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Defence and 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. CDSS Graduates constitute a cohort of senior leaders in Australia and around the world who share common understanding of the more complex aspects of their work - whether as military officers or civilian national security professionals.

Information on the course includes:

Course Information

The course is the result of many years of development, refinement and fine tuning. As Australia's most advanced program of professional military education, it provides course members the opportunity to spend a year learning, thinking and writing about the challenges that they will face as they proceed to command and management roles at the most senior levels of their profession. Participation in this program offers course members the opportunity to shift their focus from the tactical and operational to the strategic level.

Course members use the consideration of the curriculum to develop their individual conceptual and analytical thinking, leadership and interpersonal skills. However, just as important is the opportunity to develop an empathetic understanding of the point-of-view of the other course members. The alumni of this course will be working together for the rest of their careers. One of the great benefits of attending CDSS is being able to learn from the rich and varied perspectives of course members drawn from Australia and across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, North America, the United Kingdom and Europe.

The CDSS educational approach is an adult-learning model. This means that we do not simply train course members. The CDSS provides an advanced learning environment. Course members are responsible for using the opportunities that the DSSC provides to develop themselves. Course members are expected to participate in all aspects of the program. However, the formal program is only the beginning of the learning that takes place at the College. All members of the CDSS, both staff and students, are expected to contribute their experience and their learning to enrich the group.

The DSSC is offered once each year, and runs from January to December. Each course is attended by up to 50 military and civilian officers from Defence, other Government agencies, and overseas Defence forces. Inter-agency attendees are also welcome for specific blocks of study . The course is conducted at the post-graduate level and most of the participants are at the levels of Military 06-07 (Colonel-Brigadier equivalent) or Australian Public Service Executive Level 2.

Chatham House Rule

The explanation and wording of the Chatham House Rule is as follows:

Meetings of the Institute may be held 'on the record' or under the Chatham House Rule. In the latter case, it may be agreed with the speaker(s) that it would be conducive to free discussion that a given meeting, or part thereof, should be strictly private and thus held under the Chatham House Rule.

"When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed".

Frequently asked questions:

Q. When was the Rule devised?
A. In 1927, then refined in 1992.

Q. Should one refer to the Chatham House Rule or the Chatham House Rules?
A. There is only one Rule.

Q. What are the benefits of using the Rule?
A. It allows people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their organisations, and therefore it encourages free discussion. People usually feel more relaxed if they don't have to worry about their reputation or the implications if they are publicly quoted.

Q. How is the Rule enforced?
A. Chatham House can take disciplinary action against one of its members who breaks the Rule. Not all organisations that use the Rule have sanctions. The Rule then depends for its success on being seen as morally binding.

Q. Is the Rule used for all meetings at Chatham House?
A. Not often for the larger meetings (so called General Meetings); more frequently for smaller ones, for example where work in progress is discussed or when subject matter is politically sensitive.

Q. Who uses the Rule these days?
A. It is widely used in the English-speaking world - by local government and commercial organisations as well as research organisations.

Course Guides & Materials

Block 1 - Frameworks for Strategic Leadership

Block One establishes a framework for the leadership and security concepts explored in the remainder of the course.

Block One examines the fundamental elements for understanding strategic leadership at the higher level. Course members begin by practicing critical thinking skills using diverse examples, before being exposed to selected tools to enhance their analytical capabilities. Continuous development of these skills is crucial for the rest of the course and subsequent employment as a senior practitioner.

Course members focus on national security policy and the strategic work environment. Experiential seminars provide an insight into the challenges of senior leadership and management in the Australian Defence Organisation (ADO). Course members consider the drivers of Australia's current national security policy, including Australia's national interests and the concept of grand strategy.

The course explores the various mindsets of key players involved in the whole-ofgovernment approach to national decision-making. Understanding these mindsets within the Australian context allows course members to reflect on other countries' decision-making processes, and to consider the ambiguities and compromises implicit in policy-making.

Course members also consider concepts of sovereignty, and statehood, and International Relations theory, and conflict resolution strategies. Finally, the Block examines thematic security issues that are increasingly impacting on the contemporary international system.

Learning Objectives
  • Understand the importance of critical thinking and effective leadership at the strategic level.
  • Apply critical thinking to established concepts, analytical frameworks and historical case studies.
  • Examine strategic foresight methods as analytical tools.
  • Understand the role of higher command in national security policy making.
  • Analyse the national strategic working environment.
  • Understand the practical aspects of the international system and international relations theory.
  • Understand the origins of the current international environment.
  • Understand the components of a generic security architecture.
  • Understand key thematic security issues.
Course Member Deliverable
The principal Block One deliverable is an individual 2,000 word written assignment based on the topic, Analyse two key security challenges facing your organisation at the strategic level in the next ten years. This is an internally assessed assignment.

Block 2 - The Contemporary and Future Strategic Setting

Block Two provides course member with an understanding of the forces that shape Australia's security environment, with emphasis on those within the Asia-Pacific region.

In this Block, course members study internal and external structures and dynamics driving state and non-state actors in the Asia-Pacific region. These include major influences on policy and security, including the foundations of political development. The Block divides into a core element which all course members undertake, and an electives element which provides course members a choice of topics over a three week period.

In the core element of the Block, course members examine the major players in the Asia-Pacific region that shape the security environment. These are the United States of America, China and Japan. Given their strategic importance to Australia, a range of other regions and counties are examined including Indonesia, the Koreas, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Course members consider:
  • The internal and external influences on national security, including historical, economic, military and cultural factors.
  • Political setting and governance, including a comparison with course members' respective decision-making processes.
  • The nature and role of regional security architecture.
At the completion of the North East Asian component of the Block, course members travel to China and Japan or Korea to further their understanding of the political, social, military and economic dynamics of the region.

In the electives element of the Block, course members choose from a selection of sub-regional and thematic topics. Six electives are conducted at the conclusion of 16 Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies Handbook 2011 the core weeks. Selection of electives coincides with course members identifying the topic(s) they plan to cover in their Strategic Assessment Paper. The electives component provides course members with the opportunity to explore, in greater depth, selected regional or thematic issues to complement research for their SAPs.

At the completion of this portion of the Block, course members travel in small groups to various countries in the Asia-Pacific region to further their understanding of the political, military, cultural and economic dynamics in these regions.

Learning Objectives
  • Comprehend the enduring historical and cultural factors that influence regional relationships and decision-making.
  • Analyse the security perspectives of major powers and other selected states in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Evaluate how internal and external factors affect security perspectives in the following geographic sub-regions:
    • North East Asia, particularly amongst the major powers;
    • South West Pacific;
    • South East Asia;
    • South Asia; and
    • the Middle East and Gulf.
  • Analyse the effect of selected thematic security issues on the Asia-Pacific security environment.
  • Evaluate security architecture(s) in the Asia-Pacific region
Course Member Deliverable
The principal Block Two deliverable is an individual 2,000 word written assignment based on a range of topics from the core elements of Block Two.

Block 3 - Higher Command and the Conduct of Joint and Combined Operations

Block Three prepares course members for employment in the higher command environment and exposes them to the application of the operational art at the strategic and operational levels.

Block Three focuses on higher command, the design and planning processes for complex operations across the military strategic and operational interface. Course members analyse the use of force in the national strategic context and the translation of strategic policy into military strategy. The Block examines ADF higher design and planning processes and the approaches of other agencies, coalition and international military and police forces. Course members explore force design, force delivery and force sustainment considerations, as well as the planning considerations for intelligence, information, force protection, and logistics operations. The Block also examines issues surrounding international law, the laws of armed conflict and the ethics of command that permeate the nature of command and leadership.

The Block is divided into a core element and week-long study tour undertaken by all course members, and an electives element which provides course members the opportunity to study a range of focus areas in depth. These electives cover counter-insurgency operations, strategic leadership, campaigning, and civil-military engagement.

The core elements of Block Three include a seven day campaigning exercise involving senior mentors, including former Service Chiefs and senior strategic and operational level commanders. The study tour will involve designated course members examining ADF capability, or the military capability of New Zealand or Papua New Guinea.

Learning Objectives
  • Understand the use of force in the national strategic context.
  • Understand the nature of modern warfare.
  • Examine the translation of strategic policy into military strategy.
  • Analyse risk, friction and ambiguity at the strategic and operational levels.
  • Understand Defence's role in the national security architecture.
  • Understand the strategic implications of higher design and planning for joint, multi-agency and combined operations. 18 Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies Handbook 2011
  • Analyse higher command.
  • Consider the factors associated with successful coalition operations.
  • Understand force design, force delivery and force sustainment considerations for specific environmental capabilities.
  • Understand the planning factors for specialist and support operations.
  • Understand the Australian strategic and operational military planning process.
  • Understand the basis of international law, laws of armed conflict, relations with the media and ethics at the higher command level.
  • Analyse selected contemporary military-related security themes.
  • Understand planning for counter-insurgency operations.
  • Understand planning for civil-military cooperation in stability and reconstruction operations.
  • Apply advanced military planning to complex conventional war fighting scenarios.
  • Develop personal strategic leadership skill sets.
  • Plan a joint and combined campaign in an exercise setting.
Course Member Deliverable
Course members participate in a practical strategic planning for military operations exercise that involves both individual and small group activities resulting in both verbal presentations and written outcomes.

The major deliverable from Block Three is the Strategic Assessment Paper which is one of the two major written papers for the course. In this paper, course members demonstrate that they can analyse an external driver of security policy in the strategic environment. A Master of Arts course member writes an individual 10,000 word paper which is supervised and assessed externally. Graduate Diploma course members write an individual 5,000 word paper that is supervised and assessed internally.

Block 4 - Capability and Force Development

Block Four provides course members with a deeper understanding of strategic management and the Defence process.

Initially, course members consider strategic leadership and management issues within the public and private sectors. The Business Study Tour provides course members with the opportunity to interact with a wide range of Chief Executive Officers and Managing Directors of major businesses to discuss comparative strategic management issues and practices.

The course then considers topics in strategic level human resource and financial management. Key issues considered include global and national trends in human resource management, employment and professional development, workforce planning and human resource service delivery in Defence. In the financial management component of the program, course members review the implications of financial management and accountability obligations to senior officers, both at the organisational and individual level.

Later in the Block, course members are introduced to the concept of capability, including the Fundamental Inputs to Capability and consider the various phases of capability development including the needs and requirements phases. The acquisition process is reviewed along with Defence industry support to capability development and management.

The Block concludes with a five day activity considering the risks associated with capability development and the development of capability submissions. The exercise is facilitated by Senior Mentors who have served in senior Defence appointments associated with the Defence capability process.

Learning Objectives
  • Understand how military strategy is translated into capability and force structure requirements.
  • Identify the drivers of current ADF capability and force structure.
  • Understand the Defence capability development process.
  • Understand the Fundamental Inputs to Capability.
  • Understand the true costs of developing military capability, in particular, the impact of through-life support.
  • Identify the capability development aspects of force generation,
  • mobilisation and preparation.
  • Examine strategic human relations planning considerations.
  • Examine Defence budget planning considerations.
  • Consider the drivers of planning/budgeting issues effecting Defence management and financial planning processes.
  • Examine key audit challenges for Defence.
  • Prepare and brief a capability development Cabinet Submission and an abridged Capability Proposal – First Pass in an exercise setting.
Course Member Deliverable
Course members participate in a capability development exercise that involves individual and small group activities resulting in both verbal presentations and written outcomes. Course members also write a 2,000 word assignment, examining a strategic management topic.

Block 5 - Policy Formulation and Support to Senior Decision-Makers

Block Five enables course members to understand the development of public policy, including security and defence policy, in order to provide effective support to senior decision-makers.

Block Five initially focuses on the development of public policy in Australia. Course members examine the concept of policy, analyse the assumptions and ambiguities that influence policy development, and consider the impact of policy on public administration and operational planning.

Course members then analyse the drivers of Australian security. The Block examines the values and attitudes of Australian and domestic stakeholders in security policy development, and considers the role of political parties, and the influence of media and interest groups. One day is set aside to visit Parliament House and interact with members of the Australian Parliament. The Block concludes with Defence-approved packages on ‘support to Ministers' and the preparation of complex submissions, briefs and material required by Ministers and members of the Defence Senior Leadership Group.

Learning Objectives
  • Analyse the concept of policy and national decision-making in Australia.
  • Analyse the role of domestic politics, including societal values and norms.
  • Understand the impact of Australia's international obligations, both formal and informal, on policy development.
  • Analyse the impact of pressure groups on policy development including the media, Non-Government Organisations, industry and think tanks.
  • Analyse examples of good and poor security policy development.
  • Understand the policy requirements of providing better support to ministers and senior Defence officials.
  • Understand the critical elements in the preparation of complex submissions for ministers and senior Defence officials.
  • Analyse security policy drivers and formulation from a non-Australian perspective.
Course Member Deliverable
Course members develop and submit a Security Policy Paper (SPP). This is the second major written paper for the course. This paper synthesises the learning objectives of Blocks Three, Four and Five. Individuals select a topic for examination, analyse the national security and force structure implications of this topic, and conclude with recommendations regarding change of extant security policy. A Master of Arts course member writes an individual 10,000 word paper which is supervised and assessed externally. Graduate Diploma course members write an individual 5,000 word paper that is supervised and assessed internally.