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Centre for Defence & Strategic Studies

The Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies (CDSS) is the senior educational institution of the Australian Defence College. It is responsible for providing Australian and overseas participants with the knowledge and skills required to operate at the strategic level in a complex and modern security environment.

To achieve this, the principal activity of the CDSS is delivery of the Defence and Strategic Studies Course - the senior course in Australia for senior military officers and Government officials engaged in national security issues.

CDSS is part of the Australian Defence College (ADC) Campus located at Weston Creek in the south-west of Canberra. It was opened in January 2001, and has replaced the Australian College of Defence and Strategic Studies and the Joint Services Staff College, both of which previously operated at Weston Creek.

Defence & Strategic Studies Course

The Defence and Strategic Studies Course (DSSC) is a year long post-graduate level educational program, with a strong practitioner focus, that provides senior military and civilian officials with the knowledge, awareness and skills to operate at the highest levels of leadership, command, policy formulation and management.

Information on the Course

Mission Statement

The aim of the Centre is to provide officers of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the Australian Public Service and overseas participants with the knowledge and skills required by commanders, strategic leaders and managers engaged in national security issues.

These include:

  • The policy skills needed to understand and operate effectively in the complex security environment of the modern world;
  • Appropriate leadership and decision-making skills; and
  • A deep understanding of global, regional and national issues of defence and strategic importance.
To achieve its aim, the Centre will:
  • Deliver high quality programs in strategic and defence policy and planning, leadership and management, and security issues of global, regional and national importance; and
  • Develop and foster close and enduring relationships between and among its staff, participants, and graduates.


CDSS delivers high quality programs in strategic defence policy and planning, leadership and management, and security issues of global, regional and national importance. CDSS is responsible for providing Australian and overseas participants with the knowledge and skills required to operate at the strategic level in a complex and modern security environment.

The principal course conducted is the Defence and Strategic Studies Course (DSSC) - the senior course in Australia for senior military officers and other Government officials engaged in national security issues.

Course Outcomes: The objectives of the DSSC include enhancing the ability of Course Members to:

  • provide timely and effective advice to Government
  • apply military power to achieve strategic objectives, and
  • develop and sustain military capability to meet national objectives
Course Participants: The course is aimed at senior military and civilian officers with the potential for further advancement and who are in or likely to move into strategic command, planning and decision-making roles. The course generally consists of between 42-46 Course Members, half of which come from other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, North America and the Middle East, particularly those that share Australia's interests. They add an important dimension to the consideration of the complex international issues that face decision-makers in the strategic, defence and security spheres.


The Vane Green Library

The Vane Green Library represents the Defence Library Service (DLS) at the Australian Defence College (ADC). The DLS network comprises 22 libraries that are located at various military facilities and institutions throughout Australia. The Vane Green Library provides access to a comprehensive collection of monographs; serials, and online access to several Australian and international databases. As a member of the DLS the Vane Green Library also has reciprocating borrowing rights with other Defence Libraries. Additionally the Vane Green Library provides support to course members and directing staff through the provision of research assistance and education and training in the use of library systems. The DLS also provides online Internet access to various information resources that empowers the Defence community to pursue personal and professional development.

Laptop computers

Each full-time participant will be issued a laptop computer for the duration of the DSSC. The laptops are configured for use as stand-alone's or connected to the Local Area Network (LAN).

Recreational Facilities

There is a fitness centre with shower and changeroom and locker facilities. A variety of exercise equipment is available as well as on-site volleyball courts and flood-lit tennis courts. There are popular jogging and bicycle tracks in the vicinity of the Centre.

Slightly further afield, within the bounds of Canberra, there are many other recreational facilities which cater for most tastes. Beautiful parks are a feature of the city's layout. There are several recreational reserves that are available for fishing and bushwalking. The region is also developing a thriving wine industry with numerous cellar doors and restaurants within 30km of the city centre.

Canberra is located within a convenient distance of many of Australia's key attractions. These include the South Coast of New South Wales which is a two and a half hour drive from Canberra and features many pristine beaches. Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciusko in the Australian Alps, can be reached by road within three hours. In winter, the Australian Alps have some of Australia's best snow fields and the area is well served by resorts (The ski season extends from June to October).


There is no 'living-in' accommodation at the Centre. Course members are expected to organise their own accommodation in Canberra before the program commences. The Centre does not have the staff to provide comprehensive assistance in the busy lead-up period to the start of the academic year. Consequently, Australian course members are expected to organise their own accommodation in Canberra before the program commences. Course members coming to Canberra from overseas should contact their High Commissions or Embassies well in advance for assistance in obtaining accommodation. This includes both temporary accommodation on arrival, if required, as well as permanent residence.

A large number of properties become available in Canberra's rental market during the Christmas period with the diplomatic and defence communities contributing significantly to that turnover and providing many of the homes available for rent. The properties, however, rarely remain on the market for long as competition for rental properties is high.


Education opportunities for students in the ACT are many and varied. Schooling, for International Students who have no English or English as a second language, is available in several locations in the ACT and eligibility is zoned by residence. While information from previous course members is an excellent guide, it should be noted that government policy changes periodically.

For information concerning schooling in the ACT, the ACT Department of Education has a helpful website.

Further information concerning education in Australia is available at the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.


In 1967, the Chiefs of Staff Committee confirmed an urgent need for the establishment of a Joint Services Staff College and for integration of the existing single Service Staff Colleges. The proposal that subsequently evolved was that an Australian Services Staff College (ASSC) should be created by bringing together the existing Staff Colleges and including a Joint Services Wing (JSW). The whole would be under the command of a Commandant filled on rotation by each of the Services.

It was recognised that it would be some years before a comprehensive facility could be developed to house the ASSC - 34 years as it turned out - so priority was given to finding a temporary site for the Joint Services Wing. In 1968 the Western Creek site was recommended as a temporary location, with the first course commencing in 1970. By agreement, Army was to sponsor the fledgling establishment. The proposal was approved by the Minister for Defence (The Hon Malcolm Fraser) in January 1969. Brigadier Ian Geddes (who, as founding Commandant, had been instrumental in the success of the Army's Officer Training Unit at Scheyville near Windsor in NSW) was appointed founding Director to set up the JSW at the Weston Creek site later that year.

The first course commenced in January 1970 with 23 Australian and New Zealand Service and civilian students. It quickly established a reputation for excellence and, in July 1972, with the induction of the first students from other countries, was renamed the Australian Joint Services Staff College (JSSC). The College conducted 57 courses between January 1970 and its closure in June 1998 and produced 2321 graduates (660 of whom were from 23 overseas countries). Since January 1988, those who met the required standard were also awarded a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Studies. Many graduates have risen to command their Service and, in several instances, their national Defence Force. The last Commandant of JSSC was Commodore Geoff Earley, AM, RAN.

In 1994 the Australian College of Defence and Strategic Studies (ACDSS) was established. The ACDSS became the senior institution within the Australian Defence Force's system of professional military education for officers, providing a year-long program of studies for staff at the senior Colonel/Brigadier (or equivalent) levels in strategy, leadership, defence planning, organisation and management. Like the JSSC it quickly established an impressive reputation and, during the four years of its existence 148 participants, of whom 57 were from 17 overseas countries, passed through it. Air Marshal Ray Funnell, AC (Ret'd), (a former Chief of the Air Staff) served as Principal of the College throughout its life.

The current CDSS has its origins in the report of the Defence Efficiency Review (DER) that was issued in May 1997. That report recommended sweeping changes to officer education in the Australian Defence Force - recommendations which were remarkably similar to the intentions of the late 1960s. Implementation of the DER recommendations led to the replacement of the JSSC and the ACDSS by the Australian Defence College in its initial form. The founding Principal was Air Vice Marshal Brendan O'Loghlin, AO (Ret'd).

The ADC was officially opened on 18 January 1999 by the Hon Bruce Scott, MP, Minister Assisting the Minister of Defence. The founding Commander of the ADC in its current form was Rear Admiral Raydon Gates, CSM, RAN (a graduate of JSSC 37/88). The first two courses that were run at the ADC in 1999 were the Defence Staff Course (DSC) and the Defence and Strategic Studies Course (DSSC). In 2000, these two courses were merged to form one course, the Defence and Strategic Studies Course, which is run by the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies (CDSS). The founding Principal of the CDSS was Mr Paul Varsanyi (a Fellow of the ACDSS - Course 3/97). Paul Varsanyi retired from the APS in January 2005. Ms Myra Rowling (JSSC 25/82) assumed the position of Principal on 6 January 2005 until she retired from the APS on 8 December 2005. Her successor was Mr Maurice Hermann who was Principal from 5 January 2006 to 3 December 2006. The current Principal is Dr Alan Ryan, who commenced on 4 December 2006.