Message from the Founder

The Defense and Strategic Studies program was started in 1971 in the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California when I returned from a two-year leave for service in the Office of Secretary of Defense and on the U.S. Strategic Arms Limitation Talks delegation. Having been involved in international threat analysis at Stanford Research Institute prior to coming to USC and having experienced national security policy making, I was struck with the differences between these "real world" activities and the prevalent academic approach to international relations and security studies. The latter was abstract and theoretical, and mainly oriented (unrealistically I thought) toward disarmament and peaceful conflict resolution. That type of education did not well equip students for careers in national security policy or analysis. The primary objective of the DSS program thus came to be providing graduate level education and training for students planning careers in national and international security affairs and policy making, or for teaching those subjects at the university level.

The program flourished at the University of Southern California until 1987 when I moved it 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 physically to the Washington, D.C. area and Dr. Keith Payne took over as Department Head and director of the program. Dr. Payne has maintained the longstanding emphasis of the program, and has strengthened it by the addition of distinguished associated faculty with high level professional experience and by opening the graduate program to part-time students who are already employed.

The DSS program has been fortunate since its inception to have high quality, dedicated students. Because of this, it has been able to set standards and requirements high, as it does today. Their graduates are among the best and finest qualified professionals in the country and abroad. DSS graduates have occupied and now occupy senior positions in government, industry, the research sector, and academia. They have had and will continue to have a direct and major impact on U.S. national security policies and defense programs. For students with these interests, the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies of Missouri State University is the place to pursue graduate studies.

Dr. William R. Van Cleave
Emeritus Professor
Department of Defense and Strategic Studies
Missouri State University