The NWC mission is to educate future leaders of the Armed Forces, Department of State, and other civilian agencies for high-level policy, command and staff responsibilities by conducting a senior-level course of study in national security strategy.
The curriculum emphasizes the joint and interagency perspective. Reflecting this emphasis, 59 percent of the student body is composed of equal representation from the land, air, and sea (including Marine and Coast Guard) Services. The remaining 41 percent are drawn from the Department of State and other federal departments and agencies, and international fellows from a number of foreign countries.
The Commandant, a military officer of one-star rank, occupies a nominative position that rotates among the Army, Navy, and Air Force. As joint sponsor of the National War College, the Department of State nominates a foreign service officer with Ambassadorial rank to serve as the Commandant's Deputy and International Affairs Adviser. This position was inaugurated by the great diplomat-scholar George F. Kennan, whose thirteen lectures delivered at the NWC in 1946 and 1947, as well as the paper that provided the intellectual underpinnings of the Containment Doctrine of the Cold War, can be read in Giles D. Harlow and George C. Maerz, editors, Measures Short of War: The George F. Kennan Lectures at the National War College, 1946-47 (Washington, DC: NDU Press, 1991).