The United States Military Academy Senior Conference is an annual event administered by the Department of Social Sciences on behalf of the Superintendent, USMA. The conference provides a forum for distinguished scholars, practitioners, and government officials to engage in candid discussions on topics of national importance. As 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the National Security Act of 1947, Senior Conference 52 will be the first of a two-part series that provides a framework for assessing how the world has changed over the past 70 years and the implications for how the national security institutions we have may differ from the ones we need.
While the United States emerged from World War II a global superpower, it faced a budding rivalry with the Soviet Union and lacked an institutional framework commensurate with its newfound capabilities and the global threats it faced. The National Security Act of 1947 responded to this need, establishing the core institutional structure that would produce and implement national security policy during the Cold War.
Between 1947 and today, the strategic, economic, domestic, and cultural contexts in which the United States operates have changed dramatically. The international balance of power has shifted with the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of new potential peer competitors, increased economic globalization and changes in information technology have reshaped political interactions on the global stage, and social norms and domestic political participation have evolved in new directions. In light of these changes, scholars and policymakers have debated the merits of a new grand strategy to provide for U.S. security and promote American interests and values.
Grand strategy not only provides a framework for articulating a nation’s desired end-state writ large—defining how a state conceives of its security and the set of ideas that constitute a state’s vision for its role in the international system—but it also identifies the means necessary to achieve it. Therefore, a critical challenge for grand strategy is identifying the institutions and processes needed to develop and implement national security policy.
This two-part conference is motivated by the insight that America’s existing national security infrastructure does not align with current and anticipated future national security requirements. Senior Conference 2016, as Part I of a two-part series, addresses the following question: How have the international, domestic, information/technological, and social contexts changed since the end of the Second World War, and what are the implications for national security policy?
Debates and discussions on these topics during Senior Conference 2016 will inform an edited volume of work intended to frame a conversation with senior leaders and decision makers across the national security enterprise in 2017. Specifically, Senior Conference 2017 will build on Senior Conference 2016 by identifying specific institutional and procedural implications of changes in the U.S. national security environment and making recommendations that follow from these findings.
Senior Conference 2016 is made possible by the generous support of the Rupert H. Johnson Grand Strategy Program and the West Point Association of Graduates.