News Stories

NDU Continuing Education Seminar, Vienna, Austria, July 29-31, 2014

By Russell Thacker


In a joint collaboration between the U.S. National Defense University (NDU) and the Austrian National Defence Academy (NDA), the fourth regional NDU Continuing Education Seminar was held from July 29-31, 2014 in Vienna, Austria. The purpose of the seminar was to provide continuing education to alumni on critical security topics and to re-energize the valuable network of NDU graduates in the region.

Seminar participants included 70 alumni from over 30 countries and represented each of NDU’s five colleges—the College of International Security Affairs (CISA), the Eisenhower School (ES/ICAF), the iCollege, the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) and the National War College (NWC). Most participants came from surrounding areas in Europe, but alumni also traveled from as far as Argentina, Botswana, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore to attend the event. Additional representatives from NATO, EUCOM, the U.S. embassy and the OSCE also were in attendance.

Seminar sessions were held in the historic Sala Terrena at NDA while off-site visits occurred throughout Vienna. Participants engaged in lively dialogue on panel sessions focused on the changing security environment in Europe, transatlantic security cooperation outside Europe, and emerging issues such as remote piloted systems (UAV’s), the High North, and cyber security. The timing of the event proved fortuitous as recent events in the Ukraine / Russia security crisis provided a compelling backdrop for discussion. Eleven alumni formally provided their perspective through a panel presentation or keynote address, and many more engaged in the robust conversation.  Presentations will be made available online soon through this website.

Attendees were also pleased to hear presentations from Lieutenant General Erich Csitkovits, Commandant of the Austrian National Defence Academy; Brigadier General Blaine Holt, Deputy U.S. Military Representative to NATO; Ms. Karin Fichtinger-Grohe, Head of European Security Policy at the Austrian Foreign Ministry; Mr. Gary Robbins, Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the OSCE; Lieutenant General Franz Reissner, Commander of the Austrian Joint Forces; and Dr. John Yaeger, Provost of the U.S. National Defense University.

In addition to the seminar sessions, the seminar group visited the United Nations International Centre on the afternoon of July 30th for a brief tour and briefings from several agencies and departments headquartered in Vienna. Mr. Martin Nesirky, Acting Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) and former spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressed the group on the mission of the United Nations, followed by presentations from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the U.N. Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).

Evening activities included a hosted tour and reception at the Austrian Museum of Military History with remarks from the Acting Chief of Austrian Defense Forces, Lieutenant General Bernhard Bair. The evening was significant as the event marked the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. Attendees had the opportunity to view a special exhibit housing the car and other artifacts from the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The following night, a reception was hosted by Lieutenant General Franz Reissner, a member of the NWC Class of 2004 and current Commander of the Austrian Joint forces, at the Maria Theresa Barracks near the SchönbrunnPalace where participants were treated to a performance by the Austrian Armed Forces band. Spouses and family members also participated in daytime activities and renewed bonds of friendship which had formed at NDU.

NDU would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Austrian Ministry of Defence, the National Defence Academy, and our Austrian alumni in organizing and hosting this seminar. We are looking forward to future continuing education seminars in regions around the globe with the next event tentatively planned for spring 2015 in Latin America. If you are interested in hosting such an event in your country or region, please contact Mr. Russ Thacker at (202) 685-2545 or thackers(a)


The following briefings were presented at the seminar and approved by the presenters for posting:

Austria and Recent Trends of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) by Ms. Karin Fichtinger-Grohe, Austrian Foreign Ministry

The Organization for Security and Cooperation In Europe (OSCE) by Gary D. Robbins, Deputy Permanent Representative and Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Mission to the OSCE

Operation SERVAL in Mali by Colonel Philippe ADAM, France, NWC Class of 2011

Strategic Challenges of the EU Comprehensive Approach & EUTM Somalia by Brig Gen Michael Beary, Ireland, NWC Class of 2009

NDU Joint Education Transformation by Dr. John Yaeger, NDU Provost and ES Class of 1997

Canada and the High North by CAPT (N) Paul Hendry, Canada, NWC Class of 2011

The High North: A Norwegian Perspective by CAPT (N) Oystein K. Wemberg, Norway, NWC Class of 2010

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