SPRING 2014 PRESENTS CAPSTONE POLICY DOCUMENT TO SENIOR PENTAGON LEADERS
The policy document. It is one of SEGL’s most challenging and meaningful assignments. Our entire semester must choose a topic, research and author a 40-page scholarly document, and present and defend detailed recommendations before real-world leaders. All in about three weeks while also continuing with regular classes.
It’s really fun, actually.
This semester Drones in Yemen narrowly defeated Mexican Drug Cartels to become Spring 2014’s policy document choice. After making this decision, the students split into six groups, each of which would focus on a different aspect of the paper: History/Current Status, Ethical Questions, Legal Issues, Military Tactics, Political Strategy, and Humanitarian Considerations. The groups then spent a day in the George Washington University main library with full access to the University’s resources. David Ettinger, a top research librarian at GW who has become a student favorite since our first semester, starts with an entertaining orientation session so that the students know how to use the myriad databases in the GW system, and then the students are off to the many corners of the building.
After compiling their research for several days, the students appear before the notorious “Review Panel” (ask a current student or graduate what the unofficial name for this is), a faculty firing line that blisters the students with tough questions designed to ensure their research is consistent, logical, and well-sourced. (This proves especially useful when the students later present to high-ranking officials.)
The next step is rough drafts (each read by two faculty members), revisions, and additional research. This additional research often includes personal interviews with experts. For example, the Ethical Questions group was brave enough to dial up legendary Just War Theory philosopher Michael Walzer; he picked up and spent 10-15 minutes answering their questions.
And then, before we knew it, it was time to present. This semester we went to the Pentagon to meet with an extraordinary panel. The panelists:
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) Michael Lumpkin, who is also currently acting as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Lumpkin is a former Navy SEAL.
Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre; essentially, the second in command at the Department of Defense for most intelligence-related matters.
Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Defense Policy Cara Abercrombie. Abercrombie works directly with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, preparing him for key policy meetings and decisions.
The panel pulled no punches, asking detailed and penetrating questions of the students. For their part, the students were unflappable, thoughtful, and well-prepared. The interchange was impressive, and we hope it will not violate the off-the-record nature of the conversation to quote one panelist: “I thought you did a phenomenal job.”
Phenomenal, indeed. And only at SEGL.
(And yes, they got a special tour of the Pentagon before they left!)
n.b. Photographs are not permitted inside the Pentagon, so regretfully we are not able to provide any pictures of the presentation!