What is the War College?

What is the War College?

What is the War College?

Answers to your questions about the news.
May 25 2004 5:31 PM

What Is the War College, Anyway?

Who attends? And what do they learn?

On Monday night, President Bush gave a speech at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. What is the War College, and who attends it?

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The War College is the Army's top leadership school; it grants a "master of strategic studies" degree to senior military and civilian leaders who complete the requirements of its 10-month on-campus courses or its two-year correspondence course. It's actually one of five war colleges in the country—the Navy and Air Force have one apiece, and the Pentagon directly operates two others that are part of the National Defense University.

War colleges are the top finishing schools for military minds, and the Army's comprises a variety of units, including the Advanced Strategic Art Program and the Strategic Studies Institute, which foster military research when they're not awarding degrees. One recent SSI paper argues that America does not have its own "way of war" and advocates "a fundamental rethinking … of the grammar and logic of war."

The Army handpicks most of the approximately 340 students who attend each year, but there are always some from the other armed services, too—including, usually, one from the Coast Guard. The student body also includes civilians from the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Agency, along with about 40 senior officers from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, and New Zealand.

Since it was founded in 1901, the Army War College has had some notable graduates, such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who graduated first in his class as a captain in 1928; Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf; and Gen. Tommy Franks. Bush's visit, however, marks the first time a sitting president has stopped by since before the college moved to the Carlisle Barracks in 1951.

Bonus Explainer: There is also a Peace College in Raleigh, N.C., but that institution was named not for the abstract concept but for William Peace, a merchant and bachelor who donated the campus along with $10,000 in start-up money.

Explainer thanks Suzanne Reynolds and Richard Sommers at the U.S. Army War College.