The Defense and Strategic Studies program started in 1971 in the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California, under the leadership of Dr. William R. Van Cleave. The primary objective of the DSS program was and remains to provide graduate level education and training for students planning careers in national and international security affairs and policy-making, and for teaching these subjects at the university-level.

The program flourished at the University of Southern California; in 1987, it moved to Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State University) where DSS became a Department offering the specialized Master of Science degree in Defense and Strategic Studies. In 2005, the DSS program began a new era when the University moved the Department to the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, to take advantage of the many educational, financial, and employment opportunities found here. In 2008 and 2009 DSS provided classes at the Army Management and Staff College; in 2010, DSS began an exchange program with Masaryk University in the Czech Republic; and, in 2012, DSS added the M.S. degree option in WMD Studies to its curriculum. DSS was selected for this by the Department of Defense via a competative process to provide this degree program for up to 48 students from the National Defense University. When DSS moved to Washington D.C. in 2005, it had 32 graduate students. The program has since more than doubled. DSS has become one of the largest and most recognized programs of its kind offering a graduate curriculum of study at least comparable to that offered at the most expensive private university but at a public university price.


The objective of the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies (DSS) is to provide professional, graduate-level education in national security policy; issues related to defense analysis; defense planning, programs, and industry; intelligence analysis; and associated areas. The Department welcomes both traditional and mid-career professionals. It offers a Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies, but also accepts non-degree-seeking students. Educational emphasis is placed on the practical analysis of U.S. policies, programs, and options as well as on theoretical comprehension. Some graduates go into college teaching and academic work, but the majority pursue professional careers in government and the defense industry.

A high degree of flexibility is permitted in course selection, and most courses are offered during the afternoon and evening for the convenience of working students. Opportunities for students to participate in professional internships provide valuable experience and professional contacts. The Masters degree program requires 36 semester hours of study and takes approximately two academic years to complete.


The Department houses a learning center with a large number of books, journals, government documents, and other reference works and research materials, including bibliographies and files on virtually all subjects covered by the curriculum. The Department's learning center holdings consist of materials central to DSS and include long-standing subscriptions to security journals and periodicals. Personal computers are available for student use in the DSS learning center.

Through an arrangement with nearby George Mason University (GMU), the Department provides students with stack privileges at GMU's library. Students also have online access to a large number of periodicals through the Missouri State University library, and the Fairfax County library system offers a variety of resources. In addition, federal institutions, such as the Library of Congress and the National Archives, are located in the National Capital Region.


The Department is located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, in Fairfax, Virginia. Downtown Washington, D.C. is a short ride away on the subway system (the Metro). The Vienna Metro subway station is located less than half a mile from the Department. There is a free shuttle service to and from the Metro station. The National Capital Region is one of the main tourist areas in the United States and offers a broad variety of cultural, educational, and employment opportunities. Approximately 10 million people live in the region.

The program’s location also provides DSS with the opportunity to draw adjunct faculty members from the top ranks of government, defense industry, and the intelligence community. The Washington, DC region’s stable economy and ever-expanding employment base provide the type of career opportunities that graduates of the DSS program find attractive. Historically, most DSS graduates find employment in the field prior to or shortly after graduation.


DSS has a cooperative agreement with the prestigious Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic for DSS students to spend a semester studying at Masaryk University with full credit going toward the DSS degree. Many classes at Masarysk University are available in English. DSS tuition and fees remain the same under this exchange program, but it should be noted that living expenses in Brno, Czech Republic are considerably lower than they are in the Washington D.C. area. If a student is interested in this option, they should contact the Department Administration at least a semester prior to the preferred semester abroad. Students will enroll in 3 sessions of DSS 796 while studying in the Czech Republic. Studying at Masaryk University for a semester via the DSS cooperative agreement will not negatively impact a student’s eligibility for DSS financial aid.

Missouri State University
• Copyright 2007 Board of Governors, Missouri State University • DisclaimerAccessibilityEO/AA
Contact Information • Maintained by: Defense and Strategic Studies • Last Modified: October 22, 2014