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Nuclear weapons distance learning graduate certificate program.

The Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is now offering a distance learning graduate certificate in Nuclear Weapons Effects, Policy, and Proliferation (NWEPP). The education of the nuclear workforce is a top U.S. Air Force priority, and the Air Education and Training Command, U.S. Air Force, conceived of the program to reinvigorate nuclear-related education for the Air Force nuclear enterprise. The first class was welcomed in the fall of 2011.

The NWEPP Program targets "nonquota," midcareer officers, noncommissioned officers, and government civilians who have current positions--or who may receive future assignments--with the Department of Defense (DOD) nuclear enterprise and who would not normally have any other way to pursue a formal education in the nuclear weapons arena. The program is open to students in residence at AFIT and candidates who are nominated by the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Office (A10), Air Education and Training Command, in consultation with the Air Force Global Strike Command. Interested students who are outside the Air Force Global Strike Command must coordinate their attendance through AFIT and A10, Air Education and Training Command. U.S. Army nuclear and counterproliferation (Functional Area 52) officers coordinate through the U.S. Army Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Agency. All students must be U.S. citizens. However, the only academic requirements are the completion of an undergraduate degree with an overall grade point average of 3.0 or higher and a college algebra level mathematics course with a grade of C or higher. There is no requirement for a science or engineering background. There is also no residency or security clearance requirement.

The NWEPP Program consists of three courses--each of which can accommodate up to 40 students, is 10 weeks long, and is worth 4 credit hours. Participants work independently and in groups to perform educational investigations of a broad range of topics encompassing weapon effects, nuclear technologies (including the fuel cycle), nonproliferation challenges, and the evolution of U.S. nuclear weapons policy since the Manhattan Project. (1) Students should plan to spend at least 16 hours per week on coursework. They will acquire the skills necessary to develop and provide advice on future nuclear strategy and policy. In addition, they gain an understanding of technical issues that will allow them to interface with the technical communities within DOD and the Department of Energy regarding the maintenance of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. They also learn what makes nuclear weapons unique. Finally, they develop an understanding for how these unique weapons have enabled the United States to deter war throughout the past 6 decades.

Dr. John McClory, director of the NWEPP Program, summarized his experiences by stating, "I have been gratified by the enthusiasm, knowledge, and dedication of our distance learning students as both an instructor and as the program director. Our students bring a wealth of knowledge on nuclear deterrence tactics, operations, and strategy--which they share and which elevates the level of discussion. Student contributions, along with our structured course material, make the program a valuable resource for those of any Service preparing for a position in the national nuclear enterprise."

The entire NWEPP Program can be completed in as little as 9 months, but must be finished no more than 2 years after beginning the first course. Those who complete the formal program with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 receive the AFIT graduate certificate.

For more information about the NWEPP Program, please visit the AFIT Web site at <> or contact Ms. Amanda Zehring, AFIT contractor, at <> or (937) 255-3636, extension 4706.


(1) The Manhattan Project was a 1940s, U.S.-directed research and development project that led to the production of the first atomic bombs.

By Lieutenant Colonel John S. Leahy

Lieutenant Colonel Leahy is a nuclear weapons effects analyst with the Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Agency, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Iowa State University.
Table 1. NWEPP Course Requirements

                Credit   Course
Term            Hours    Number     Course Title       Prerequisites

Fall, Winter,   4        NENG 500   Nuclear Weapons    None; NENG 591
Spring                              Strategy and       and NENG 596
                                    Policy             recommended

Fall, Winter,   4        NENG 591   Nuclear Weapons    None; NENG 596
Summer                              and                recommended

Fall, Spring,   4        NENG 596   Nuclear Weapons    None
Summer                              Effects
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Author:Leahy, John S.
Publication:CML Army Chemical Review
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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