Industrial College of the Armed Forces: A Primer

By Alan L. Gropman

Industrial College of the Armed Forces LogoThe National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces is one of the nation’s six military colleges.

ICAF is located at Fort McNair, in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to prepare selected military and civilians for strategic leadership and success in developing national security strategy and in evaluating, marshalling, and managing resources in the execution of that strategy.

The ancestor of ICAF is the Army Industrial College which was founded in 1924 to educate officers for the procurement division in the War Department.

Assistant Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis saw the Army Industrial College as a school to “fit officers for the mobilization and direction of the industrial power of this country.” The first course lasted five months and had only nine officers, but soon after a small number of Navy and Marine officers began attending.

By December 1941 the college had trained about 1,000 officers of whom 15 percent were from the Navy and Marine Corps

During World War II, the Army Industrial College procurement recommendations were followed by the Army and Navy. During the war more than 90 percent of the ordnance contracts that were negotiated went to firms that had been surveyed in the 1920s and 1930s by the college. Many of the graduates were transferred to the War Production Board when it was formed in 1942. This board directed industrial mobilization during World War II.

The Army Industrial College was recreated late in 1943 to teach contracting officers how to terminate contracts without bankrupting companies — which had happened after World War I ended. The first full class in the college began after Japan surrendered in 1945 and before that class graduated, the name of the school was changed to The Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

In 1976, ICAF became part of the newly established National Defense University. In 1991, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave responsibility to ICAF to educate the senior acquisition corps (military and civilian) of all services and the Defense Department. Today ICAF is a fully accredited graduate school, granting a Master’s Degree in national security resources — accredited by the same agency that accredits Georgetown University. Students include about 180 lieutenant colonels and colonels (or naval equivalents) and about 100 comparably ranked U.S. civil servants in addition to more than 40 foreign officers. About 10 civilian fellows from industry matriculate in a 10 month program.

A PDF copy of this study can be obtained by clicking here.

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