National Defense University Gets New President
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 14, 2006 Marine Lt. Gen. Frances C. Wilson took the reins today as the 12th president of the National Defense University at Fort McNair here.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace (back to camera) accepts the National Defense University flag from retiring NDU Commander Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael M. Dunn before turning it over to Marine Lt. Gen. Frances C. Wilson at the NDU change-of-command ceremony July 14. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presided over the change of command ceremony. Pace lauded outgoing NDU President Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael M. Dunn for expanding the university's curriculum and reaching out to the international community.
"As sad as we are to see Mike go, we're delighted to have Fran take that flag today and carry this institution forward," Pace said. "She brings four master's degrees and one doctoral degree to the fight, as well as many other things."
Under Dunn's guidance, Pace said, NDU now offers valuable courses specifically geared toward senior enlisted military members, more classes for civilian government personnel, and additional coursework on homeland security issues. "The curriculum has retained its quality and has expanded the opportunity for those who want to come here and learn," the chairman said.
"I've enjoyed every minute of my job here at NDU. What's absolutely amazing to me is that the No. 1 attribute of the job is that it's not at the Pentagon," Dunn, who is retiring after 34 years of military service, said with a chuckle.
The university's mission is to prepare military and civilian leaders from the U.S. and other countries to better address national and international security challenges through multi-disciplinary educational programs, research, professional exchanges and outreach. The school's master's program is a one-year intensive study program. Students do not work normal day jobs while attending the program.
"This institution allows officers the opportunity to come in out of the field and reflect, learn, discuss, and share ideas with international officers," Pace said. "It allows government civilians, the collection of faculty, staff, and international students to stop doing today's business and think about tomorrow's."
Pace said another of Dunn's contributions was to establish an e-mail database to share information with about 20,000 people from around the world. This type of knowledge dissemination is a valuable instrument in the war on terror, he said. "It is a very powerful tool in a war that is about information and understanding as much as about anything else," he said.
Communicating across borders enables the sharing of lessons learned and the ability to normalize views on the war on terrorism, "so we understand each other better, internationally," Dunn said.
Wilson spoke briefly during the ceremony, saying she wanted to adhere to an old Irish saying she once heard: "My role today is to be that of a corpse at an Irish wake. I'm necessary for the ceremony, but no one expects me to say much," she said to loud applause.
The new university president did, however, say she was committed to meeting the challenges of her new job. "To rise to the challenges at hand we cannot afford to rest on the platinum reputation we've established," she said. "It's time now to rededicate ourselves to think and act anew."
Pace officially promoted Wilson to the rank of lieutenant general just prior to the change of command ceremony.
Wilson said that shortly after Pace received his third star, she ran into him in a Pentagon hallway. When she congratulated him on his promotion, he responded that he was just grateful to be able to continue serving his country, she recollected.
"This was not the response I envisioned," she said. "I went back and thought about it, and he's right. I feel very blessed, not because of the promotion, but because it affords me the opportunity to serve my country, which has been so good to me."
The National Defense University, which was founded in 1976, is made up of the of the National War College, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Joint Forces Staff College, Information Resources Management College, School for National Security Executive Education, Institute for National Strategic Studies, Institute for Homeland Security Studies, Center for Technology and National Security Policy, Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and seven special programs including Capstone, Pinnacle, Keystone, Joint Reserve Affairs Center, International Student Management Office, Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellows, and the NATO Staff Officer Orientation Course.