NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- The national security affairs department at U.S. Naval War College (NWC) hosted a panel discussion titled "Force Planning - Strategy Meets Budget," Feb. 3, as part of the final practitioner session for students enrolled in the National Security Decision Making (NSDM) course.
The objective of the event was to gain perspectives from former senior officials on budgetary matters for the Department of Defense, and how this affects planning and programming for the future.
The session was also aimed at understanding the tradeoffs in the current defense and national budget, and how senior officials must navigate between competing spending priorities.
The guest panelists were two policy experts from Washington -- Kathleen Hicks, senior fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Dov Zakheim, senior fellow at the CNA Corporation and a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The panelists said one of the main learning points for students was the budgeting system can be difficult, but is easier to work in if you understand it.
"[The students] need to understand that, yes, the system is complex," said Zakheim, former under secretary of defense (comptroller) during the President George W. Bush administration. "But if they get a feeling of comfort about what the system really is, that will allow them to be more effective once they come to the Pentagon."
Hicks agreed and added the defense budget is a part of the entire federal budgeting process.
"I hope [the students] take away from this session an understanding of the complexities and the number of variables that weigh in on how you move from national objectives to a defense budget," said Hicks, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy in the President Barack Obama administration.
During the question and answer portion of the presentation, the practitioner panel members said this group of NWC students were more aware of the overall budget, and not just the defense needs.
"We are hearing from students this year a real awareness of the budget challenges, beyond defense and how it all affects defense," said Hicks.
"I don't recall getting questions about the debt before like we did this year," added Zakheim. "There is a real understanding how the defense budget fits within a much larger and less manageable whole."
Both panelists have previously held senior positions in the DoD.
In the Pentagon, Zakheim has worked with graduates of the NWC program and found they have a solid background to tackle issues which arise in the budget process.
"It's pretty clear that [NWC graduates] are the ones who are more effective," said Zakheim. "For a start, they are the ones who are more effective at articulating needs in a way that decision makers will be respond to. It really is valuable."
The NSDM course is designed to challenge senior-level students to engage the dynamic complexities of a rapidly evolving national and international security environment.
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