Scholarly Communications Project

The Industrial College of the Armed Forces: Contextual Analysis of an Evolving Mission, 1924-1994


Francis W. A'Hearn

PhD Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Education


Adult Education


Harold Stubblefield, Chair
John Bokel
Marcie Boucouvalas
Thomas Hunt
Albert Wiswell

March 13, 1997
Blacksburg, Virginia


This study assessed the changing mission of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces as it evolved from the institution's founding as the Army Industrial College in 1924 to its 70th anniversary in 1994. The study drew heavily from archival materials in the Special Collections of the National Defense University in Washington, DC.

The problem investigated in this research was to analyze how and why the institution's mission changed over time within the context of internal and external forces and events. Based upon the historical method of research, the study identified six periods in the institution's development over seven decades: its origins in the aftermath of World War I from 1918 to 1924; its growth in the interwar years, 1924 to 1940; the institution's temporary closure and subsequent reconstitution as the Industrial College of the Armed Forces during and after World War II, from 1940 to 1947; a formative period during the Cold War from 1947 to 1962; its continuing evolution throughout the Vietnam era from 1962 to 1974; and finally the College's modern development as a joint service educational institution from 1974 to 1994.

The study found that the institution has changed dramatically over much of this century, just as the world and the country's national security concerns have changed profoundly in the same period. The mission of the College has evolved from a narrow focus on training military officers in procurement and industrial mobilization to that of a graduate institution dedicated to educating a select group of promising senior military and civilian officials in the political, economic, and resource dimensions of national security. Over time, the focus has shifted from training to education, from military to national issues, from internal and external educational programs to primarily internal ones, and from a predominant interest in domestic issues to an equally strong concern for international matters.

The study finds that a variety of internal and external events and forces have impelled these changes. A wide range of influential individuals and stakeholders, bureaucratic power structures, governmental agencies, special review boards, and various political, economic, military, and social considerations have influenced the mission of the College.

The study also concludes that several factors have likely contributed to the institution's relatively unusual longevity as a government entity. Its dual identity as an educational institution and a government organization set apart from the mainstream bureaucracy has had a favorable influence. So too has the institution been aided by the unique service it has provided to multiple customer constituencies. In fact, the College's mission has made it unique as an institution of adult education and learning in this country and perhaps the world.

List of attached files

File NameSize (Bytes)
afront.pdf20,058 Bytes
ch1.pdf44,542 Bytes
ch2.pdf61,693 Bytes
ch3.pdf62,081 Bytes
ch4.pdf58,792 Bytes
ch5.pdf63,581 Bytes
ch6.pdf39,631 Bytes
ch7.pdf53,473 Bytes
ch8.pdf43,254 Bytes
refs.pdf52,223 Bytes

The author grants to Virginia Tech or its agents the right to archive and display their thesis or dissertation in whole or in part in the University Libraries in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all proprietary rights, such as patent rights. The author also retains the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis or dissertation.
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