The National Security and Defense Program is an undergraduate teaching and research program at the Tower Center for Political Studies, as well as a hub for public discussions about strategy and international security. The program combines insights from security studies, which deals with fundamental questions about how states try to make themselves safe; and strategic studies, which deals with the use of violence to achieve political goals. Undergraduates take a suite of courses that delve deeply into these issues. They read classical strategic theorists like Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Thucydides, as well as modern international relations scholars. Along the way they also read a great deal of history. Successful students will leave the program with a broad theoretical and historical foundation to inform their judgment about contemporary security affairs.


As with the all programs at the Tower Center, the National Security and Defense Program is animated by practical policy dilemmas. It addresses a range of current security issues, including everything from the grand strategy of great powers to the causes of militant violence in distant civil wars. Our faculty includes specialists on nuclear weapons, intelligence, and regional studies. Students learn from a combination of leading academics and faculty with vast diplomatic, military, and foreign policy experience. And because the program is problem driven, it is interdisciplinary by design. We encourage students to seek insights from political science, history, economics, engineering, and any other field that can help them develop ideas about important security problems.

While the principal mission of the program is undergraduate education, the National Security and Defense Program is also a center for public debates. It organizes the annual Tower Center National Security Symposium each fall, which has become a signature in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The program hosts a steady stream of public events featuring leading scholars and practitioners, including policymakers, military leaders, diplomats, and intelligence officials from the United States and abroad. Finally, we support research and provide opportunities for SMU students and faculty to present their findings in regular seminars.