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Active Learning and Research

GOVT299: Directed Study on National Security Crisis Simulation
In this course, Political Science faculty Brian Cook and Kristen Williams provide students with a hands-on way to understand the process of national security decision making.

Syllabus Spring 2007

Course Objectives

The primary action objective of the simulation is to achieve a resolution to the national security crisis presented during the simulation that satisfies the respective policy and political goals of the United States and the United Kingdom within the time limit set for the operation of the simulation. The two teams may, but are not necessarily required to, seek the arrangement of joint diplomatic responses, joint deployment of field agents or military forces, and joint interactions with third party governments or NGOs. Learning objectives for each team include:
  1. Developing an in-depth understanding of the "inside" nature of national security politics, especially interagency competition and cooperation, the role of chief executive staff, and the critical elements of foreign policy making

  2. Understanding the complexities of the policy-making process, especially how it functions within a particular policy domain and under the stress of time compression and threats to lives and property

  3. Understanding the nature of crisis decision making and the context-specific conditions that influence it

  4. Acquiring a comparative understanding of foreign policy making and crisis decision making through intense interactions with another political system and culture

  5. Developing or refining skills in the application of knowledge to concrete problems through expansion in capacities for short-term problem analysis and oral communication relevant to presenting analysis and advocating a policy position, all within a seriously constrained decision environment


The simulation will be comprised of two teams—one from each country—representing key actors in the national security decision-making system in each one. The teams will have roughly parallel structures, reflecting the corresponding executive positions in the respective national governments: chief executive and direct support staff, foreign secretary/secretary of state, minister of defense/defense secretary, intelligence director, etc. Each team will determine its structure and required department/agency representatives, and will provide the other team with concise information on the organizational structure of the team and backgrounds of the key actors.


There are several requirements for the course in order for students to receive a grade for the simulation. These include:
  1. White Paper: each agency group will research and write a white paper describing the top four (4) national security threats facing the United States and provide policy prescriptions to address these threats in relation to their agency/group. The white papers will need to be posted to the course website no later than 5 pm on February 15, 2007.

  2. Presidential Briefing on 2/22/07 (12-1:15 pm; JEF 222) Representatives from each of the agency groups will present their White Paper to the president and be prepared to answer questions from the president.

  3. Simulation: March 19-21, 2007. Students are expected to participate in the simulation during the approximate 48 hour time frame, including a debriefing meeting at the end of the simulation.

  4. Presentation at Academic Spree Day (April 25, 3007). All participants will be required to present at Academic Spree Day reflecting on the simulation.

  5. 10-15 page paper. Each student will be required to write a paper on the simulation experience, incorporating readings posted on blackboard, and meeting standards set by the instructors.

    Your paper must contain two main components:

    1. Assess how well—how realistically and effectively—you implemented your agency role. Base your assessment on the research you conducted into your role and your consequent understanding of how your role operates in the real world;

    2. Based on your observations and participation in the 48-hour crisis simulation, discuss whether or not you would have made the same final decision (shoot down the Israeli planes). Be specific about the bases on which you would have made your decision, and defend your decision with evidence and support drawn from valid source material. Give proper attribution to any outside material you employ, and use a generally accepted reference and citation format.

    In order to help with the writing of your paper, recall the course objectives outlined in the course syllabus you received early in the semester: the primary action objective of the simulation was to achieve a resolution to the national security crisis presented during the simulation that satisfies the respective policy and political goals of the United States and the United Kingdom within the time limit set for the operation of the simulation.

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