On March 14–25, 2022, the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies, led by Lieutenant General (Ret.) Terry Wolff, NESA Director, hosted the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Defense Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC). LTG (Ret.) Wolff welcomed Major General Mohammed J. Alruwaili, AFCSC Commandant and President of the future Saudi Arabia National Defense University (SANDU), and other members of the Saudi AFCSC to the National Defense University (NDU) located on Fort Lesley McNair in Washington, DC. The visit provided open access for members to collaborate freely with U.S. professional military education (PME) experts on accreditation, facilities, research, educational programs, and university governance. These engagements and discussions will aid in developing the academic vision for the future Saudi Arabia National Defense University and define the outcome of the NESA forward concept to Support the AFCSC and SANDU.
The visit included the National Defense University and each of the subordinate colleges under its purview, the U.S. Army War College (USAWC), Carlisle Barracks, PA; and the U.S. Marine Corps University USMCU), Quantico, VA. Each stop consisted of presentations and discussions with multiple subject matter experts to allow collaboration between the Saudis and their American counterparts.
The opening of the visit at the National Defense University included presentations on NESA programs, faculty talent management, implications for transforming the current Saudi Command and Staff College, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Iranian asymmetric warfare, metaverse education, and leadership and ethics.
Of particular note, the Saudis and their American hosts participated in an executive roundtable, “Lessons Learned in Accrediting a Premiere Defense University and Colleges,” led by Dr. John Yaeger, Vice President for NDU Accreditation and Strategic Planning. The roundtable included accreditation subject matter experts from NDU, the Eisenhower School, the College of International Security Affairs, and the U.S. Army War College.
The group had the opportunity to have lunch at the prestigious Army Navy Club in Washington D.C., hosted by the NESA leadership team. The schedule at NDU concluded with a formal Office Call with Lieutenant General Michael Plehn, the National Defense University President, to discuss the ongoing partnership between the two institutions with NESA serving as the primary interlocutor for the United States.
At the USAWC, the group received insights into the initial planning and design of the new USAWC academic center and the progress made on the construction on campus. The team also received a Learning Management Systems / Experimental Lab and Center for Strategic Learning (CSL) tour to provide an understanding of how to build a state-of-the-art wargaming capability. The group closed out the visit at the Army Heritage Education Center (AHEC) and engaged with MG David Hill, Commandant USAWC, and other senior leaders from the college.
At the USMCU, members of the Saudi delegation received briefings on the importance of the institutional accreditation process and the principles of accreditation that set the guidelines for continuous improvement and institutional effectiveness. The team also received an overview of Facilities and Information Technology and the importance of benchmarking, understanding the difference between training and education while at the same time creating a physical and information environment to facilitate the student’s ability to learn. The engagement concluded with a tour of the Marine Corps Academic Facilities.
In addition to the focus on professional military education, the delegation participated in several think tank engagements that included the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations, the Middle East Institute, CIC, and the RAND Corporation. Presenters discussed the importance of these institutes in researching information and providing unbiased analysis on matters relating to national security and global policies. The delegation also received briefings from the NDU International Student Management Office, the Reserve Component National Security Course, the Institute for National Strategy, and the College of International Security Affairs. At the end of the visit to NDU, members received a tour of the NDU Library and Learning Center, including historic Roosevelt Hall, the home for the National War College.
After completing the visit, NESA and the AFCSC leadership discussed the future relationship between both organizations and their governments. NESA views these informative engagements will have an enduring impact on influencing and shaping the vision of the future Saudi Arabia Defense University. At the same time, NESA intends to reinforce its position and relationship as the U.S. Government partner of choice for Saudi Arabia’s PME programs and the only path to access U.S. PME institutions.