.”

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