Department of Education
Graduate Research Management Office
Research Papers
Academic Year 2015

Boko Haram: Africa’s New JV Team?

This thesis examines the threat Boko Haram poses to Nigeria and its neighbors in West Africa, and determines the extent to which ensuing regional instability may or may not threaten United States (U.S.) national interests in the region. Among our conclusions, from the examination of U.S.-Nigerian relations over time, is that the United States generally acts in response to the media’s ability to incite a public outcry and less in regard to threats to perceived national interests. Boko Haram, initially viewed as a problem internal to Nigeria given its Nigeria- focused agenda, has since developed relations with influential transnational and international terrorist organizations, such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS). It is our position that sponsorship from other terror organizations will make Boko Haram more dangerous and capable of threatening regional stability, ergo impacting U.S. security interests. On the basis of whether a terrorist group seeks state-level sovereignty or inclusion into an existing state, we propose several stop-gaps that, if applied effectively, could serve as countermeasures to hinder Boko Haram’s ability to move from being a peripheral to an important or even vital threat to United States interests in West Africa.

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Sociocultural-Geospatial Anthropological Portal (SC-GAP): Enhancing Sociocultural Understanding Through Crowdsourced Service Member Narratives

Despite the Department of Defense’s (DOD) investment in programs designed to advance sociocultural knowledge, the DOD lacks a shared repository through which all entities can aggregate, visualize, and share sociocultural data across the enterprise. A gap analysis of DOD’s desired and actual ability to achieve a sociocultural understanding reveals three shortcomings: data, repository, and collaboration. Therefore, we created a proof of concept that bridges the sociocultural gap by harnessing the overlooked potential of deployed service members and their cross-cultural experiences. Service member observations form an untapped resource of sociocultural data; this existing wellspring of sociocultural information needs to be collected and indexed using a common framework. Residing in a geodatabase and interfaced via a crowdsourced Geographic Information System (GIS), this framework aggregates the collected data of service member narratives for the greater Joint Force, thereby creating a dynamic and collaborative living repository. Combining an anthropologically sound and operationally relevant framework with the capabilities of GIS results in a solution that will allow DOD personnel to populate, visualize, and share near-real-time cultural data relevant to military operations across all services. This DOD enterprise solution can enhance the nation’s armed forces’ strategic performance through the application of culturally adept military power.

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Getting it Right: Revamping Army Talent Management

U.S. Army officers face countless opportunity costs, especially at the mid-grade level, when deciding to stay in the Army past the ten-year mark of service. The scarcity of skilled labor in today’s economy makes it important that organizations, especially the Army, retain their human capital investment. This thesis suggests techniques to acquire, manage, and retain talent to ensure that the Army’s officer talent pool is not depleted. Some of the best corporate talent management practices are examined as an example for the Army to emulate. The thesis reinforces these proven techniques by examining corporate case studies, including General Electric and its leadership development, Sambian and its engagement, American Express and its use of talent profiles, and Facebook and its recruitment and retention practices. The thesis then examines current Army initiatives for future accession, development, retention, and employment of officer talent. The thesis concludes with recommendations for Army talent management to include an officer talent profile system that would increase officer engagement and hold leadership accountable for the retention of its officers.

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Aghas, Sheiks, and Daesh in Iraq: Kurdish Robust Action in Turmoil

The conflicts in Iraq and Syria are protracted civil wars with multi-state and non-state actors vying for influence. Iraqi Kurdistan is arguably the most important partner for the United States in our current fight against Daesh, which has exploited the factional politics of Iraq. Special Operations Forces (SOF) will be maintaining persistent engagement in the region for the foreseeable future, and must understand the formal and informal relational structures that underpin these conflicts. This project is a social network and social movement theory analysis of the power structures of Iraqi Kurdistan. It attempts to provide more awareness to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and U.S. policy makers on the patrons, influencers, and brokers that they can leverage in their efforts to understand and influence the Kurds. This thesis thoroughly examines the patronage nature of Iraqi Kurdistan since WWI and provides insight into individuals from minority groups and political parties that are structurally located in positions of brokerage and influence. With this information, SOCCENT, the project’s sponsor, will be better able to understand the region. Furthermore, the conflicts of the future will likely involve protracted, multi-factional, intrastate civil wars, where the lessons learned from the Kurdish situation will serve future SOF well.

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Strategic Application of Special Warfare in Cyberspace

Potential regional adversaries have learned to blur the lines between cyber and special warfare operations. They have successfully achieved strategic objectives by asymmetrically fomenting territorial instability and supporting contentious governments through cyber-enabled Special Warfare. In a time of U.S. military fiscal pressure coupled with rapid innovation and the diffusion of low-cost technology, the strategic application of Special warfare activities in “cyberspace” might offer unique opportunities for exploiting key human, physical, and cyber domain intersections. The U.S. development of cyber-enabled special warfare may serve as an emerging tool to mobilize global networks, decelerate eroding cyber-technology superiority and most importantly, offer new strategic options for the nation. Special warfare is a broad term that doctrinally covers a range and combination of unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense and counterinsurgency operations. Special warfare activities involve both lethal and nonlethal actions executed by a specially selected force steeped in regional understanding that is trained to fight alongside indigenous elements in “permissive, uncertain, or hostile environments.” Recent examples demonstrate a clear understanding of how cyber-enabled Special warfare operations offer new means for achieving strategic ends. Asymmetric innovation of special warfare is a useful template for aspiring regional and global powers to adopt, as an irregular pathway to successfully circumvent U.S. military dominance and secure strategic interests. Application has taken the form of cyber-enabled UW and cyber-enabled COIN.

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German Views of Irregular Warfare

Increasingly, so-called weak actors employ irregular warfare to successfully challenge the strong. The British, French, and Americans are recognized for their irregular warfare experience, but the comparatively rich German tradition remains overlooked. German contributions to irregular warfare, in fact, rival their reputed expertise in modern maneuver warfare. This thesis surveys German irregular warfare cases from the eighteenth century forward. Beginning in the American Revolution, Hessian officer Johann Ewald revealed important counter-insurgency principles. In the early nineteenth century, Carl von Clausewitz spoke to the larger idea of people’s war and noted its efficacy. In a peripheral theater of World War I, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck mastered the art of irregular adaptation and survival. In the Second World War, Otto Skorzeny perfected the strategic commando raid. After serving in the same war, Friedrich A.F. von der Heydte published a theory of modern irregular warfare, unique for its views on terrorism and the combined employment of irregular and other forms of warfare. Otto Heilbrunn studied partisan warfare and endorsed pseudo operations to counter asymmetric threats such as those faced by the United States today. German irregular warfare offers strategic answers to contemporary security challenges.

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Airborne Next: Rethinking Airborne Organization and Applying New Concepts

The airborne concept has had a lasting impact on military force structures since its employment on a large scale during World War II. It is puzzling to consider how little airborne organizational structures and employment concepts have changed in the intervening seven decades, considering the great amount of change occurring in warfare. This thesis examines the future potential of airborne concepts by rethinking traditional airborne organizational structures and employment concepts. Using a holistic approach in the areas of organization, doctrine, technology, and strategy as guiding frames of reference, this thesis recommends updating the organizational structures of airborne forces to model a small and many approach over a large and few approach, while incorporating a swarming concept. Utilizing historical and contemporary vignettes to demonstrate airborne utility, this research reveals how a parachute capability displays the unique attributes to complement a swarming concept. Under an updated organizational structure and new employment concept, airborne forces can offer renewed relevancy to the U.S. Department of Defense against modern adversaries in crises and conflict.

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Repetitions Of History: Army Downsizing Insights From The British Interwar Experience

A review of current military operations around the globe shows the Army engaged in numerous crises on six continents. Fiscal constraints, public war weariness, emerging technologies, and a myriad of global threats present a complex challenge to the Army’s leadership tasked with downsizing the force while simultaneously ensuring its capacity to accomplish the nation’s defense strategy. To avoid conditions leading to a “hollow force,” leaders must carefully adjust three variables during a downsizing period to ensure the force is prepared to meet future demands: end strength, readiness, and modernization. Failure to properly adjust these criteria often leads to defeat during the next conflict. This paper examines the British Army’s downsizing efforts during the interwar period (1919-1939) in terms of end strength, readiness, and modernization to identify useful insights for decision makers developing downsizing policies for the US Army today.

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Combating Daesh: A Socially Unconventional Strategy

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, commonly referred to as Daesh, has taken the world by storm and is exhibiting no signs of relenting. Desperate to degrade and ultimately destroy Daesh, yet afraid to mire itself in another Middle Eastern conflict, the United States is relying on a minimalist strategy through military partnerships and air support. This research contends that this fairly conventional approach is ineffective. This thesis offers an alternative strategy to counter Daesh by utilizing social network analysis (SNA) to analyze Daesh’s network and then apply principles of social movement theory (SMT) to encourage Daesh’s implosion.

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SOF Acquisition: A Tool to Facilitate the Army's Future Force

The Army Operating Concept (AOC), Win in a Complex World, describes how future Army forces will prevent conflict, shape security environments, and win wars. More importantly, it establishes the intellectual foundation for driving institutional change. The operating environment within this unifying concept for the future is unknown, unknowable, and constantly changing. Given this paradigm, the Army needs to institutionalize a rapid acquisition model that shifts its focus from differentiation to a rate of innovation approach to achieve a relative advantage over adversaries. While the Army's macro acquisition processes remain aligned with exquisite systems development, addressing this mismatch requires a critical assessment and collaborative efforts with key stakeholders to advance necessary institutional reforms. To fully realize the Army's vision will require DoD and Congressional action to reform current acquisition processes which is unlikely. This paper attempts to expand SOF and Army institutional interdependence to include leveraging SOF acquisition principles where appropriate through a strategic framework of tailored acquisition strategies and prudent risk acceptance to facilitate the Army's future force.

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Enhancing Congressional Oversight of DOD Clandestine Activities: A Case Study of SOF CT Paramilitary Operations

In the post 9/11 world, both the CIA and DOD must counter threats to national security with flexibility and agility in their respective efforts. These circumstances have resulted in concerns from lawmakers and legal scholars alike over the ‘blurriness’ of lines between CIA and DOD activities in the clandestine and covert arenas. These activities often appear functionally similar, but come from different authorities and follow different oversight processes. The questions raised by lawmakers on the distinction between clandestine and covert typically center on who – CIA or DOD – is doing what and under what authority. Analyzing congressional oversight of SOF CT Paramilitary Operations provides a case study to draw and apply lessons to clandestine activities broadly from an activity that is conducted by DOD (and functionally similar to) but under separate authorities and different oversight processes than that of CIA Paramilitary Operations.

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A Global Enterprise: Leveraging the Three Pillars

We must adapt our current operational construct so that we become a “Global Enterprise” that merges and optimizes the capabilities of SOF, CF, and IA organizations. First, we must develop ways to better integrate the three organizations through training and deployment opportunities, professional military education, and exchange programs. Second, we need to optimize the three organizations regionally. Regional focus and alignment of organizations will involve the merging of SOF and CF organizations not only in training environments but also in our operational efforts with RAF (Regionally Aligned Forces), USSOCOM’s concept of RSCC (Region SOF Coordination Centers) and embassies. Becoming a Global Enterprise that is inclusive of all three organizations. The third component for the proposed Global Enterprise centers on the concept of utilizing the three pillars of SOF, CF, and IA when conducting future counterinsurgency operations with an adaptable mission command methodology and strategy.

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Targeted Killings: Is Organizational Decapitation an Effective Counterterrorism Strategy?

Targeted killings are a highly visible element of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy. A common misconception is that these are low risk and low cost tactics that dismantle terrorist organizations using precision-guided munitions. Despite the killing of hundreds of so-called terrorist leaders by way of drones, fighter aircraft, and Special Forces raids over the past 14 years, the United States does not appear any closer to winning the “long war.” Research suggests that leadership targeting causes organizational collapse in about 30 percent of terrorist organizations. The most resilient organizations are those that are religious based or more than 10 years old. The least resilient are separatist in nature or less than 10 years old. Research further indicates an increase in violent attacks and a decrease in suicide bombings following the loss of the inspirational or operational leader. However, these findings should concern policy makers, as 67 percent of the foreign terrorist organizations designated by the Department of State are resilient to the tactic.

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Trusted Sites? Countering Extremist Groups in Cyberspace: Applying Old Solutions to a New Problem

Countering an adversary that is not physically observable poses a significant challenge, especially when that adversary is operating within the vast space the cyber domain offers. These virtual adversaries are made up of various extremist groups that promote hatred and violence. This paper argues that old operational concepts used in land and sea warfare over the last few centuries could be employed in tandem to counter these extremist groups operating in cyberspace. The first is the concept of false-flag operations that were once used to safely approach enemy maritime vessels in order to subsequently attack them, can now be updated to do the same against extremist websites. The second is the concept of pseudo operations, once used to infiltrate an extremist group’s physical area of operation for the purposes of gathering intelligence and disrupting operations by posing as members of these groups can be updated and employed in cyberspace to infiltrate a virtual area of operation controlled by extremist groups.

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The Recruitment and Retention of the 180A: The Special Forces Warrant Officer

The Special Forces warrant officer is vital to the health of the Special Forces Regiment. The warrant officer’s institutional knowledge—developed over years of operational experience—is essential to the success of Special Operations Forces’ global endeavors. The Special Forces Regiment harnesses its future institutional capability through the recruitment and retention of Special Forces warrant officers. For the past five years, the Special Forces Regiment has seen a decrease in its warrant officer recruitment and retention rates. If left unattended, these rates will likely continue to decline. This thesis offers insights into the factors affecting the recruitment and retention of Special Forces warrant officers. By looking at recruitment and retention policies and assessing expert opinion in the Regiment, this thesis attempts to determine the recruitment and retention modifications that may reverse the declining trend. In doing so, this thesis identifies multiple factors affecting the recruitment and retention of Special Forces warrant officers and, specifically, focuses on two: (1) recruitment is drawn from a limited pool of eligible non-commissioned officers who face both the stigma of leaving the NCO ranks and pay disparities if they choose to transition; and (2) the lack of upward mobility through the senior warrant officer ranks.

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