ACSC’s MDOS: An inside look into one of the DOD’s most innovative courses

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Charles Welty
  • Air University Public Affairs

Air University’s Air Command and Staff College was recently announced as one of five winners of the 2017 Innovation Challenge during the Air Education and Training Command’s Senior Leader Conference March 21, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.


ACSC’s Multi-Domain Operational Strategist Concentration (MDOS) was the group recognized for its innovation after winning the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Priority #2 category: Expand the joint & multi-domain warfighting abilities of assigned Airmen.


The concentration itself consists of a 10-month course based on a core curriculum developed by Dr. Jeff Reilly, director of Future Security Studies at ACSC,  which lays the foundation for operational design and multi-domain and how to make it applicable for military leaders.


“War and military operations are all human endeavors,” said Reilly. “A linear explanation [of multi-domain] is, the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes cyber and electronic warfare, enables space, which enables air, land and maritime to get to the human domain which is composed of leaders, organizations and population.”


According to Reilly, there are four main outcomes for the students attending the course: Identify and recommend solutions to complex problems, lead strategic and operational approaches and the joint operations planning process, plan and execute multi-domain operations and lastly, the most difficult, anticipate, adapt and respond.


“These outcomes are all based on what generals and other high-ranking officials from multi-national organizations have all told us,” Reilly said.


Members of the team had the opportunity to travel out into the field and visit with commanders and leaders gathering information and suggestions on what they need most out of their Airmen.


“What I like about the MDOS course is that it’s not just about reading history and kind of internalizing it, it’s actually all about application,” said Maj. Brendon Herbeck, a current MDOS student. “You learn about what we’ve done in the past and you take the lessons learned and you apply to today’s fight.”


According the MDOS team, because of the unique experience students receive, MDOS alumni tend to be very successful following the course, many of which are currently serving as wing commanders and in other influential positions.


Reilly recalled a particular success story he heard from a recent student.


“She was tasked to go TDY to the [U.S. Central Command] headquarters and was able to perform functions right away and was able to integrate design into the joint operations planning process. The AFCENT staff cited that this was a first for an individual to be able to do that type of integration,” he said.


In addition to its core curriculum, Reilly, along with Maj. Sean Atkins, ACSC executive officer, started Over the Horizon, a volunteer run online-publication which covers topics such as the future security environment and multi-domain.


“The core idea of [Over the Horizon] essentially consists of two components: one, is that we have lots of expertise around the circle here, most of our people are talking about interesting topics and having interesting conversations, but a lot of that isn’t connected out to the broader conversation that the country is having and even internationally around similar topics, so it was the need to kind of connect those conversations,” said Atkins. “The reverse side, is that those outside conversations and those expertise, even from different fields outside of the DoD, hear the conversation we are having here and it draws in outside experience and thought.”


MDOS students are given the opportunity to help run the publication which reaches thousands of readers in over 140 countries and appears on the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s reading list.


If interested in Over the Horizon and want to see some of the work coming out of MDOS, check out their official website at