Taylor Hart-McGonigle, African Affairs at DOD

During the course of the fall semester, I worked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense- Policy (OSD (P)) in the African Affairs

office. African Affairs office informs the Department of Defense’s (DoD) policy and positions for the countries included in the Africa Combatant Command’s (AFRICOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR). The office is led by an appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and works with the interagency, the Joint Staff, and international partners, among others in executing DoD policy priorities in Africa. The office draws upon the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy to inform its policy recommendations and priorities and applies these documents to the African context when executing policy and programs.

In my position as a policy intern, I worked with the regional directors, action officers, and leadership to fulfill the office’s mission set. While I assisted in each African region where needed, my primary focus was on the Magreb, Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, and the Horn of Africa because I have prior experience with northern Africa. On a weekly basis, I assisted in drafting policy briefs that communicate the office’s activities for leadership with a focus on our activities related to the National Defense Strategy. Additionally, I worked on a few meetings where I was responsible for contributing to my principal’s preparation and read materials and working level engagements prior to the meetings.

The DoD was completely foreign to me at the start of my internship, and I am now better aware of its mission and function. In particular, I learned how DoD collaborates and connects across the combatant commands, Joint Staff, Security Cooperation, Policy, and the interagency. While I learned about Africa, I also learned how to be adaptable and get the information you need when you are not an expert. Overall, I really wanted to better understand how Policy contributed to the national security enterprise, and I feel that my experience with OSD (P) has given me invaluable insight into how national security policy is created and executed.

Taylor Hart-McGonigle in front of a Qiam-1 SRBM missile at the Iranian Material Display in Washington, DC.

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