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Breaking the AFIT paradigm with the School of Strategic Force Studies

Breaking the AFIT paradigm with the School of Strategic Force Studies

Emily Fitch, TSgt Janene Garza, and Col Craig Narasaki comprise the front office of AFIT’s newest school – The School of Strategic Force Studies (U.S. Air Force photo by K. Scott)


The School of Strategic Force Studies was established at the Air Force Institute of Technology in 2016 through a realignment of two existing Air University units: The Air Force Nuclear College, located at Kirtland AFB, NM and The National Security Space Institute, located at Peterson AFB, CO.  Today, the school has grown to include a Distance Learning Department and the School of Cyberspace Professional Continuing Education at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. 

More than 6,000 mid-to-senior level students graduate annually in nuclear deterrence strategy, space policy, and cyberspace operations courses.  The focus on policy and strategy makes the school unique within AFIT.  “The School of Strategic Force Studies is an example of AFIT expanding its mission set to stay relevant and responsive to our customers,” said Colonel Craig Narasaki, dean of the school.

Since becoming the dean in 2018, Narasaki has focused on creating a base of operations at AFIT’s Wright-Patterson AFB campus.  “One of the major goals of this school is to break through barriers and find synergies.  The very first step in that is to establish a front office.  I think we can do it with a lean, hard-hitting front office of four Airmen – a dean, associate dean, resource advisor and admin associate,” said Narasaki.  He has made great strides towards accomplishing his goal by having a resource advisor and admin associate in place and an associate dean on the way.

TSgt Janene Garza serves as the school’s resource advisor working with finance organizations across multiple major commands to ensure programs are funded and initiatives continue to move forward.  Being a new school, Garza is developing the financial processes from scratch and learning how to integrate the needs of three different programs into the school’s $12M financial plan.  “I like being involved from the beginning and seeing how these top Air Force priorities are coming together - it’s interesting.  I think I learn at least five new things a day and that’s exciting,” said Garza.

Emily Fitch, the administrative associate for the school, has been busy working on foundational projects like creating a school logo, updating web pages and developing a school catalog.  A former high school teacher, Fitch has been at AFIT for about 6 months.  “Even though it’s nice to have these new and interesting tasks, it’s also a challenge being a new school.  But it’s exciting to be a part of this front office and see the new school grow and develop,” said Fitch.

Comprised of four organizations, each with a separate mission and all in different states, the School of Strategic Force Studies encounters unique challenges.  Narasaki says his front office’s success begins with strong communication.  “We need to be good listeners and responsive to our school’s leadership without getting in their way.  The key is to capitalize on their success and not slow them down.  One way to do that is to increase cross-communication, share best practices, and learn from efforts that weren’t successful.  This is where Emily and Janene have really done a great service, very quickly.  Things like communicating what our funding stressors are and what we need to operate are critical to breaking down barriers and creating a common mission,” said Narasaki.

The Nuclear College, led by Director Harold Camacho, plays a vital role in developing 4,600 nuclear deterrence thought leaders each year. “The nuclear enterprise is undergoing a fantastic moment in its history.  We are adding new weapon systems and platforms across the board.  How we think about nuclear deterrence is more nuanced and requires a significant increase in nuclear professional continuing education to handle new threats,” said Narasaki.

The National Security Space Institute (NSSI), led by Commandant Colonel Max Lantz II, is the DoD’s premier space PCE schoolhouse boasting nearly 1,000 graduates annually to include over 200 joint service members.  NSSI is also expanding programs to develop partnerships with international allies including Japan, Germany, and France.

Major Ryan Batchelor serves as the director of The School of Cyberspace Professional Continuing Education, a badge awarding school established as part of the Air Force’s “Roadmap for the development of Cyberspace Professionals.”  Their courses graduate over 800 students a year including NATO international officers.  “We are focused on finding the best way to provide cutting-edge professional continuing education to the right audiences at the right levels because the cyber environment changes so rapidly,” said Narasaki.

The Distance Learning Department is chartered to develop and foster critical thinking on deterrence and assurance. Over 100 students are enrolled in systems engineering or strategic studies at nine partnering universities such as Harvard University’s Extension School, Missouri State University, and Portland State University.

The next step for the School of Strategic Force Studies is to develop a multi-domain operations capability to identify and develop synergy within the nuclear, space and cyberspace functions.  “This is going to require breaking down financial barriers, building strong internal and external communication, and developing a strategic plan.  That is where this school is going to provide significant benefit to the Air Force and Department of Defense,” said Narasaki.

For more information about the School of Strategic Force Studies, please visit www.afit.edu/EX, email SchoolofStrategicForce@afit.edu, or find them on Facebook.