Master of Philosophy in Military Strategy and Doctorate of Philosophy in Military Strategy

  • Published
  • By School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS)


Program Description. The School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS) curriculum is an intensive 48-week program with the purpose of creating strategists for the Air Force and the nation. The primary instructional forum is the graduate colloquium, which facilitates maximum interaction between students and faculty. Class size is generally limited to no more than 38 Air Force active-duty officers; up to three joint-service officers from the Army, Navy, and Marines; up to two officers from the Air Reserve Component; and several officers from closely allied nations upon invitation from the Chief of Staff, US Air Force. Total enrollment usually does not exceed 45 students. SAASS creates warrior-scholars who have a superior ability to solve complex problems; think critically; develop strategy and policy; and develop, evaluate, and employ airpower as a component of military force in support of national objectives. Upon completion of all requirements and with faculty recommendation, graduates earn the degree of master of philosophy in military strategy. 

Additionally, students can apply for entry into the Air University (AU) PhD program through a voluntary and competitive selection process. The SAASS curriculum serves as the foundational coursework for the AU PhD.  SAASS graduates who complete and defend a dissertation earn an Air University doctorate of philosophy in military strategy.

Learning Outcomes

  • Produce graduates who demonstrate the ability to think critically about the relationship of military force to statecraft. 
  • Produce graduates who possess an advanced understanding of military history, military airpower, and military and political theories and their modern application to air, space, and cyberspace power.
  • Produce graduates who can articulate a robust comprehension of the roles of air, space, and cyberspace power as a strategic instruments of national policy.
  • Produce graduates who can explain, using a reasoned synthesis of theory and experience, how modern military force and its airpower component can best be applied across the spectrum of conflict. 
  • Produce graduates who can argue effectively and responsibly about military strategy at all levels using evidence and logic.

The SAASS curriculum is designed to accomplish two major objectives. The first is to enhance students' ability to think critically about airpower and warfare through an extensive examination of both theory and historical experience. This examination leads to a reasoned synthesis that informs the question of how modern airpower can best be applied across the entire spectrum of conflict. The second objective is to cultivate students' ability to argue effectively and responsibly about airpower. This objective is accomplished by having students introduce and defend propositions in graduate colloquia, produce interpretive arguments in prose that meet publication standards, and reduce complex formal arguments into comprehensible briefings.

Although graduate colloquia dominate the curriculum, SAASS uses other instructional methodologies as well. These include practical application exercises, case studies, and guest speakers.

Course Descriptions  (Not listed in order of presentation) 

SAASS 600 Foundations of Military Theory - 4 Semester Hours
This course explores classic as well as contemporary military theory and strategy.  These works, across different time periods and domains, have significantly influenced thought about the art and science of war.  Students place each work in its context, analyze the text, evaluate its central and supporting propositions, and conduct comparative assessments of these works.  In so doing, students gain a detailed understanding of the body of classic and contemporary military thought while enhancing their critical thinking skills.

SAASS 601 Foundations of Strategy - 3 Semester Hours
This course is an interdisciplinary examination of the theories, methods, and concepts that inform the art and science of strategy and decision-making. Readings draw from the study of politics, history, economics, organizational behavior, science, culture, and morality. Students will read widely and instructors will expose them to a number of ways humans think about social phenomena. 

SAASS 627 History of Air Power I: Air Power in the Age of Total War - 4 Semester Hours
This course examines the historical development of airpower and strategy in the crucible of the two world wars.  It also explores a number of key issues dealing with airpower development and employment during that period.  The faculty organizes the course around a series of core books, selected for their impact upon airpower's theoretical development, contribution to our understanding of airpower's impact on events, or issues worthy of discussion and examination.  One week of the course includes field study abroad stressing affective learning in locations where events analyzed in the classroom occurred. 

SAASS 628 History of Air Power II: Air Power in the Age of Limited War - 4 Semester Hours
This course bridges the historical experience of airpower's youth and adolescence (1914-45) and the maturation of the US Air Force as an independent service.  It considers the period of the Cold War, a time in which the United States had to deal with deterring a superpower threat while at the same time addressing the challenges of limited war under the nuclear umbrella.  The course also examines the dramatic transformation of airpower in recent years as the Cold War gave way to, first, a more uncertain international environment and, second, the ward following terrorist attacks in 2001.  It examines theoretical debates, technological revolutions, the demands of the Global War on Terror, and persistent peer challenges, all of which shaped, and were shaped by the air weapon in the twenty-first century.  The theme of this course is a familiar one: a consideration of the interaction between airpower and strategy, writ large.  Together with SAASS 627, SAASS 628 is designed to ground student understanding of the history of military aviation in the United States.

SAASS 632 Foundations of International Politics - 4 Semester Hours
This course introduces students to theories of international politics and how these theories are used to assess strategic problems in the international arena. The rationale for this course stems from the conviction that one cannot do strategy without a working knowledge of international politics and all that is encompassed within the field that explores relationships between nation-states.  Students read widely from the theoretical canon that governs the contemporary study of international politics. Topics include theories of international politics, deterrence, coercion, international political economy, and geopolitics.

SAASS 643 Strategy to Practice - 4 Semester Hours
This course is designed to afford students the opportunity to learn more about both the context within which they will develop strategy and practice developing strategy.  Students learn about the strategic policy-making process, in what ways this process and its objectives inform military strategy at the national level, and how both this process and its objectives shape operational strategy.  Students are also exposed to different decision-making and strategy formulation processes/techniques to provide them with applied tools for strategy development.  Students perform two practicums in which they leverage both their understanding of the policy-making process and strategy formulation processes to develop strategies at the national and theater level, in anticipation of roles they will find themselves in as practicing strategists within the Air Force, joint community, and national strategy and policy positions.  As the final course at SAASS, this course presents the opportunity for synthesis and application of various strategies, heuristics, frames, and models that have been introduced throughout the year.  

SAASS 644 Irregular Warfare - 3 Semester Hours
This course examines irregular warfare in all of its forms, including terrorism, insurgency, revolution, and civil wars. The course pays particular attention to the role that geography, ideology (including violent extremism), technology, and grievances play in starting and sustaining irregular groups. Lessons within the course also devote significant attention to combating and defeating irregular threats, including ensuring tactical actions are coherently linked to strategic goals and narratives.

SAASS 660 Technology and Military Innovation - 3 Semester Hours
This course presents theories and utilizes case studies to help students understand technological evolution throughout human history, from the Stone Age to Artificial Intelligence. It also considers why military organizations successfully innovate—or fail to do so. The course draws on theories of complexity, computation, and heterogeneous engineering, but also emphasizes the human and social aspects of innovation.

SAASS 665 Space Power - 3 Semester HoursThis course examines the development of military space operations, organizations, strategy, and policy. It explores the contentious issues surrounding space in modern warfare and deals explicitly with militarization, weaponization, and privatization as well as the organization of space forces in the Department of Defense.

SAASS 667 Information, Cyberspace, and Cyber Power - 3 Semester Hours
This course examines the fundamentals, development, and evolution of information, cyberspace, and cyber power to foster critical thinking about the underlying concepts, strategies, and issues that optimize cyber power as an instrument of national power and to advance the development of each student’s personal philosophy of air, space, and cyber power.

SAASS 690 Thesis - 7 Semester Hours  
This course is unique at SAASS for two primary reasons.  First, it is the only course that spans the entire academic year.  Second, the course is a student-driven, but faculty-guided, exercise in personally exploring a subject of relevance to the Air Force and national security and providing recommendations to address the issues identified.   Throughout the year, a faculty research advisor assists the student in examining her subject in an analytically and scholastically rigorous manner, using primary as well as secondary source research materials, to produce a 60- to 100-page study.  During the thesis researching, writing, and revising process, students improve upon other critical thinking skills, such as problem bounding and framing, thematic coherence and consistency, and critically and objectively assessing their own work.

SAASS 699 Comprehensive Examination - 4 Semester Hours
The faculty employs a two-hour oral examination by a board of three faculty members, including one from outside of the School, to determine the degree to which the student has synthesized the SAASS curriculum. The interrelationship among courses and application of concepts and contexts to contemporary and future problem sets feature prominently in the examination.