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Overview: Lesson 1

Course Overview

This course provides an introduction to U.S. national security objectives, structures, and processes.

Course Objectives: At the end of this course, you will be able to describe:

  • Definition of national security.
  • Current national security objectives.
  • Roles and responsibilities of key national security players, including non-traditional agencies.
  • Basic national security processes.
  • Key national security missions.
  • Key organizations used for multiagency coordination.
  • Key national planning processes.

Knowledge reviews are provided at the end of each lesson. These reviews are not mandatory for completion of the course.

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This lesson addresses the first objective and takes approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Course Purpose

National Security Strategy Report cover 2006.

This course is intended to provide all national security professionals baseline information on U.S. national security objectives, structures, and processes. This course covers a wide-range of national security missions and focuses on organizations and processes that are cross-cutting and require significant interagency coordination. Emphasis has been placed on describing the interagency aspects of national security, including challenges and lessons for improved coordination. At the end of the course, national security professionals should have an increased understanding of their role and the need for interagency collaboration.

Many national security professionals may already have familiarity or expertise in one or more national security mission areas, which may or may not include their home agency's national security mission. This course does not cover any one specific national security topic in depth. However, it does provide links to resources containing more detailed information and is a tool for identifying knowledge gaps. National security professionals should use the additional resources provided in this course to increase their overall understanding of the national security system and seek advanced courses on particular national security topics through their home organization or by accessing the National Security Professional Development training and education listings website. Note: the links provided throughout this course are meant to be additional information and are not included in the estimated time to complete each lesson.

U.S. national security objectives, structures, and processes continue to evolve, so it is recommended that all national security professionals review this course on a yearly basis to receive updated information.

National Security Definition

President Kennedy in a crowded Cabinet Room during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The current national security system established in 1947 resulted from a need for more effective and integrated national security advice, policy, and actions. Over time national security structures, processes, and even the definition, have changed to suit the priorities of individual Presidents and their advisors. The 2006 National Security Strategy states that our most solemn obligation is to protect the security of the American people. As defined by National Security Presidential Directive-1, "National security includes the defense of the United States of America, protection of our constitutional system of government, and the advancement of United States interests around the globe. National security also depends on America's opportunity to prosper in the world economy." NSPD-1 also emphasizes the necessity to integrate domestic, foreign, military, intelligence, and economics policies as they pertain to national security. Each President determines the boundaries for national security issues in both traditional and non-traditional areas. Additionally, Congress has significant influence on the scope of the national security agenda through its oversight and budgetary roles.

The July 2007 National Strategy for the Development of Security Professionals emphasized that sharp distinctions between "foreign" and "domestic" no longer apply to today's complex national security environment. As such, that strategy considers "national security" to include both traditional national security and homeland security missions. Pandemics, border control, and energy are just a few non-traditional areas that are now viewed through a national security lens. It is clear that the scope of national security is complex with many different players, priorities, and roles. The definition of "national security" has evolved as America's perspective on the world around it has changed and it will continue to evolve over time.

Lesson 1: Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • Purpose of this overview course.
  • Definition and scope of national security.

The next lesson presents the national security objectives of the United States.