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Waging war, globalising defence, building resilience

Initially dedicated to preparing "senior civil servants, general or senior officers and persons particularly qualified from an economic or social point of view to hold the most senior positions in the organisations responsible for the preparation and conduct of war" (decree of 30 January 1949), the Institut des hautes études de défense nationale (IHEDN) has seen its missions evolve in line with the way France's defence is viewed. From the Fifth Republic onwards, the IHEDN has become a forum for explaining defence policy, which has become global in scope, and in particular nuclear deterrence.

However, its abundant archives, still largely unexploited, reveal the richness of a past that stretches back well before its official birth in 1948-1949. They confirm the influence of this unique institution on higher military education because of its conception of national defence. On the strength of its tradition, and strengthened in its own vocation by the reform of defence and security institutes decided in 2008, the IHEDN has now undertaken a vast renovation programme in order to pursue its action and develop its influence in a totally changed environment, that of the concept of national security.

The origins of the IHEDN, the Collège des hautes études de défense nationale (1936-1939)

The IHEDN is the direct heir to the Collège des hautes études de défense nationale (CHEDN) set up in the summer of 1936. Its creation was the culmination of a fundamental process that began before 1914, and which led to the inclusion of military issues in a more global framework, that of the emerging concept of "national defence". But its creation was also, at the time, the result of the coming together of a bold concept, a strong political will and a man capable of organising the running of an atypical training establishment.

The First World War brought with it a new awareness of the stakes involved in war, a now total phenomenon from which no part of society could escape. In the early 1920s, work began on the major law "on the organisation of the nation for wartime", which was passed in July 1938. The role of the High Council for National Defence, created in 1906, was strengthened. In particular, it was given a fully-fledged executive, which took the name of the General Secretariat for National Defence (SGDN) at the end of the 1920s. At the start of the following decade, a new milestone was reached with the creation of a "Minister of Defence" for the first time in 1932. To govern all military administrations, he relied on a High Military Committee made up of the vice-president of each army's superior council and its chief of general staff.

However, this single minister did not have a dedicated administration and the experiment only lasted a few months. But as the international situation worsened, the need for a global approach to national defence was rekindled. In 1936, in particular, the threats became clearer, with Nazi Germany's remilitarisation of the Rhineland, provocations from Mussolini's Italy and the start of the Spanish Civil War. One man in the political class was particularly aware of these threats. Already Minister of War between December 1932 and January 1934, Édouard Daladier returned to this portfolio in June 1936, as part of the Popular Front government. Vice-president of the council, now also in charge of national defence, he intended to develop cooperation between the three armies, which were used to acting in isolation from each other, and to develop collaboration between the military and civilians. Édouard Daladier was convinced that war was no longer fought in the military arena alone. To move forward, he could rely on the Standing Committee on National Defence, which had just replaced the High Military Committee, and to which non-military ministers could now be admitted.

It was at a meeting of the committee that the decision to create the CHEDN was taken on 29 July 1936. The project proposed by Édouard Daladier met with the approval of the Navy and Air Force, but the Land Army was more reserved. Marshal Pétain, who was in favour of a single army command based on the German model, put forward a counter-proposal aimed at establishing a joint college, which would simply be an extension of the existing army study centres.

The Minister nevertheless managed to impose his views and found in Vice-Admiral Raoul Castex the man capable of implementing them. Maritime Prefect and Commander-in-Chief of the 2e After serving as director of the maritime region in Brest since September 1935, the admiral was called back to Paris to head the new establishment. He would combine this responsibility with that of director of the École de guerre and the Centre des hautes études navales, which he had already held in 1932-1935, having been deputy to their commander in 1926-1928. Familiar with these two establishments, where he had taught continuously since the early 1920s, this officer was a true theorist, whose work was already authoritative at the time, in particular his famous Strategic theories, published between 1929 and 1935.

Even if limited to the Navy, this wealth of experience within higher military education is undoubtedly decisive in understanding the reasons for the admiral's immediate support for the college project. "The conditions in which the training of senior officers of the land, sea and air armed forces is currently carried out, as well as that of officers destined to form the major staffs, no longer correspond to the requirements of national defence". Castex did not dispute the report introducing the decree of 14 August 1936 creating the new establishment. As a result, he had no difficulty in endorsing the ambition behind the college. Its purpose would be "to study all the general problems raised by the preparation of the nation for war and the general conduct of operations by the armed forces on land, at sea and in the air".

The new establishment will be located at 32, boulevard Victor, in the buildings recently completed for the École nationale supérieure de techniques avancées. "It is certainly not an easy task to create from scratch an institution of the importance of this Collège des hautes études de défense nationale, which brings us together today for the first time", noted Vice-Admiral Castex in his inaugural speech on 15 October 1936. He went on to point out that "[this mission] is even more difficult when such a body has to be created in a very short space of time, in the space of two months to be precise, without any precedent of its kind, in our country at least". At the time, only the United Kingdom had an establishment of this type, with the Imperial Defense College., inaugurated in London almost ten years earlier, in January 1927, and whose model influenced Édouard Daladier.

The decree of 14 August 1936 assigned to the new establishment the task of studying all the general problems raised, at government level, by the preparation of the Nation for war and the conduct of war. The aim was to create "a unity of feeling, thought and doctrine among the auditors, which would be the best guarantee of unity of action in preparing for the country's defence in peacetime and ensuring it in wartime". The academic training of auditors is thus present, but only indirectly, as a consequence of working together. The latter was intended to meet the two-fold founding objective of the College, to affirm joint cooperation and to combine the efforts of civilians and military personnel in the preparation and conduct of war.

The first session of the CHEDN, which opened in October 1936, was attended by 27 students, including 19 military personnel and 8 civilians (one from each ministry represented). This was a modest number compared with the centres for advanced studies in the three armed forces, which took more than twice as many students, including around thirty from the army alone. From the second session onwards, the number of civilian auditors was doubled at Castex's request. In total, until the war, 105 civil servants, divided into three sessions, were trained at the CHEDN, including 42 civilians. The short existence of this establishment, as well as the small number of staff and the limited number of civilian auditors, can only have limited its influence in preparing France for the conflict that broke out in September 1939. However, its creation marked the first stage in the emergence of the new concept of national defence. Despite the reluctance of some, the CHEDN enabled officers from the three services and civilian civil servants from several ministries to study not only problems related to military strategy, but also all those that had an impact on the conduct of the war, whether political, financial, social or psychological...

Under the Fifth Republic, the identification of IHEDN with global defence

In 1936-1939, as in 1948-1949, the missions of the CHEDN and the IHEDN were identical: to prepare civilians and military personnel for the conduct of war. With the decree of 7 January 1959, defence became global and permanent: it was now everyone's business. IHEDN had to diversify its audience to take into account the different components of French society. Little by little, the Institute became the place where defence policy, designed and implemented by the government, was presented and explained to them. The aim was no longer to prepare specialists for war, but to introduce State and private sector executives to defence issues. With this in mind, General de Gaulle took a particular interest in the Institute. He gave a lecture there in 1961, becoming the first President of the Republic to do so. The previous year, the Prime Minister had already given a speech at the IHEDN on France's defence policy, establishing what was to become an annual tradition, with rare exceptions.

The decree of 6 March 1979 signed by the Prime Minister, Raymond Barre, confirmed an already existing reality: the national session was widely open to non-defence circles, including those who did not share the government's vision. Now attached to the Prime Minister, the Institute has become the focal point for disseminating the spirit of defence throughout the nation. According to the terms of the decree, its mission is to "bring together high-level officials from the civil service, the armed forces and the various sectors of the nation's activity with a view to deepening their knowledge of defence through joint study of the major issues arising in this field".

The Centre des Hautes Etudes Militaires (CHEM) was reborn in 1951-1952, paving the way for this new direction. Now a joint institution, it is the only higher military education establishment to be fully in line with this dimension. The director of the new centre was appointed by the director of the IHEDN to ensure the unity of the new system. Conversely, the Institute no longer has the sole role - as it did in the early years - of ensuring synergy between the armed forces in the field of third-level higher military education.

From that time onwards, "chemists" were welcomed at the Institute, unlike before the war. This was because the decree establishing the CHEDN stipulated that military auditors had, "in principle, already attended courses at their army's higher education centres". From then on, the two courses were run in parallel, even though a significant proportion of "chemists" were not initially required to take all the courses given at the IHEDN. This hiatus was officially resolved by the 1979 decree, which stipulated that "general and senior officers appointed as CHEM auditors by decision of the minister responsible for the armed forces are automatically auditors of the national session of the Institute".

Since then, the IHEDN's audience has continued to diversify, with the number of auditors at the national session rising to 84 in the 1980s. By the middle of this decade, after a quarter of a century in existence, the College and the Institute had welcomed some eight thousand auditors at national and regional sessions since their creation, two-thirds of whom were civilians.

In order to provide it with all the resources it needs to pursue its missions, and in view of its delicate financial situation, the decree of 5 December 1997 established the IHEDN as a public administrative establishment, with legal personality and financial autonomy. It can now receive money as remuneration for its activities. While its missions remain broadly unchanged, the ways in which it carries them out are diversifying and the resources allocated to it are increasing. As a result, the IHEDN is now organised around three departments: a General Administration and Resources Department, a Department of Forward Studies and Centralised Training, and a Department of Decentralised Activities and Relations with Associations. The effects of this reorganisation are rapidly becoming apparent: the audience continues to diversify, and the Institute's audience is growing. Taking all sessions together, the number of participants is increasing: in 2009, 2,500 people benefited from an Institut training course during the year.

Thus, for some seventy years, building on the traditions of a pioneering CHEDN, the IHEDN has constantly adapted to the needs of a defence that has over the years become global, i.e. the concern not only of the armed forces, but of all the components of the Nation.

After the war, the renaissance of national defence studies

The Second World War confirmed the validity of the intuitions that led to the creation of CHEDN. This total war mobilised all the resources of the States involved, going far beyond the simple military framework. At the time of the Liberation, the need to reopen the College was obvious, especially as defence issues were still on the agenda and would rapidly regain major importance.

The conflict ended in August 1945 when the Americans used nuclear weapons against Japan. Traditional perspectives on military power were turned upside down. At the end of 1946, the reconquest of Indochina led to a conflict that opened the cycle of colonial wars. The following year, the worsening of East-West tensions marked the start of the Cold War, which quickly turned "hot" with the Berlin blockade in 1948-1949 and the Korean War from 1950 onwards. The end of the 1940s saw the start of a rearmament effort on a greater scale than that carried out ten years earlier. This effort was made all the more necessary by the fact that the United States had rapidly lost its monopoly on nuclear weapons, which were now also held by the USSR.

Combined with the need to learn the lessons of the 1940 disaster, this situation forced France to rethink the training of its elites, primarily in the military, in defence issues. After several months of debate, the National Defence Committee adopted the 1er In October 1946, the Ministry of Defence drew up an overall plan for the reorganisation of higher military education. A "Centre des hautes études de défense nationale et d'économie de guerre" (Centre for Advanced Studies in National Defence and War Economics) was to be the third level, after the war colleges (second level) and the staff colleges (first level). This decision shows that CHEDN's experience has not been lost and confirms the importance of its legacy. The addition of the term "war economy" shows that greater account is being taken of the non-military aspects of national defence. Finally, the new establishment is initially designated as a "centre", not a "college", which makes it the heir to the centres for advanced studies developed successively by each army since 1911, at a time when there are no plans to reopen them. However, the term "institute" will be preferred, as it is considered to have a higher profile and greater influence.

As in 1936, the new institution needed a man to run it and, first and foremost, to set it up. In February 1947, Army General Charles Mast was appointed head of the new Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale (IHEDN). As soon as he took up his post, the director carried out preparatory studies for the establishment of the Institute under the authority of General Alphonse Juin, Chief of the Defence Staff. He took advantage of 1947 to visit the Imperial Defense College in London, as well as two newly-created institutions in the United States: the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. On his return, he submitted his proposals to the President of the Council, Paul Ramadier, who, under the constitution of the Fourth Republic, was now in charge of national defence. "The mission to be assigned to the Institut des Hautes Études seemed to be the training of civilian or military staff likely to act in the event of conflict", he wrote, "it is necessary to entrust the study of the organisation of the Institute to a mixed civilian and military body, comprising representatives of the main ministries concerned". Mast was not to be followed on this last point, but the mission thus defined was very similar to that of the Collège between the wars, with the mix of civilian and military officials remaining a founding principle.

The link with CHEDN was strengthened by circumstances. Given the acute budgetary difficulties of the time, the Minister of Finance opposed the creation of a new centre for higher military education. The director decided to see the IHEDN as a rebirth of the CHEDN, based on its original texts, which made it possible to get round the financial obstacle. However, this remained a concern right to the end. On 29 November 1948, Paul Ramadier, now Minister of National Defence, nevertheless opened the first session.

Reporting on the event, the press of the day took note of the new forms of conflict and the need to rethink the way they were dealt with. "It has become commonplace to point out that a modern war is total", as we read in Le FigaroIt was also clear that "the clash of armies is no longer just an episode and that all branches of national life - economic, political and social - must contribute to the common effort. In every field, the problems posed will be immense. It is therefore necessary for an intellectual centre to bring together an elite group of civilians and soldiers who will assist the government in the preparation and conduct of national defence, as well as in the administration and management of the country at war, and who will also be able to define, for the use of the staffs and civilian management bodies, a single doctrine for the country as a whole".

Three months later, the decree of 20 February 1949 finally gave legal existence to the IHEDN. As proof of its importance, it was signed by most of the members of the government (27 out of 32). The decree placed the Institute in the direct line of the CHEDN: to study all the general problems raised by the preparation of the nation for war and the conduct of war, at government level and now also in an inter-allied context.

However, the educational vocation of the school is now more clearly identified. First and foremost, it must train the civilian and military personnel required by the government and its immediate subordinates to prepare for and conduct a conflict. It is this training effort that will enable it to "contribute to the establishment of a national defence doctrine". The Institute's role therefore goes far beyond the study of joint cooperation: it extends to all areas of national activity and involves knowledge of world politics. It is open to auditors from the business world, both public and private, as we shall see later. The first session of the programme is based on the principles laid down by Admiral Castex from the outset, i.e. one third from the military, one third from the civil service and one third from the private sector. All are asked to carry out studies, most often at the request of government ministries.

Research plays an important role in this new Institute, as General Mast emphasised in his end-of-session report to the Minister of Defence: "Research in itself [...] is often a more fruitful form of teaching than teaching itself. It is in this spirit that we have worked, and if our auditors have sometimes expressed their opinions in a somewhat absolute manner, it is precisely because they are aware of this character of laboratory and free research, which, by comparing it to the École Pratique des Hautes Études, you have assigned to the Institute".

The White Paper on Defence and National Security and the reform of the IHEDN

In 2008, in order to avoid suffering the adverse effects of globalisation and to remain a player in its own freedom, France changed its policy to guarantee its security and defend its interests. The White Paper on Defence and National Security sets out a national security strategy based on new principles and driven by European and international ambitions. The aim of this strategy is to counter the risks and threats likely to affect the life of the nation. It combines, but does not confuse, defence policy in its entirety, internal security policy and civil security policy in part, as well as other public policies, foremost among which are foreign policy and economic policy. The Institut des Hautes Études de Défense Nationale (IHEDN) is naturally affected by this new situation, which makes it all the more necessary. The White Paper specifies that the Institute is to reorganise itself into a "defence-foreign affairs" centre, but also to "diversify and open up its field of training at national and international level".

The decree of 23 June 2009 enshrines this major change. The Institute's remit has been refocused on defence, foreign policy, armaments and defence economics. The Institute's remit to work together on these three subjects is similar to that of the 1979 and 1997 decrees. On the other hand, the Institute must also prepare "for the exercise of responsibilities by senior military and civilian executives, whether French or foreign, working in the fields of defence, foreign policy, armaments and defence economics". Its training mission is clearly identified, and not confused with that of disseminating knowledge, to which it is added. This is a return to the roots, fifty years after the creation of the IHEDN. Similarly, "in the areas covered by its mission, the Institute may conduct studies or research on its own or in cooperation with other French and foreign organisations".

A series of institutional changes mark this new situation. The 1er On 1 January 2010, the IHEDN merged with the Centre des hautes études de l'armement. In addition, as a specialised institute, it now contributes to training courses organised for diplomats by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. At the same time, the IHEDN is merging with the Institut national des hautes études de la sécurité et de la justice (INHESJ), while respecting the identity of both establishments.

To avoid becoming a sort of repository for received traditions, the IHEDN is adapting to changes in the subject of postgraduate national defence studies and is undertaking a vast renovation process covering all aspects of its role, objectives and operations. A new institutional project sets out the areas and aims of this continuing education organisation, as well as the general teaching principles adopted. This project is based on two elements. The first, which is permanent, is made up of the three subject areas of defence, foreign policy, armaments and defence economics., at the heart of training content. The second variable relates to the purpose of the courses (to disseminate knowledge, raise awareness or promote all or part of the subject areas) and the type of audience (mixed or homogeneous, essentially French or very international).

In autumn 2010, the Institute launched its first training cycle with two national sessions, the 63e Defence Policy" session and the 47e Armaments and the defence economy" session. At the same time, it contributes to the training in defence issues of young diplomats at the Institut diplomatique et consulaire. More generally, the Institute is applying to be recognised as one of the specialist partners likely to contribute to strengthening the managerial qualities of high-potential executives, as defined by the circular of 10 February 2010 on senior State executives. Lastly, groups of IHEDN and INHESJ auditors work together on common national security issues (Frontex, cyberspace).

Since 1949, a policy of autonomy and openness for IHEDN

Located on the prestigious site of the École Militaire, at the heart of higher military education, the IHEDN has nevertheless charted its own course. This is demonstrated, first and foremost, by the growth in its staff. It has more than tripled since its creation, from 33 people in 1949 (when there were 8 civilians, i.e. only a quarter of the total) to 97 people in 2010, including 31 military personnel, who now represent less than a third of the total.

This reversal could contrast with the almost systematic appointment of a general officer to head the establishment. Jean-Marie Essig, Inspector General of Finance, is the exception that proves the rule: he headed the Institute in 1958-1960, after having been its deputy director. The other directors are all general officers, with a clear preference for the army, which provides almost 60 % of the total (18 out of 32), with the navy and air force sharing the rest equally. Among them were former army chiefs of staff in the 1950s (Vice-Admiral André Lemonnier in 1950-1951, General Clément Blanc in 1955-1958). Later, we should note the name of Lieutenant General Georges Buis, theorist of nuclear fire and deterrence, but also novelist and journalist, who directed the Institute between 1969 and 1972.

The appointment of a general officer as director of the Institute can be explained by its initial monopoly on third-level higher military education. As we have seen, however, this situation changed rapidly with the resurrection of the Centre des Hautes Etudes Militaires (CHEM) in 1951-1952, in a joint form and within the framework of a system linked to that of the IHEDN. Its director was therefore naturally given responsibility for the new centre: an exclusively military establishment, it could only be commanded by a general officer. This requirement was subsequently reinforced by the addition of the director of higher military education. Initially limited to the joint dimension, this directorate took on its full importance as part of the reforms of the 2000s. The links between the two organisations, CHEM and IHEDN, will be strengthened from 2009 onwards, with their educational programmes now being developed together.

This system balances the changing institutional position of the IHEDN, which is becoming increasingly autonomous. As soon as it was created, the Institute took a step away from the CHEDN, which reported directly to the Minister for National Defence and War. Although "placed, by delegation, under the high authority" of its successor, the Institute now reported to the President of the Council. Thirty years later, the decree of 6 March 1979 took this logic to its logical conclusion, with the IHEDN now reporting solely to the Prime Minister. The decree of 5 September 1997 confirmed this supervision and transformed the Institute into a public administrative establishment. The IHEDN thus left the scope of higher military education and could receive remuneration for its activities. The decree of 23 June 2009 did not call this fundamental reform into question. In 2010, for the first time, the 63e national session is subject to a fee.


This development has gone hand in hand with a policy of openness and has been nurtured by it. As early as 1954, the creation of regional sessions enabled many potential auditors who were unable to come to Paris because of their professional obligations to attend an IHEDN training course locally. The first regional session was also organised in 1954, and took place in Algiers in April-June. Originally called "Cycles régionaux d'information de défense nationale", these sessions were subsequently organised four times a year in the major cities of France, including overseas. The size, composition and activities of each regional session are based on those of the national session. Only their duration is shorter. From 2010, the scope of their activities has been extended to include defence and national security. Their audience is deliberately more diverse than that of the national sessions, as their purpose is to help build resilience. Their international dimension, particularly in Europe, has also been reaffirmed. Between April 1954 and November 2010, more than 13,600 participants attended 182 regional sessions.

Outside the provinces, the IHEDN has also drawn closer to the academic world. From this point of view, the decree of 6 March 1979 marked a fundamental step forward. It enabled the Institute to provide "its assistance to universities and higher education and research establishments carrying out activities in the field of defence". Two decades later, the decree of 5 September 1997 strengthened the IHEDN's position by specifying the terms and conditions of its action in this area. Article 2 now enables it to "conduct studies and research and provide assistance to ministries and higher education and research establishments in the field of defence. In liaison with the minister responsible for higher education, [the Institute] shall contribute to the promotion of university defence teaching".

To fulfil this latter task, the IHEDN has the financial and material resources to organise conferences, round tables and symposia, activities that it can organise on its own or in partnership with scientific establishments. IHEDN's involvement in research is accompanied by financial support as part of the programme of support for defence and security studies and teaching carried out in partnership with the General Secretariat for National Defence (SGDN). The "IHEDN scientific prizes" also provide support for research. Created in 1998, they are awarded for the best defence-related master's theses and doctoral dissertations submitted during the previous academic year.

Another result of the turnaround in 1979 is that from that time onwards, the IHEDN has pursued a policy of opening up to young people, whether they are students or already in working life. A total of four types of adapted training were set up: the IHEDN-Youth seminars, created in 1996 for students or working people aged between twenty and thirty; the Master 2 "security-defence" seminars, aimed at students aged 3 to 15; and the IHEDN-Security seminars, aimed at young people aged between 15 and 30.e cycle involved in defence-related studies; the "grandes écoles" seminar and the "national cohesion and citizenship" seminar created in 2006 for young managers from the world of associations in the public and private sectors.

Lasting one week on average, these seminars are designed to raise awareness among this specific audience of the major defence issues. From the late 1990s onwards, the aim was also to counter the negative effects of the end of conscription. "The professionalisation of the armed forces and the suspension of national service meant that we had to rethink the link between the nation and those charged with defending it", said Lionel Jospin, then Prime Minister, as he solemnly opened the 50th anniversary of the end of conscription.e national session, 4 September 1997.

IHEDN's policy of openness is far from limited to France. It extends well beyond France with the international sessions organised in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the International Development Department of the French Defence Procurement Agency. These sessions bring together French and foreign students with high-level government or industrial responsibilities from the same geographical area. In all, five different types of session are gradually being developed:

- the Africa-Madagascar International Session (Siam) created in 1980, which was succeeded in 2000 by the IHEDN Forum on the African Continent (Fica) welcoming some fifty representatives from countries on the continent;

  • The European International Session, created in 1988;
  • the International Euro-Mediterranean Session (Siem), created in 2002;
  • the International Session on Asia and the Middle East (Siamo), created in 2005;
  • the Latin America International Session (Sial), created in 2007.

The European area is a priority for the Institute, particularly with the emergence of a European defence centre whose ideas need to be disseminated. Following the impetus given in 2003 by the Minister of Defence, the IHEDN was at the heart of the creation of the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) in 2005. As the French counterpart to the ESDC, the Institute represents France on the Steering Committee and the Economic Council. Since its merger with the CHEAr, the IHEDN has run the European Session of Senior Armaments Officials (SERA), which has been an annual event since 1989, bringing together some sixty senior European officials from government and industry involved in armaments issues.

The evolution of teaching skills

From the outset of the IHEDN, the methods of disseminating knowledge were not based on traditional teaching practices. "There will be no 'teaching' as such", explained Vice-Admiral Castex at the opening of the CHEDN, "no professorship in the strict sense of the term. I will use as little as possible of these pompous expressions, which I don't much like and which seem ill-suited to my audience, and I will interpret them in my own way (...)". The admiral went on to say: "The institution, which has nothing in common with an educational establishment where science is cultivated on a disinterested basis, will be inspired by an eminently utilitarian, cruelly utilitarian concept, by the desire to achieve maximum output in practical terms, by a dynamism based on the need to face up to imperative necessities. This means that there can be no question here of pure speculation, and that this speculation will always be dominated by the concern to apply the fruits of it to the harsh realities with which we are grappling. What is commonly called 'teaching' will not consist solely of the simple juxtaposition of theoretical and philosophical glosses, with no link to reality. Above all, it will aim to apply them to our case, the only case that interests us.

A plea marked by the times, in particular by the growing international tension, which makes the outbreak of a new world conflict increasingly possible, if not probable. The urgent need to be effective! But there was also a concern to distance the school from some of the excesses that characterised higher military education at the time. The denunciation of a possible intellectualism implies a questioning of the teaching ex cathedraThis is the case in the war colleges and the advanced studies centres of each army, all of which have a permanent teaching staff. To remedy this, new approaches are being considered. While committee work is not yet on the agenda, there are plans to ask auditors to carry out individual studies on topical subjects, the results of which will be forwarded to the Minister of Defence. Study trips will be organised to supplement the theoretical training, similar to what is done in higher education, but without the emphasis on field exercises. In this way, the Admiral sought to chart an original educational course, which would remain that of the IHEDN twelve years later.

As we have seen, its purpose remained fundamentally the same. At the inaugural session on 29 November 1948, the director of the new establishment announced from the outset that it "was not a 'super war school' designed to introduce a certain number of civilians to military strategy [...]. [...] "The aim of our Institute is quite different", General Mast emphasised. "The aim is to prepare for their mission the civilian or military figures who would be called upon in peacetime or in the event of conflict to occupy an important position either with members of the government, or on the national defence staff, or in the country's economic management bodies (nationalised or private sector)".


Effectiveness remains the key to this approach. To meet this training objective, the IHEDN will combine three teaching methods, which will be applied indiscriminately in the national, regional and international sessions as they are set up: the conference, committee work and the study trip. The main purpose of the lecture, which is closest to traditional teaching methods, is to provide an informed audience with an overview of the basic data and to identify future prospects. Normally lasting no longer than an hour, the lecture is followed by a discussion of equal length, a formula which, by guaranteeing interactivity, should avoid the excesses of lecturing.

During each session, general introductory speeches set out the government's main defence policy guidelines. These speeches, generally given by the President of the Republic or his Prime Minister, mark a high point in the country's defence policy, attracting media interest on each occasion. They are followed by speeches from other government or administrative authorities, primarily from the military. Every year, the Chiefs of Staff come to speak to the audience.

In addition to these regular institutional speakers, other personalities, often independent and sometimes from abroad, are welcomed at IHEDN. The quality of these speakers, as well as the topicality of the subjects covered, add a real richness to the training provided by the Institute. Among a very rich corpus, a few significant speeches can be singled out. In 1956, Jacques Soustelle, who had just stepped down as Governor General, spoke about "the Algerian problem". In 1960, Léopold Sédar Senghor, then President of the Federal Assembly of Mali, gave a lecture on "the black soul", just as the former French colonies were gaining independence. In 1971, François Mitterrand's speech gave him the opportunity to present a summary of France's defence policy, at a time when the new Socialist Party was coalescing around him. At the end of 1993, Lieutenant General Philippe Morillon, commander of the United Nations forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, published his "reflections on the use of UN assets in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations".

However, the real pedagogical originality of the IHEDN lies in its committee work. There are six of them, and their composition remains unchanged throughout the year. The primary aim of the work carried out by these committees is to contribute to the study of national defence issues, with a view to producing conclusions that can be directly used by the bodies responsible. Secondly, the aim is to train managers using a working method designed to develop each person's sensitivity to the concerns of their neighbours and a sense of coordination. As far as possible, the composition of the committees is therefore designed to ensure that the main sectors of national activity are represented each time.

Until 1970-1971, committee work was organised into four, then five sections: economic, military, organisation-legislation, political - which became diplomatic in 1963 - and, finally, general, scientific and technical studies (from 1964, although its existence was not as permanent as the others). These sections reflect the themes of the major ministries involved in national defence, as set out in the Order of 7 January 1959. If we take the example of the 1966-1967 session, the economic section deals with "French investment policy", the military section with "France's participation in the defence of the West", the organisation-legislation section with "the role and interest of the defence corps in the context of national service" and the diplomatic section with "the European policy of the United States". At least two of these are topical subjects, echoing France's departure from NATO's integrated military organisation.

All six committees study these topics in turn. An information pack is distributed at the outset, comprising a number of items: an introductory note setting out the subject to be discussed, the programme and the list of committees, and documents relating to the subject that will help the auditors in their deliberations. The volume of this information pack varies greatly from year to year, but the trend is towards inflation. This trend should be seen in the context of the reduction in the number of committee meetings. Once the subject has been dealt with, the committee studies are summarised, first provisionally and then definitively.

This organisation remained unchanged for over twenty years. However, from 23e session (1970-1971), subjects were dealt with without reference to sections, which were soon to disappear. This change undoubtedly reflected the growing scope and global nature of the subjects covered. A new stage was reached at the end of the decade, with the 31e session (1978-1979). From then on, each session was organised into five phases, the first of which was always a general briefing on national defence. From then on, the subjects worked on in committees were included in this framework. However, the total number of phases has tended to decrease over the years: for example, the 48e session, in 1995-1996, is now down to two.

A final development began in the second half of the 1980s. Until the 39e session (1986-1987), all the committees worked on all the topics. From the following session onwards, a general topic was defined for each phase, and the committees each worked on different topics derived from the general topic. This trend continued in 1997, when the national session adopted an annual theme from which all the topics dealt with by the committees, whatever the phase, were derived.

Study tours, the third teaching method, complement the lectures and committee work by providing direct exposure to real-life situations. Organised meetings with leading military or civilian figures, in their own environment, provide a better understanding of certain issues. These trips, of varying lengths, involve field trips and visits to civilian or military facilities. The major study trip outside mainland France is the real highlight of the course, with the destination often linked to current events. In June 1958, the 10e In addition to the military effort, they were also sent to Algeria to assess the state of social and economic development. In March 1963, the discovery of American power culminated in the auditors being received at the White House by President Kennedy. Conversely, the trip to the USSR in April 1991 provided an opportunity to take the pulse of the country at a time when the Communist regime was collapsing and the Cold War was coming to an end. In all, almost seventy countries were visited between 1949 and 2011.

While the teaching principles of the IHEDN have changed little, their purpose has changed over time. In the early years of the Institute, as at the time of the CHEDN, the work carried out was intended to meet the needs of the staffs and directorates of the ministries. From the first national session (1948-1949), summaries of committee work were sent to the Minister of Defence, Paul Ramadier, as they were drafted. The subjects addressed reflected the major political and strategic concerns of the time (the prospect of a European federation, the German problem, the Atlantic Pact, etc.). The summaries produced were intended as analyses and proposals. The decree of 30 January 1949 confirmed that the Minister of Defence could commission the Institute to study a particular issue. At that time, the work of the auditors was a possible source of reflection for the government.

However, this changed in the 1960s. The government preferred to entrust the studies it needed to specialised departments with more experts and resources. So, rather than concentrating on preparing for war, as it had done in 1936 and 1949, the IHEDN began to focus on training in defence issues, in the broadest sense of the term, for civil servants, military personnel and the private sector. As we have seen, this trend was confirmed by the decree of 6 March 1979. The sessions are more open to French society, by calling on auditors who are far removed from the defence world or who do not adhere to French policy in this area, for example from the trade union world. This change in recruitment reinforces the change in the purpose of the IHEDN. As the IHEDN no longer brings together only specialists, the sessions are much less able to produce high-quality work that is useful to the government.

A few years later, the decree of 5 September 1997, while recognising the mission of bringing together high-level civilian and military leaders "with a view to deepening their common knowledge of major defence issues", specifies that the IHEDN can "provide assistance to ministries and higher education and research establishments". More explicitly, the decree of 23 June 2009 stipulates that the Institute "prepares senior executives to exercise their responsibilities" in the fields of defence and foreign policy. The Institute is thus returning to this original mission, abandoned at the beginning of the Ve Republic. It is a return to basics, at least in terms of principles. The IHEDN must carry out its activities in a completely different environment, with many other organisations now dealing with the same issues.

Auditors, a community of defence culture

Over the course of the institution's seventy-five years of existence, auditors have become an increasingly important part of it. It was for them that it was conceived, then redesigned, and under the Fifth Republic it is through them that its teaching is disseminated. The number of students attending sessions has risen steadily over time, from 27 to 54 between 1936 and 1948, reaching 95 in 2009. This figure is broadly comparable to the average attendance at regional sessions. The age of the auditors is between 35 and 50.

They are chosen by appointment. As we have seen, the civilian/military mix was established from the outset thanks to article 6 of the decree of 14 August 1936. However, the composition of the target group has changed over time, as missions have evolved. At the outset, CHEDN's aim was to bring together senior civil servants to present national defence in its global dimension. The majority of military auditors are senior officers, lieutenant-colonels (frigate captains) and, even more so, colonels (naval captains). Exceptionally, a few young general officers are included. Civilians are civil servants appointed by their ministry (Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance, etc.). But as original as it was, CHEDN's recruitment did not yet involve the private sector. At the time, the civil service, and even more so the military civil service, still played a key role in public opinion when it came to all aspects of defence. Although Édouard Daladier was very sensitive to the theme of industrial mobilisation, he did not go as far as he might have wished by including representatives of the business world among the auditors.

The revival of the post-graduate national defence studies programme after the war filled this gap. In addition to the two categories of auditors already concerned, a third category was added, defined by the decree of 30 January 1949. It concerned "particularly qualified persons from an economic or social point of view". This was a real opening to the private sector, even if the recruitment conditions were less precise than for auditors from the armed forces and the senior civil service. Since then, although no quota has been officially set, the distribution of auditors has been based on the three-thirds rule. The list of auditors is drawn up by decree of the Prime Minister and published in the Official Journal of the French Republic. Official Journal.

The recruitment of auditors has continued to diversify. Women made their appearance from the 9e session (1957). The proportion of foreigners in the session grew, although it was always in the minority. In 1999-2000, the first foreign members were welcomed to the national session. The need for representation has increased over the years, in particular because the Institute has become a forum for explaining and discussing France's defence policy, particularly with regard to deterrence. The decree of 6 March 1979 designates as possible candidates "civilians exercising important responsibilities in the various sectors of economic, social, scientific, legal and cultural activity, as well as in the written or audiovisual press". The increasingly frequent presence of personalities from the media world makes it easier to disseminate the ideas debated at the IHEDN to the general public. The decrees of 5 September 1997 and 23 June 2009 continue this policy of openness. The latter officially extends recruitment beyond France, targeting senior officials from European Union member states and other countries. Thus, for the first time, a Qatari general officer is taking part in the 63e session, marking the Institute's openness to non-European countries, particularly those involved in a strategic partnership with France.

The composition of the sessions thus reflects the evolution of IHEDN's missions since 1948. The recruitment of auditors is constantly being adapted, with priority being given to certain socio-professional categories, which are deemed to have priority at certain times. The quality of auditors is also a constant concern. When a decline in recruitment to the civil service is observed, the Prime Minister may intervene with the relevant ministers (Georges Pompidou, Raymond Barre). It is clear that, from the outset, civil services have had difficulty in offering their best and brightest.

The work of the auditors is not limited to the sessions organised at the Institute, but extends well beyond, thanks to a number of intermediaries. The associations were the most powerful. Nonexistent before 1939, they developed in parallel with the growth of the Institute. In 1948, the national association, AA-IHEDN, brought together those attending the national sessions and the Institute's executives. The annual publication of a directory of the association's members helped to strengthen links by creating a real social network that encouraged contacts. In 1954, the launch of the magazine Defence also fosters these exchanges by providing a forum for all those interested in the subject in all its diversity. The introduction of regional IHEDN sessions in the same year gave new impetus to the associative sector with the creation of thirty-two regional associations from 1955 onwards. They brought together, on a geographical basis, all IHEDN course participants and auditors residing in France, including overseas territories.

In 1975, the federation of all the associations affiliated to the Institute gave greater coherence and strength to the whole. Governed by the law of 1901, the Union of Associations of IHEDN Auditors, the "UA-IHEDN", was set up at the École Militaire. It supports all actions, such as the "academic trinomials" set up in 1982 to promote the dissemination of the spirit of defence among teachers, the "defence advisers" appointed in 1988 to ministries or prefects and the "defence correspondents" set up more recently in local authorities.

The UA-IHEDN, now the UNION-IHEDN, currently brings together 42 associations with almost 10,000 members. They are divided into 2 national associations, 32 regional associations, 5 international associations and 3 thematic associations. Despite the reform of its statutes in March 2006, UNION-IHEDN has retained the three objectives it set itself from the outset: to maintain and strengthen links between IHEDN students; to develop the spirit of defence within the nation and contribute to reflection on defence; and to provide support to IHEDN. The network of associations across the country is a valuable support for the Institute's work.

In 2010, the UNION was reorganised to take account of changes at the IHEDN, welcoming former CHEAr auditors and organising around the triptych of defence policy, armaments and defence economics, and foreign policy. Its relationship with the Institute is now defined by the 2009 decree, which states: "to this end, it [the Institute] shall cooperate with other organisations responsible for disseminating knowledge in the field of defence and national security, in particular with auditors' associations". This mission remains essential, as the White Paper reminds us: "The support of the Nation is the condition for the effectiveness of the defence and security system and the legitimacy of the efforts made to achieve it".

Since 1936, advanced defence studies have been embodied in a College, then an Institute, which has had to adapt its organisation and missions in line with the priorities imposed by the constant evolution of national and international security issues. Faced with this unstable environment and the changes in French society, the IHEDN has developed its own model, characterised by a strong personality, acquired through its autonomy, and by specific know-how. Above all, IHEDN has been led to understand its mission in an increasingly broader sense, becoming a focal point for disseminating the spirit of defence throughout the nation.

In a completely new environment, it must once again become a government-level institute, a place where high-level officials are trained in defence and international affairs, a place where a broad public is made aware of defence and national security issues and which participates in building resilience, a place at the heart of strategic defence thinking and debate, with international ambitions and deeply rooted in Europe. This unique institution thus remains true to the spirit of its founder, Admiral Castex, who concluded his inaugural lecture at CHEDN on 15 October 1936 by saying: "Gentlemen, this whole field is indeed immense, but I have every confidence that by pooling our goodwill we will succeed in covering it together in a way that is interesting and beneficial to the vital interests for which we will once again be responsible after having received the essential training here".

This summary was written by Captain Benoît Haberbusch, Doctor of History, research officer in the studies/teaching/research division of the Service historique de la Défense, in collaboration with Professor Philippe Vial, Doctor of History, scientific director of the division. Vice-Admiral Richard Laborde, Director of the IHEDN, Director of Higher Military Education, completed the historical perspective, particularly with regard to recent years, and took charge of the developments devoted to them.

The CHEDN and IHEDN archives held by the Archives nationales, and more rarely by the Service historique de la Défense (the Castex private collection, in particular), were the starting point for this study, particularly as regards the genesis of the two establishments. The recently completed inventory is an invaluable tool for approaching these archives and shedding light on them:

  • Clotilde Trouvé, Directory of the archives of the Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale (1936-2009), sous la direction de Claire Martin, chef de la Mission des archives auprès des services du Premier ministre, Archives nationales, Centre des archives contemporaines, typed text, 2010, 215 p.


In addition, a number of works were particularly useful in preparing this study, which will enable readers who wish to do so to extend their discovery of the subject:

  • Élisabeth du Réau, Édouard Daladier (1884-1970)Paris, Fayard, 1993, 581 p.
  • Hervé Couteau-Bégarie, Castex the unknown strategistParis, Économica, 1985, 264 p.
  • Jean-Christophe Sauvage, The Institut des hautes études de défense nationale: a global vision of France's defence policyDoctoral thesis in history, under the supervision of Professor Maurice Vaïsse, University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, 1998, 2 vols, 831 p.