Secretary of Defense Strategic Thinkers Program
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Marine Corps University
Quantico, Virginia


The Secretary of Defense's Strategic Thinkers Program (STP) is a one year academically rigorous graduate level program that produces officers educated in strategic thinking, war, coalition operations and interagency strategic decision making.  The aim of the STP is to develop officers and interagency personnel to be more effective strategic thinkers and leaders. This program is unique in its intense focus on the development of joint, cross-service strategists who can operate in unknown environments, deal with unanticipated challenges, adapt non-military developments to security challenges, and seek innovative approaches to why, how, when, and where we fight.  Drawing on the disciplines of applied strategic studies and history, the program uses interactive historical case studies and war games as problem-solving experiences to generate an understanding of topics in width, depth, and context.  Graduates of STP have the advanced cognitive and analytical skills necessary to engage civilian and military leaders in an unbiased and forthright manner on the development and conduct of strategy and military operations in the broader context of national policy objectives.  Graduates will be able to think and communicate clearly and precisely in terms of making strategic assessments and communicating their ideas.  Graduates should expect follow-on assignments to joint and service planning and strategy positions.

Upon successful completion of the program, Marine STP graduates will receive Top Level School credit and a Master in International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins, School of Advanced International Studies.  

Application Process

TLS officers identified for the SECDEF Strategic Thinkers Program (STP) will be expected to submit an application package prior to being personally interviewed through the Offices of the Secretary of Defense. Final selections for the STP cohort will be announced by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness once all interviews are completed but NLT January 21, 2020

Application InstructionsDTM 19-001 ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE STP OSD000470-19 RES Final.pdf

(SAIS link to program) -

(Press release announcing the program in April) -

Differences in typical MIPP fellows track at SAIS and SECDEF Strategic Thinkers Program (STP) MIPP track

4 of the 8 MIPP courses for SECDEF STP track are offered only to the cohort of OSD screened military officers (O4-O6), selected from all 4 Services.

All 4 courses (STP I–IV) are required as part of SECDEF STP enrollment. Students may individually select remaining 4 courses from SAIS MIPP track options.  

Drawing on the disciplines of applied strategic studies and history (including the importance of economics, culture, geography, etc.), the selected officers track through the 4 STP courses together, as a cohort, in what has been designed as a laboratory for critical thinking.

The STP courses are taught through a mix of hands-on war games, decision exercises, staff rides, research, classroom discussion and the Socratic method.

Alll STP courses are led by the Director, SECDEF STP - Professor Dan Marston.

Officers in the STP cohort will have exclusive access to world-class instructors and military experts who are renowned for their scholarship, influence and networks, both inside the NCR and around the world.


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