Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jongseok Woo, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nicolas Thompson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Searle, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julia Irwin, Ph.D.


joint chiefs of staff, Military, NeoClassical Realism


This dissertation applies a Neoclassical Realism model to examine how the evolution of United States (U.S.) national security strategy-making institutions has resulted in a path dependent accrual of autonomy and increasing influence over the formulation of American grand strategy. Once U.S. national security strategy-making institutions were created, their existence inexorably led to increasing autonomy, the creation of new strategy-making institutions, and subtle influence in shaping American grand strategy by preferential focus on a militarized foreign policy. Additionally, the more autonomous these strategy-making institutions have become, the further they have strayed from the Constitutional mandate to create a government which provides for the common defense and the less successful they have been in implementing grand strategy for national security.

This dissertation examines this evolution in strategy-making institutions across three grand strategic moments: the end of the Spanish-American War (1898-1911), World War II and the beginnings of the Cold War (1940-1950), and the end of the Cold War (1980-present). Each case study discusses the historical facts of the grand strategic moment’s evolution in strategy-making institutions. These facts indicate durable shifts in autonomy and influence. The increasing autonomy is evidenced by the ability of these national security strategy-making institutions to define their own evolution, despite traditional American strategic culture perceptions about civilian control of the Military. These strategy-making institutions also shaped the formulation of American grand strategy and their evolution has had important transformative effects on American strategic culture and civil-military relations. While, fortunately, the U.S. can rely on ethical military professionalism, and the nation still holds its Military in high regard, this path-dependent process of structural evolution generates concern for the American People’s future and common defense.