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Cadet education advances with changing needs of warfare

Strategy and Warfare Center video poster graphic

By Ashley Murphy, Strategic Communications

U.S. Air Force Academy – The wars of tomorrow will likely not resemble the wars of years past. As new threats emerge and technologies advance, our tried-and-true military strategies will no longer suffice in an environment that demands interconnectedness between services and domains. To continue to deter our enemies and defend our freedoms, we must gain a better understanding of our military resources and capabilities. To this end, the U. S. Air Force Academy’s Strategy and Warfare Center is leading the way.

The Strategy and Warfare Center helps develop cadets to become agile warfighters prepared to lead the Air Force and Space Force through a combination of research and experiential learning. Developed internally by our faculty and cadets, it ensures every cadet learns, applies, and experiences strategy and operational design, joint operations, and air and space power in a realistic and tangible way.

“The Strategy and Warfare Center represents the first step in ensuring cadets’ education is directly applicable in the Air Force and Space Force,” said Cadet William DiRubbio. “Along with the Multi-Domain Lab and other organizations — such as the Institute for Future Conflict — cadets will have new opportunities to explore present and future issues with regards to strategy and warfare; and present potential solutions that either they, or current leaders, can implement.”

“The Strategy and Warfare Center integrates context, theory, doctrine, and practice,” said Lt. Col. Robert Grant, Strategy and Warfare Center Director. “It also enables new approaches to the science of learning and curriculum execution while providing opportunities to experiment with future strategic concepts and warfighting capabilities.”

Policy-relevant research

The Strategy and Warfare Center fosters policy-relevant research in partnership with faculty, think tanks, and military services. Hosted by the Military and Strategic Studies Department, it is structured to be a hub for integration of other academic departments and research centers to facilitate interdisciplinary exploration.

Grant explains, “The Strategy and Warfare Center is a learning enterprise where cadets explore their profession, discover how to create advantageous multi-domain effects, and pair academic education with live, virtual, and constructed experiences to teach strategic-to-tactical art and design.”

As the center stood up this year, they partnered with the Academy’s Institute for Future Conflict to provide a keystone capability for research and learning, particularly with the ability to wargame and test scenarios that replicate emerging and futuristic technology. Together, they’re focused on giving cadets the skills necessary to lead warfighting elements in the 21st century. One result of this partnership is the Summer Innovation Course, where rising three-degrees will spend two days learning about future conflict, emerging capabilities, and how to apply the skills taught at the Academy to future conflict problem sets.

Experiential learning

The Strategy and Warfare Center leverages not only traditional academic research and educational approaches, but is developing an experiential learning lab that will be available for teaching and research in the fall 2021 semester.

The multi-million dollar Multi-Domain Lab consists of two scalable suites, each with a fully integrated Joint All-Domain Operations Center, a flight bay, and Remotely Piloted Aircraft stations. The operations center provides joint command and control options with a flight bay able to replicate a host of warfighting scenarios from fighter aircraft and cargo transportation to electronic warfare and space operations.

The Military and Strategic Studies core course, MSS 251, will utilize the Multi-Domain Lab throughout the semester as it executes the Academy’s only 4.5 credit-hour core course. In addition, a number of Military and Strategic Studies major-level courses will utilize the Multi-Domain Lab to learn joint targeting, wargaming, airpower for combined effects, and more.

“In the Lab, current and future scenarios can be wargamed to develop cadet’s leadership and decision-making skills, while testing the merits of cooperation, competition, and conflict,” said Grant. “Every single cadet will utilize the Lab during their time at the Academy.”

Strategy and Warfare Center resources are available to all cadets from every academic major to pursue research projects, become junior fellows, or even attain cadet leadership positions within the Center. For example, DiRubbio is a Military and Strategic Studies major who hopes to be a pilot after commissioning. Next semester, DiRubbio will be the Cadet-In-Charge, which includes working with both cadet and permanent party leadership to educate cadets regarding strategy and warfare; recruit academic fellows for research; and develop a speaker series for cadets.

“The Strategy and Warfare Center is committed to exposing all cadets to rated and operational career fields in a way that capitalizes diversity and inclusion initiatives and expands opportunities,” said Grant. “[It] provides a credible, contemporary, and comprehensive experience for cadets across all mission elements.”

For more on the Strategy and Warfare Center, click here.