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Strategic Defense Technologies Online Professional Graduate Program

Mission Statement

The Strategic Defense Technologies online professional graduate-level program prepares mid-career civilian and military leaders to make informed decisions about future technologies that enhance the nation's defense and security. The program includes two educational streams: a for-credit concentration in Strategic Defense Engineering (approval pending) and a non-credit certificate program in Strategic Defense Technologies.

The overall program, including both streams, addresses a significant need in the US security and defense sector: to upgrade the intellectual prowess and foresight of our fighting and civilian personnel responsible for defining national defense strategies involving technologies. The program encourages strategic thinking and technological innovation among the nation's war-fighting and civilian leaders, which is essential to support their mission.

Target Learners

  1. Mid-career or retiring military officers
  2. Civilian employees of prime defense contractors (Lockheed, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft, etc.)
  3. Capitol Hill staffers or think tank researchers.
  4. Graduate students planning to join the defense industry or DoD-related professions.


The program builds on a specific value proposition derived from the curricular offerings, format and learning processes, and administrative processes. The program includes a non-credit graduate certificate and a concentration associated pending approval with an online MS program at Purdue. The graduate certificate does not require an admission process and can be customized with collaborating organizations. The concentration will require formal admission to the MS  program.

Please use the menu below to explore our program, its offerings, and learning opportunities.

The program stands out in online professional education in three ways: it combines technical with critical and liberal arts education, is competency-based and innovation-centric, and leverages experiential learning opportunities.


A. The program relies on unique, custom-designed courses that blend military and social sciences with policy, law, and STEM courses.

B. Practice drives competency learning.

  1. The program integrates knowledge and skill sets into actionable competencies.
  2. The primary competency is the ability to make strategic choices that can be applied to different areas and are adaptable to future changes.
  3. All knowledge is delivered through a "need to know" process, integrated into practical exercises.
  4. Competencies are defined in advance for the program and are organized into a hierarchical tree.
  5. The core competency that all graduates should master is strategic thinking and doing, which was detailed in an article in Military Strategy Magazine. .

 C. Innovation is cultivated at two levels: mindset formation and practice context.

  1. Innovation-centric mindsets involve creatively using existing knowledge to solve future problems.
  2. This is achieved by violating expectations.
  3. New learning methods such as games, simulation, VR, and decision support tools are utilized in innovation practice.
  4. Learning is focused on problem-solving, systems and design thinking, and team science.


The program will be offered starting in Summer 2024 through two educational avenues:

1. The stand-alone non-credit professional development program

Students can take any of the six courses listed below in any order, individually or in multiples. To earn a certificate, they must complete three courses, including Technology, War, and Strategy (see below). The final project involves playing one of our custom-designed strategic learning games: Global Contest or Tech Diplomacy.

There are no formal admissions for the non-credit program; students sign up through an online registration portal. The learning process is entirely online, self-directed, and self-paced. Although the courses usually take 6-8 weeks, students have up to six months to finish them. Course evaluation is based on demonstrating competencies rather than earning grades. Students receive badges for completing specific course modules, which can be added to their online portfolios, LinkedIn, or interactive resumes. A learning manager and an instructor of record are available to provide ongoing support.

2. The Interdisciplinary Concentration (approval pending)

This educational stream offers a concentration requiring 12 credit hours (4 courses) out of 30 credit hours required for the MS program it will be embedded in. Students must be admitted into the MS program to take the concentration. They can choose the Strategic Defense Engineering concentration by taking courses in Technology, War, and Strategy and Grand Engineering Challenges or Space Strategy. Additionally, students must complete two more courses - one from the Strategy Foresight, Strategy Data Storytelling, and Ethics sequence and one from engineering courses such as Engineering Design, Engineering Economic Risk Analysis, or Economic Decision Making in Engineering. Students enrolled in the larger MS program will have access to over 200 engineering courses.

3. Non-credit certificate program

The program is available for professional development. Courses can be taken individually or as part of a graduate non-credit certificate. Learners interested in individual classes can sign up directly on the Purdue Online portal. Learners interested in taking the graduate certificate will undergo a certificate admission process. Pending approval, learners who have completed and passed the non-credit courses may be able to transfer them as credit units to other Purdue graduate programs.

4. Cost

The non-credit certificate payments can be made course by course or for the entire certificate program. The course prices are in negotiation and can be adjusted for large organizations.

The MS program has its tuition schedule. The concentration will be included in the cost of the program. 

5. Structure 

The interdisciplinary program is developed by Engineering, Military Strategy, History, Military, and Social Science experts. It trains the students in three domains:

  1. Technology and Engineering Innovation,
  2. Strategy and Defense Decision Making, and
  3. Leadership Skills and Values

The domains provide a balanced education and practical training, preparing the graduates as strategy makers and actors. 

The program offers courses in different domains, such as technology and strategy gaming. The courses are designed to be flexible and can be complemented by live virtual seminars or online gaming sessions. Two strategy games, Tech Diplomacy and Global Contest, have been created specifically for program participants. As the program grows, we plan to organize in-person events with world experts and support through existing research collaborative ties with civilian and military education and research institutions such as West Point, Naval Post Graduate School, Air War College, Polish Military University, or Taiwan National University.

The program includes a series of interdisciplinary courses specifically created for the program by subject matter experts with significant theoretical and practical experience.


SCLA 50500: Technology, War, and Strategy

  1. Course Creators: Sorin Adam Matei, Associate Dean of Research and Director of the FORCES initiative, and Robert Kirchubel, Ph.D., Historian of War and Strategy, including the Atlas of the Easter and Western Fronts.
  2. Focus: The course defines the concepts of strategy and “strategic defense technology,” affirming that any technology may be strategic if it is defined so in use and supported by military necessity, political expediency, and economic capacity. “Strategic” is an adjective determined by what you do with technology, not by its intrinsic capabilities. The course explores these issues by investigating crucial points in the history of conflict and warfare, pinpointing what technologies carried the strategic day and why. An essential component of the course will be the online game Global Contest.
  1. Strategy and Technology: Definitions
    1. What should strategists know and do, and why
    2. Strategy defined
    3. Technological Strategies: Theory and Applications
  2. Strategic Technologies and Conflict: Historical Case StudiesThe Peloponnesian War: Navies vs. Fortifications
    1. The Portuguese Empire: Maps, Compasses, and Light Vessels of War
    2. Napoleonic Wars: The Staff as Human-Based Information Processor
    3. The Civil War: War by Numbers
    4. World War 1: Airplanes of string and canvas as strategic weapons
    5. World War 2: Logistics and production as strategic weapons
  3. Strategic Technologies of Today and Tomorrow: The Offset Methodology to develop strategic winning technologies.
    1. First Offset period (1945 - 1970)
    2. Second Offset period (1970 - 2000)
    3. Third Offset period (2000 - today)


SCLA 50600: Space Strategy

  1. Created by Lamont Colucci, Ph.D., former State Department Official, currently a Space Force Strategist and co-author of the Space Force Strategic Doctrine.
  2. The course will present the major military, political-regulatory, and economic dimensions of the US Space strategy.
  1. Deep background
    1. History of the USSF-The road to here
    2. The International Legal Context
  2. Grand Strategies and Great Power Conflict
    1. US
    2. China
    3. Russia
    4. Iran/N. Korea
  3. Strategic competition: Threats, Enemies, and Allies
    1. China – US
    2. Russia – the rest
    3. Japan / South Korea/ NATO
    4. The Medium Malevolence- Iran and North Korea
  4. War in Space: National Security and Space
    1. Space Defense
    2. Space Offense
    3. Space asset role in land and sea operations
    4. Space Force – Structure and Mission
  5. Space economy: What to whom in what way
    1. Markets vs governments
    2. Regulation of economic space activities
    3. Governance of space colonies
    4. Tri Planetary Economy (Earth – Moon – Mars)


SCLA 50700: Grand Challenges in Defense Engineering

  1. Created by ret. Army Col. Rick Whitman, PhD, a former nuclear and chemical officer and staff officer. Last major assignment member of the Dayton Accords implementation commission. The Commission was tasked to restore peace to Bosnia after the US bombing campaign.
  2. Focus: Discuss the strategies used by engineering teams to bring defense systems to life, for which science offered a clear path while the engineering process was yet to be invented. The course is divided into topical modules, in which a past, present, and future challenge is presented.
  1. Logistics and Information
    1. Past: Containerized logistics
    2. Present: AI and the future of command (case study Joint All Domain Command and Control)
    3. Future: Quantum computing
  2. Energy
    1. Past: The Manhattan Project
    2. Present: Decarbonizing the Army
    3. Future: Portable Fusion Engines
  3. The Offense vs. Defense race
    1. Past: Advanced composite armor vs. Depleted Uranium Munitions
    2. Present: JDAM bombs
    3. Future: Rail guns


SCLA 53000: Strategic Defense Foresight and Leadership

  1. Created and supported by Kira (Hutchinson) Graves, Ph.D., Director of Educational Director for the Critical Thinking Enterprise, Training and Doctrine Command, Intelligence, US Army at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and author of the “Future Hunters” course at Army University.
  2. The course takes as its point of departure that future defense strategies should start with acknowledging and planning for uncertainty. It relies on strategic thinking that reduces or makes uncertainty an operational term through strategy empathy and “red teaming” (playing the adversary). The method generates logical projections of potential future conditions, which , in turn, serve as decision-support tools. The course will also instill in leaders a future-oriented mind- and skillset that enables them to plan, procure, design organizations, and execute activities with the expectation that the future will not be like the past. Students will leave the class as Future oriented leaders-- professionals who prowl for signals of future change in the present and who courageously pursue the implications of potential change to shape their decision-making.
  1. Harnessing the past
    1. Organizations: civilian and military
    2. Definitions: Change, Foresight, Empathy, Organizational Design, Defense strategies
  2. Thinking in the future
    1. From knowledge to mindsets
    2. The past as a case stud
  3. Acting in the future
    1. Detecting changes that have not happened yet
    2. Scenario planning for medium and long-term
  4. The operational environment
    1. Defense oriented missions
    2. Technology and missions
    3. Working your future


SCLA 51000: Data and science storytelling and communication

  1. Creator: Sorin Adam Matei, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education
  2. Focus: The course defines a new method to create stories focusing on surprising the audience by violating its expectations, providing a new explanation that fits the data better, and teaching it a new way to think about the future. The course goes beyond examples; it provides a specific method of creating stories with numbers.
  1. Introduction to Scientific Storytelling
    1. What is storytelling
    2. Why and how should stories contradict expectations
    3. Why any good story should teach
    4. Why all good science and data analysis is story-ready
  2. Causal processes and stories
    1. Data analysis as a method to detect signals in the noise
    2. Data analysis as a quest for explanation rooted in causal processes
    3. Organizing stories around the quest for new and better causal stories
  3. Methods and techniques of storytelling with numbers
    1. Storyplots as unexpected causal explanations
    2. Story patterns
    3. Story composition methods
  4. Stories and audiences
    1. Some narrations are stories only for some audiences
    2. The ethics of data storytelling
    3. Using storytelling to move an audience to action


SCLA XXX: Ethical reasoning in technology

  1. Course Creator: Sorin Adam Matei
  2. Focus: The course, building on the book Ethical Reasoning in Big Data, introduces the students to the essential principles of ethical reasoning and the method to defend a technological design or decisions in advance of designing the technology
  1. Ethics: meaning and use
    1. History of ethics
    2. Types of Ethics: Philosophical and Applied
    3. Morality, concerns, and ethics are not the same thing
    4. Ethical reasoning as a form of “practical wisdom” – phronesis
  2. Ethical reasoning method
    1. Core ethical principles and values
    2. Rules of ethical reasoning: the centrality of trad off thinking with thresholds
    3. A matrix for practical reasoning in context
  3. Case studies in contemporary technology ethics with applicability to defense technologies
    1. Cluster munitions and landmines
    2. Weapons of mass destruction
    3. Hybrid and Gray Zone warfare in peacetime
    4. Incapacitating weapons vs. killing weapons
    5. Civilian infrastructure disablement
    6. Autonomous weapons and AI 


The instructors are recruited from Purdue faculty and professionals with Ph.D. degrees and at least ten years of experience in the areas of expertise mentioned in the program.  The program will actively recruit instructors through direct contact and individual recommendations. Guest speakers are actively sought out.


The program is directed by a Purdue faculty member, Dr. Matei assisted by an academic and professional committee. The director of the program and the head of the committee will closely collaborate in running and enhancing the long-term strategies and investments of the program. A Learning Manager, a full-time Purdue staff member, runs the day-by-day operations. The program manager supervises onboarding, course creation support, admission process, degree-granting, and student support.

Learning Technologies 

The courses will be self-paced and asynchronous, including vivid explainer videos, readings, and online discussions.  Online courses will be delivered through Purdue Brightspace. Two advanced simulations and gaming platforms were prepared for incorporation into the learning process: Global Contest (a portfolio balancing and defense technology acquisition, deployment, and operational use) and Tech Diplomacy (a technology negotiation and investment game that balances economic with political costs).


The program will strive to recruit and train learners and lecturers with various professional, intellectual, and personal backgrounds that reflect and enrich the United States' national security and defense interests. The program welcomes foreign nationals who meet the legal requirements for participating in educational activities at Purdue.