You are expected to complete assigned readings and participate regularly in class discussions. You will also complete weekly written assignments and a final exam. Finally, you will be assigned to groups of 3-4 to prepare formal presentations to a hypothetical United States National Security Council staff (i.e., the instructors and the rest of the class) on an assigned topic relating to a significant contemporary international security issue.


(1)   Regular informed participation in class discussions:                     100 points (20%)

(2)   Final exam:                                                                                          150 points (30%)

(3)   Weekly writing assignments:                                                             100 points (20%)

(4)   Group presentation:                                                                            150 points (30%)

Total                                                                                                             500 points


Group Presentations


At the beginning of the course, you will be divided into seven or eight groups of 3-4 people each (depending on the size of the class). Each group’s assignment is to prepare a one-hour briefing for a hypothetical National Security Adviser and his/her staff on one of the following topics:

  • Terrorism

  • Energy & the environment

  • Weapons proliferation

  • The Middle East

  • Asia

  • Latin America

  • Europe (including NATO)

Each presentation will include the following:


(1)   A pre-circulated “briefing book” containing copies of documents, statistics, and book, journal, and/or magazine articles relevant to your topic. You will pre-circulate this briefing book to your instructors and your classmates one week prior to your group’s presentation. Its purpose is to provide your audience with background information in advance of your formal presentation;

(2)   A one-hour briefing, with time allotted for questions and answers, in which your group will provide: an overview of the issue; possible threats to U.S. national security; policy recommendations.


You will be expected to draw on the themes and lessons of the previous 9 weeks and apply them to your assessment and recommendations.


You should prepare for vigorous questioning from both instructors and classmates. You are required to attend all presentations.


You will then submit to your instructors a final report of 5-8 pages in length.


Your audience


The National Security Council of the United States was created in 1947. The NSC “is the President's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. Since its inception under President [Harry] Truman, the function of the Council has been to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies. The Council also serves as the President's principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies.” It is chaired by the President and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, known informally as the National Security Advisor. The NSC also includes the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Defense. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council, and the Director of Central Intelligence is the intelligence advisor.


It will be important to take certain factors into consideration when making policy recommendations to the President’s National Security Adviser. Above all, remember that you are writing as a U.S. government official making recommendations aimed at strengthening U.S. national security.


Other important considerations include:


          (1) Current developments related to your topic;


          (2) The current political composition of the White House and Congress (Senate and House of Representatives);


          (3) The allies of the United States, particularly NATO, and their interests


          (4) Standing treaty obligations and agreements to which the United States is a signatory (for example, NAFTA)


Assignment of groups (in class September 13)


In class on September 13, your instructors will assign each student to a group of 3-4 (depending on the size of the class)


Preliminary list of documents (due in class September 27)


Working together, your group will submit to your instructors 5 essential documents relating to your topic. These documents may be government reports, chapters from important books, journal articles, or other reliable and respected sources of information:


Your instructors will review the documents and make recommendations.


Briefing book (due in class October 18)


The final briefing book of documents to be circulated to instructors and classmates.


Draft of report and policy recommendations to instructors only (due in class November 1)




The final presentation accounts for 30% of your final grade. The breakdown is as follows:


Performance in the presentation                                                                        90 points

Quality of briefing book, pre-presentation preparation, and

Policy recommendations                                                                                     30 points

Quality of questions asked of and comments given during

other briefing sessions                                                                                         30 points


Total:                                                                                                                     150 points

A Note on Plagiarism:

“Academic dishonesty of any type, including cheating and plagiarism, is unacceptable at Brooklyn College. Cheating is any misrepresentation in academic work. Plagiarism is the representation of another person's work, words or ideas as your own. Students should consult the Brooklyn College Student Handbook for a fuller, more specific discussion of related academic integrity standards. Academic dishonesty is punishable by failure of the "test, examination, term paper, or other assignment on which cheating occurred" (Faculty Council, May 18, 1954). In addition, disciplinary proceedings in cases of academic dishonesty may result in penalties of admonition, warning, censure, disciplinary probation, restitution, suspension, expulsion, complaint to civil authorities, and ejection.”