Sarah Buell, How DOD Does International Cooperation

Sarah Buell came into the MAIR degree as a Fast Track student directly from Maxwell’s BA International Relations program.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern for the Department of Defense, in the Office of the Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment, in the International Cooperation Directorate. Essentially, International Cooperation (IC) works to form long-term armaments and military partnerships with our allies and friendly countries. It creates agreements with these countries on weapons and communications systems, vehicles, aircraft and other technologies. It is almost like the diplomatic component of acquisition at the Pentagon.

I gained a lot of experience with prepping our Undersecretary and our International Cooperation director with preparing to engage with an international counterpart. On one occasion, I was able to write all of the briefing materials for a meeting the IC director had with an ambassador. I then got to attend the meeting and watch the director use the talking points that I had come up with. It was extremely satisfying to see that the work I had done could actually be used.

Sarah Buell at the Pentagon

Interestingly enough, this internship taught me about a lot of coordination, and showed me that I had more backbone than I thought I did. Among other things, I was put in charge of handling reservations for a trip that the Undersecretary was supposed to take. When the trip got cancelled, I was then in charge of cancelling all of them. When a cancellation did not go through, I spent a long time on the phone calmly with the hotel explaining why we should not be charged. I got a partial refund. Everyone in my office said that they were impressed that I was able to assert myself like that. It gave me the confidence I needed to be able to handle more difficult tasks in the future.

This internship introduced me to how the Department of Defense interacts with our allies. I learned that diplomacy and long-standing relationships are important, even for our defense interests. I also learned how to assert myself in an effective manner. In short, I learned policy and practical skills while increasing confidence in my professional self.

Sarah Buell at the Pentagon Visitor’s Center while assisting with escorting around the building

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

International Relations Undergraduate Program

  • For more about the Fast Track BA/MA program, contact the Director of Admissions, Christine Omolino,  at comolino@syr.edu

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