The ideal of a university––no matter which country it may have been founded––is to provide a forum for debate and a scholar environment where ideas are exchanged and studied. The National Defense University College of International Security Affairs (NDU-CISA) despite of having the word “defense” in its title, is no different to any other academic institution the United States; in the sense that it perfectly complies with all the requirements to be an outstanding center to learn. There is an important nuance that makes the NDU stand out among other institutions. In a world that progresses at an astonishing speed, the United States, its’ allies, and friendly nations have to face multiple threats that also evolve with every step forward that Mankind achieves. In the begging of the 21st Century, the world witnessed how those nations and radical groups––that do not show respect for human rights–– are willing to destroy any peaceful coexistence between peoples from different ethnicity, political beliefs, and religion. In order to destroy the common values that most the nations on Earth share, these states and terrorist organizations do not fret in using any mean at their disposal; bombs, guns even trucks are used in their terrorist arsenal. The NDU CISA center is the U.S. Department of Defense flagship academic center in charge of providing America and its’ allies the knowledge and tools to be ahead of any entity––domestic or foreign––that tries to damage our societies. The unique character of the CISA has its’ roots in the mixture of average civilians, military officers, and active or former members of the U.S. defense/security agencies. Who would better explain the endeavor that American forces and allies have to confront in Afghanistan than a Capitan that has completed several rotations in the field, fighting against the Taliban? The civilian component of the CISA dives into the deep insight on many issues and their work is enriched with their experience in the military carrying out such strategies; material designed far away from the battlefield and zones of conflict, and yet still affective. There are many high quality, scholar institutions in the world, but they do not possess the advantage that CISA has over them. When a U.S. Army officer talks about why a specific policy has been successful in country X, or why it has not achieved the objectives that it should have, that person knows so because he/she has been “there.” It only has taken me a few days to embrace the CISA philosophy; the center needs and wants solutions, fast and in an expeditious manner. Of course, this approach does not mean that any other institution devoted to fight radical extremism/terrorism are not capable in coming up with successful plans and strategies about how to keep our society safe, but the efficiency of the CISA gives them the upper hand. I can speak for myself about the pragmatism that drives the daily life at the center, my co-workers and I after our second day as interns were given our assignments; almost in a matter of hours we were working with the members of the faculty. After a few hours of work, we were invited to assist the conferences in which students from all around the world shared their views about the different threats that the world faces and how to eradicate them. In the CISA center there are professors, experts and scholars from all the fields imaginable. Thus, the U.S. Government and its allies are able to develop the appropriate contingency plans needed to combat every hazard its enemies may develop. The CISA center has state-of-the-art installations and equipment that cover a broad array of fields; from cyberwarfare and defense to engineering and social media. Unfortunately, the scope and wide variety of the menaces, make it necessary and encompass all fronts including television; thus explaining why the center has a TV studio vis-à-vis the social media department and outreach. If all of these advantages over other security research centers were not enough, the CISA faculty and personnel are family. This may seem cliché, but that is my impression after only been working there for a few days. I am delighted with my experience in a place devoted to keep us safe. When I walk through the alleys of the center, I cross paths with a former high ranking officers, I salute them with the deepest respect. This is a feeling that is not originated by any rule related to being polite or educated, it is the deepest expression of respect for a life of service. After a few days, my respect continues to grow because these extraordinary people have devoted their lives to enriching themselves in a specific area of knowledge, to aide in future combat.
Besides a great faculty, the CISA has all the means that any student could ever want. The library shelves are full of books and media resources. It also contains many quiet corners for everyone to use; a favorable place to concentrate and work.
The CISA is located within the walls of Fort Lesly J. McNair, a place that––before hosting the NDU––has 200 years of history. The first edifications where planned by Pierre “Peter” Charles L’Enfant, a Frenchman who fell in love with the U.S. and its democratic values during the American Revolution. L’Enfant was a French engineer that served under George Washington’s command, designing the fort as part of the defense rings erected to defend the city of Washington. The actual military base with West Point and the Carlisle Barracks is the third oldest serving U.S. Army installation. Despite all the years of service given by the Fort, it is still in preserved in a magnificent state, and it is a beautiful place. The U.S. flag pole is placed in one extreme of the courtyard, surrounded by old guns from the Civil War. At its sides, the Potomac flows by the flanks, providing another beautiful view of Washington. The National Defense University, and all its associated centers, share the space with the Inter-American Defense College and the National War College. All of these grounds and buildings that host these worldly-known institutions––somehow–– are living monuments to the commitment of the American people to fight for its ideals. The CISA center––despite its’ youth–– is full of history; A legacy that comes from the spirit of the warriors that have served with honor. That is the case of the American hero that gives his name to the base, the three-star general, Lesley J. McNair. A brilliant officer that fought for his country from Mexico–––against the Mexican rebel Pancho Villa––to Normandy––France––during WWII. The Fort is a place in which the heroism of those known, and those who will never be known, can be felt.