What is the National War College (US)?


The National War College (NWC) of the United States is a school in the National Defence University (NDU). It is housed in Roosevelt Hall on Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., the third-oldest Army post still active.

Brief History

The NWC was officially established on 01 July 1946, as an upgraded replacement for the Army-Navy Staff College, which operated from June 1943 to July 1946. The college was one of James Forrestal’s favourite causes.

According to Lieutenant General Leonard T. Gerow, President of the Board that recommended its formation:

The College is concerned with grand strategy and the utilization of the national resources necessary to implement that strategy. … Its graduates will exercise a great influence on the formulation of national and foreign policy in both peace and war. …


Mid-level and senior military officers who are likely to be promoted to the senior ranks are selected to study at the NWC to prepare for higher staff and command positions.

  • About 75% of the student body is composed of equal representation from the land, air, and sea (including Marine and Coast Guard) services.
  • The remaining 25% are drawn from the Department of State and other federal departments and agencies.
  • In addition, international fellows from several countries join the student body.

The curriculum is based upon critical analysis of strategic problem solving with an emphasis on strategic leadership. As of the 2014-2015 academic year, the curriculum was based upon a core standard throughout NDU.

Because of the NWC’s privileged location close to the White House, the Supreme Court, and Capitol Hill, it has been able throughout its history to call upon an extraordinarily well-connected array of speakers to animate its discussions. All lectures at NWC are conducted under a strict “no quotation nor attribution” policy, which has facilitated discussion on some of the most challenging issues of the day.

Alumni and Influence

American graduates of the NWC include a secretary of state and a secretary of defence, national security advisors, a senator and congressman, and a White House chief of staff, in addition to chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff and numerous other current and former flag officers, general officers, and US ambassadors. No other graduate institution of national security policy in the world has had more impact in the development of the United States senior cadre of national security leaders. Graduates from other countries include prime ministers from nations as diverse as Iran and Bulgaria, as well as many national military leaders from every continent on earth except Antarctica.

Roosevelt Hall

Roosevelt Hall (built 1903-1907) is a Beaux Arts–style building housing the NWC since its inception in 1946. Designed by the New York architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, it is now designated a National Historic Landmark. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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