Editor’s Note: SOFREP invites our members to submit articles for publishing consideration. Today we have a piece by Ray Vawter, an active duty service member working in intelligence.  Write to us here, editor@sofrep,com


The Smarts of War

American academia is displaying a complete disregard for national security that may cause the United States to lose a war against a near-peer competitor. Among the top twenty-five universities in the United States there are zero undergraduate degree-bearing programs pertaining to national security, and there are only two security-related sub-programs advertised on their collective majors and minors pages. If this doesn’t evoke feelings of shock or dismay, take into consideration that four of these universities have programs for jazz studies. Twenty-two offer programs dedicated to gender and sexuality. They also collectively offer fourteen musical theater programs and seven dance programs. Fashion design and LGBTQ studies individually appear as many times as national security, international security, defense, war studies, military science, and intelligence studies all combined. What does this mean? Students today have more opportunities to study oboe performance and Irish literature (no offense to James Joyce) than they do to study national security.

The two aforementioned security programs are offered at Stanford University and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. The former is entitled “International Security Studies,” which does not award a bachelor’s degree, just “Interdisciplinary Honors;” and the latter “International Security, Norms, and Cooperation,” is a sub-plan for their “International Studies” major – I’m imagining it’s their version of a concentration. This knowledge illuminates the main problem in national security education: the volume of programs. Students in the United States are simply not being given the opportunity to study national security because there are so few universities that offer it. Prospective students view the military as their only entry into the field. When the best and brightest high school sophomores and juniors find “U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2022” on Google, they start looking through undergraduate majors at the schools listed in front of them. They will sometimes see broader programs like “Global Studies,” “Political Science,” or “International Relations,” but those programs rarely, if ever, allow students to concentrate on war. Some who are uninitiated in the world of higher education may argue, “national security’s inclusion in those areas of study is implicit,” however that isn’t entirely true. To provide an analogy, studying political science instead of something more specific to national security would be like going to Northwestern to study “Music,” when Northwestern offers twenty-two different music programs. If you want to be a music critic, you don’t study “Musicality” or “Woodwinds” when you could be studying “Music Criticism.” Furthermore, it is impossible to argue that undergraduate education’s exclusion of national security is due to a lack of capacity for programs: the University of Pennsylvania alone has twenty-five undergraduate programs that start with the letter “A.” My goal is not to diminish the importance of programs like “Actuarial Mathematics.” I simply mean to provide a statistic to illustrate the sheer number of programs at these elite institutions while advocating that national security should be among them.