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The Security Studies Program curriculum uses concentrations to serve as guideposts for a student’s academic career. While we do ask that students indicate a concentration from the start of their SSP career, students are able to take courses in any concentration and can change their concentration as their plans and interests evolve. The following concentration options are available to currently enrolled students.


In this concentration, students acquire an understanding of the practical dimensions of intelligence, including the intelligence cycle, the intelligence disciplines, problems of intelligence collection and analysis, covert action, and the intelligence-policy nexus. Attention is also focused on domestic intelligence, military intelligence, and the intelligence operations and cultures of other countries. Students consider major conceptual issues such as the appropriate role of intelligence in a democracy, issues of oversight and accountability, the intelligence budget as part of the overall defense budget, and the complexities of secrecy. This concentration addresses intelligence issues in the military, government agencies, or in government-related industries.

Classes in the Intelligence concentration address one or more of the following:

  • Intelligence collection (human and technical disciplines)

  • Intelligence analysis

  • Counterintelligence

  • Covert action

  • How decision-makers use intelligence

  • Comparative intelligence services

  • Oversight

  • History of the intelligence community or a history of operations

  • Tactical and strategic intelligence

  • Surveillance

  • Ethics of intelligence

International Security

Students in the International Security concentration examine the broad range of issues on the international security agenda. Beyond the traditional security agenda focused on sovereignty, hegemony, and great power politics, students also learn about the range of transnational and subnational challenges on the international security agenda, including nuclear proliferation and other weapons of mass destruction; catastrophic threats from cyber- and biosecurity; enduring strategic rivalries; environmental security and the challenges posed by climate change; human security challenges, including shifting global demographics, migration, and global health issues; global economic challenges, and resource constraints; transnational threats from non-state actors; and an overview of the range of forms of political violence, including terrorism, revolutions, civil wars, insurgencies, subversive wars, and interstate wars.

Students also become acquainted with the advantages and disadvantages of the possible responses to this contemporary international security agenda–including coercive and cooperative tools of statecraft–and to the range of actors involved in these responses. For instance, they learn about the United Nations and other international organizations; alliances and coalitions; global economic institutions; multi-national corporations and public-private partnerships; and other non-governmental organizations.

Courses in the International Security concentration address one or more of the following:

  • The emerging structure of the international system

  • The range of transnational and subnational security challenges facing states and humans on the planet today, from climate change to infectious disease to weapons of mass destruction

  • The range of state and non-state actors involved with aspects of the international security agenda, such as the UN, World Bank, International Criminal Court, and multi-national corporations

  • Conflict resolution and peacekeeping

  • Diplomacy, international law, and international governance

  • Alliances and other forms of security cooperation

Military Operations

Students enrolled in this concentration acquire in-depth knowledge of the U.S. military and those of other nations with a particular emphasis on application of the military instrument of power in support of national security strategy. Courses include the study of conventional military operations, nuclear deterrence, the use of air and sea power, military analysis, net assessment techniques, and the interaction between civilian and military officials, among other subjects.

Courses in the Military Operations concentration do at least one of the following:

  • Enable students to develop in-depth knowledge of enduring concepts and principles used to plan, execute, and/or evaluate military tactics, operations, and/or strategy

  • Develop a detailed understanding of major, direct inputs to the development of military power in peacetime and/or wartime

  • Provide a detailed examination of some set of major military operations, battles, campaigns, or wars in the past

  • Equip students to rigorously assess current/future military tactics, operations, and/or strategies

Technology and Security

The Technology and Security concentration offers classes that focus on how technological innovations and applications shape national security policy and outcomes. The concentration spans classes that focus on the theoretical application of technology, such as nuclear deterrence or the theory of cyberwar, as well as classes that focus more directly on the underlying technology itself, such as Hands-On Cybersecurity or classes in data science. This concentration permits students to approach security issues from a technological perspective and provides the future analyst, policymaker, or scholar with an appreciation of the wide range of technology issues affecting security.

Courses in the Technology and Security concentration address one or more of the following:

  • The theoretical application of a technology, with theories significantly influenced by the underlying technology (such as how nuclear deterrence follows from nuclear technology or how different theories can shed light on how to use cyber capabilities)

  • The study of technology itself, and its impact on security, using case studies or other methods of examining operationally what the technology offers policymakers

  • The use of technologies that are relevant for national security, such as in hands-on cybersecurity classes

  • The use of technological tools to uncover new insights about security-related issues, such as data science software

Terrorism and Substate Violence

Students in this concentration study the motivations and operations of terrorist and insurgent groups, the dynamics of civil wars, and the policies required to effectively counter these threats. Courses examine sources of terrorism, terrorist tactics, key terrorist groups like al-Qa’ida and the Lebanese Hizballah; counterinsurgency, ethnic conflict, and post-conflict stabilization missions, among other issues. Students learn to analyze the spectrum of conflicts short of war, their internal dynamics, and the measures and practical responses required to resolve them.

Courses in the Terrorism and Sub-state Violence Concentration address one or more of the following:

  • Terrorism

  • Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

  • Stability Operations

  • Sub-state violence and threats to domestic security including: drugs, human trafficking, and weapons of mass destruction

U.S. National Security Policy

The U.S. National Security Policy concentration provides students with the necessary background to identify and analyze U.S national security issues, and understand how U.S. national security policy is made. Courses in the concentration examine the complete range of national instruments of power, including military, diplomatic, intelligence, and economic tools. The concentration also examines the domestic constraints and pressures that sometimes mean there is a gap between the national security policies analysts recommend and the policies the United States actually pursues. Issues such as Congress and national security and the intersection of budget, policy, and strategy provide the foundation for understanding the national security structure and process. Courses examine the full range of security challenges the United States faces globally and in various regions, and potential approaches and debates about how to address security problems.

Courses in the U.S. National Security Policy concentration address one or more of the following:

  • U.S. national security policy problems, approaches, and debates

  • U.S. national security policy process

  • The gap between the security policies analysts believe the United States should choose and the security policies the United States actually pursues

  • U.S. policies in other regions

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