Strategic Studies

International Staff Ride 2016
Staff Rides

In March of 2016, students and faculty traveled to Poland to study the 1939 German and Soviet invasions of the country.
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Eliot Cohen, Director of the Strategic Studies Program and of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies

Strategic Studies students traveled to Vietnam to 'relive' historic conflicts.

Strategic Studies students visit Quantico and learn about the Marine Corps' perspective on leadership.

Program Activities
Events Calendar
Our Alumni
External Resources

The Strategic Studies Program explores the relationship between politics and the many kinds of military power—from the use of terror by small, non-state groups to the threatened use of nuclear weapons. Building on core concepts taught in the course Strategy and Policy, the program allows students to pursue interests in diverse aspects of security while developing a variety of analytic and practical skills.

The study of national security issues at Johns Hopkins SAIS dates back to the founding of the school in 1943, but gained its greatest impetus under the direction of Professor Robert Osgood, who established a formal program in the field in 1980. The program is directed by Professor Eliot A. Cohen, who came to the school in 1990 and founded the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. He is assisted by Professor Thomas Keaney, who is also the Associate Director of the Merrill Center and a senior adjunct professor of Strategic Studies.

For additional information, follow the links:
- Information about a PhD in Strategic Studies;
- Some thoughts on writing;
- A few good books on reading, writing, and presentation;
- The Strategic Studies Core Reading List (which is optional);
- A paper prospectus format;
- And guidance for receiving a recommendation from Professor Cohen.

Professor McLaughlin discussing his experiences in Washington through the Defense Against the Dark Arts Speaker Series
Professor Keaney explains the different types and uses of Civil War artillery during the Battle of Gettysburg
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  • Eliot
    Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
  • Thomas
    Assoc. Director of Strategic Studies; Exec. Director of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies; Senior Adjunct Professor
    Washington, D.C.
  • Eric
    Roger Hertog Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
  • Mark
    Professor of History and International Studies
    Bologna, Italy
  • Thomas
    Senior Research Professor; Director of the Advanced Strategy Program, Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
  • John
    Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
  • Adam
    Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence
  • Richard
    Adjunct Professor of Strategic Studies
  • Ted
    Adjunct Professor of Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.
  • Mark
    Adjunct Professor of Strategic Studies
    Washington, D.C.


Program Activities



The program’s Seminar in Crisis Simulation explores the literature and concepts surrounding simulated crisis enactments, leading to a voluntary school-wide exercise. The seminar seeks to develop scenarios and use them to uncover the dynamics of national decision-making and policy response. The one-semester-credit course meets across both semesters, and students design and manage the simulation in early March. Non-seminar students from all programs may participate in the spring crisis simulation exercise.


Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities such as film seminars, speaker series, Defense Against the Dark Arts, You Were There Series and field trips to military installations are an important supplement to the program.


Staff Rides

The Strategic Studies program has planned and executed a large number of trips and staff rides since 2000. Our many excursions allow on-site views of military operations, historical events, and museums that offer perspectives a classroom may not deliver.

The staff ride tradition stretches back to the 19th century Prussian General Staff, and concentrates on more than just operational history; rather a staff ride will focus on important issues of leadership and decision-making that have applications well beyond the field of strategic studies. Students, faculty, and distinguished guests examine battles, campaigns, and occasionally entire wars in order to actively engage in a dialogue with history.

Click here for more information on staff rides and to see what campaigns we have studied in the past, and watch this video of Dr. Cohen discussing what a Staff Ride is all about:


Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies

The Phillip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies conducts workshops and seminars for scholars, teachers and practitioners in the security studies field.




Strategic Studies Program Learning Goals and Objectives

Entering Class 2016-2017
Students must take the equivalent of 16 non-language courses (64 credits) in order to graduate. Those students who are approved for dual degree or advanced standing may only need to take 12 courses (48 credits) or 14 courses (56 credits) as approved by Academic Affairs.



Students concentrating in Strategic Studies (STRAT) must take a minimum of 5 courses (20 credits) within this program-including those that are cross-listed with STRAT. One of those courses must be Strategy and Policy (SA.660.740) and must be taken in their first semester. Students must receive a B- or better in Strategy and Policy in order to meet the concentration requirement.



Students must complete 4 courses within this program.
·         Microeconomics
·         Macroeconomics (prerequisite or concurrent Microeconomics)
·         International Trade Theory (prerequisite Microeconomics)
·         International Monetary Theory (prerequisite Macroeconomics)
Eligible students who pass the waiver exams in these subjects or who pass Microeconomics in Pre-Term must replace those courses with alternate economics courses. Many students choose to pursue an International Economics Specialization in one of four areas of economics and therefore use electives to meet these requirements. Students may also choose to specialize in Emerging Markets.

Students must receive a 2.67 average in the 4 required economics courses or they must retake a course(s) until a 2.67 average is obtained. If any of the 4 courses are achieved by passing a waiver exam or during Pre-Term, the student must substitute an economics elective course(s) in place of the waived course(s) in order to fulfill the economics requirement above. In this case, the school will use the highest economics program elective course grade(s) to compute this average if a student is replacing one or more of the 4 required courses of Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, International Trade Theory or International Monetary Theory.



Students must complete one course from the list below.

  • Statistical Methods for Business & Economics
  • Quantitative Methods in International Relations (prerequisite Statistical Methods for Business& Economics)
  • Econometrics (prerequisite Statistical Methods for Business & Economics)
  • Applied Econometrics (prerequisite Econometrics)
  • Macro Econometrics (prerequisite Econometrics)
  • Risk Analysis and Modeling
  • Quantitative Global Economics (prerequisite International Monetary Theory)

Students may not double-count a Quantitative Reasoning requirement as one of the four required International Economics courses and vice-versa. Eligible students who pass the statistics waiver exam or pass the statistics course in Pre-Term are still required to take an alternate Quantitative Reasoning course from the list above.



All students must pass 2 core exams and/or courses in addition to their concentration requirements. If the core courses/exams are not completed by the start of the final semester, a student must enroll for credit in the core course(s).
·         American Foreign Policy Since World War II
·         Comparative Politics (old name Comparative National Systems)
·         Evolution of the International Systems
·         Theories of International Relations



MA candidates must pass exams to demonstrate proficiency in a second language. This language must be offered at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Students whose native language is not English may use English as their proficiency language. All non-native English speakers are required to pass an English placement exam upon entering the school, even if not using English for proficiency.



Strategic Studies concentrators must complete ONE of the following capstones:
1.     Successful completion of Strategic Studies Research Seminar (SA.660.751)
2.     Leading or directing research for the international staff ride, or leading one of the domestic staff rides
3.     An oral exam conducted by two Strategic Studies faculty members at the end of the final semester
4.     MA Oral Exam (to compete for honors—if eligible)
Students concentrating in Strategic Studies may not pursue an additional concentration beyond International Economics. For further information, please read the department's statement on dual concentrations.



Entering Class 2015-2016
Entering Class 2014-2015
Entering Class 2013-2014
Entering Class 2012-2013
Entering Class 2011-2012
Entering Class 2010-2011


Strategic Studies Minor Requirements: (as of AY 16/17)

  • 3 Strategic Studies courses (12 credits) in total
  • 1 required course, Strategy and Policy (SA.660.740; DC students attend the spring offering)*
  • 2 additional Strategic Studies or cross-listed courses (8 credits)

*Students must receive a B- or better in Strategy and Policy in order to meet the minor requirement.

General Minor Requirements:

  • Minors are optional (like specializations)
  • A student can minor in only one area
  • A student cannot pursue a minor in International Economics or IR/General, but can pursue a Specialization in International Economics
  • Minors consist of three courses
  • Some minors will have a required course(s)
  • A student may use a maximum of one cross-listed course (or 4 credits) towards both a minor and concentration. In this case, the minor would require just two additional courses. In the IR or Asia concentrations, the cross-listed course must be from the primary concentration area (e.g., Conflict Management, Global Theory and History, China, Japan, etc.) and not from the two additional required courses across the other IR or Asia areas. Note: IR/General concentrators can always minor in an IR sub-field or approved policy area (Conflict Management, Global Theory and History, International Law and Organizations, International Political Economy, Energy, Resources, and Environment, or Strategic Studies) by taking just two extra courses (8 credits).
  • Regional minors may require language study or proficiency in the language of that region
  • A student can declare a minor at any time—prior to graduation
  • Students who are pursuing a minor in a program will not have bidding priority in that program (only concentrators)

To add or change a minor, please click HERE.


Our Alumni


Alumni Facebook Group - "Johns Hopkins SAIS Strategic Studies Alumni"

Join the group by visiting the new Strategic Studies Alumni page and "Request to join".  You will need to have a Facebook account to login and join. 
The group is focused on connecting Strategic Studies Alumni - and friends - and updating them on all lectures, programs, and fund raising events hosted by the Strategic Studies Department.


Alumni List Serve and Newsletter

To join the Strategic Studies alumni listserve, please e-mail and provide your name and year of graduation.

For bi-annual updates on the Strategic Studies department, please check out our recent newsletters:

Volume 8 Issue 1: January 2016
Volume 6 Issue 2: July 2014
Volume 5 Issue 2: December2013
Volume 5 Issue 1: July 2013
Volume 4 Issue 1: December 2012
Volume 3 Issue 2: December 2011
Volume 3 Issue 1: June 2011
Volume 2 Issue 2: December 2010
Volume 2 Issue 1: June 2010
Volume 1 Issue 2: November 2009
Volume 1 Issue 1: May 2009


Alumni Literary Forum

The Strategic Studies Alumni Literary Forum is currently suspended. Future dates will be announced as guest authors are scheduled.
Previous Discussions:

External Resources


Gateways and Portals for Strategic Studies Research

The Federation of American Scientists has good collections on military subjects. It is a good place to start learning about military nuts and bolts. More up to date material can be found at the GlobalSecurity website created by John Pike, who built the FAS site.

Defenselink is the Defense Department’s main website, but its easier to go directly to other places in the .mil domain. The Foreign Military Studies Office of the United States Army has excellent publications and external links. Note too the Military Domain Search engine at Fort Leavenworth – a big help in searching the vast American military web. The Defense Technical Information Center (US) has links to lots of useful sites. Library of Congress Country Studies usually have lots of background material on armed forces and politico/military history. But remember that students also have access to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s country surveys from the SAIS library.

For bibliographies go to the Air University Library, the Marine Corps Research Center (one of the best), the Army Heritage and Education Center is a great way into a variety of Army sources, the Naval War College Library, the National Defense University library or the Dudley Knox Library at the Naval Postgraduate School, which has links to other bibliographies. In general, the military library sites can be extremely valuable, as is the Military Education Research Library Network, or MERLN, best accessed through the NDU. Start at these locations for most of your research.

The World Wide Web Virtual Library historical section is useful; so, more broadly, is the International Relations and Security Network out of Switzerland. Facts on International Relations and Security Trends is a combined effort of the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute and the International Relations and Security Network. Very useful for basic data. The
Social Sciences Information Gateway (SOSIG) project in the UK is a bit quirky, but not a bad place to go.

If you want a directory the Scout Report archives is a great way to roam through a decade of the Scout Report, which is the best review service of Internet sites. Librarians' Index to the Internet is a big help too, though less comprehensive.

You cannot understand wars without maps. Three great resources are the Perry Castaneda library at the University of Texas, the Department of History at the US Military Academy (West Point) and the American Memory site at the Library of Congress.

Three professors have particularly useful websites to work from: Marc Trachtenberg of UCLA (especially helpful on how to do historical work); Charles Lipson of University of Chicago (see his contemporary international relations material); Richard Jensen of University of Illinois with his Scholars’ Guide to the WWW; see also his Web Sources for Military History.

The New York Times’ Cybertimes Navigator has many great resources – it was designed for their correspondents, but it can help you with searching, as well as some very odd but interesting corners of the Net.

Contact Us

Eliot Cohen

Thomas Keaney
Associate Director

Thayer McKell
Program Administrator

Address & Phone

Strategic Studies
1619 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC, 20036