Ms. Rachel Coolican is a recent graduate of the MAIR program, and spent her last fall semester interning with the European & NATO Policy Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.
During the Fall 2015 semester, I had the honor and privilege of interning with OSD EUR/NATO Policy at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Within the office, I worked specifically with “Team North-West Europe” and directly supported the Desk Officers of the Nordic Portfolio covering Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark.
As a subset of the International Security Affairs division within OSD Policy, Europe and NATO Policy assists the ISA’s Assistant Secretary of Defense (Ms. Elissa Slotkin) in her mission to manage defense relations with all foreign governments and international organizations within the office’s jurisdiction. This includes developing and maintaining: regional security and defense strategies, subsequent functional policies, foreign military sales, education and training, and comprehensive relationships with multilateral, regional, and bilateral partners.
As I mentioned, throughout my time in EUR/NATO, I assisted with all duties performed by desk officers on the North and West Europe team to develop strategies and policies with our Nordic Allies. This included: organizing and supporting meetings between senior Department of Defense (DoD) and European officials; planning and implementing an annual bilateral studies group meeting that set the coming year’s goals for advancing security; routinely interacting with relevant embassy counterparts in Washington and abroad; providing policy analysis to senior DoD officials regarding current events; constructing various written preparatory deliverables to senior leadership; attending inter-agency meetings and crafting after-action reports; and providing any requested support to the ASD of ISA, the USD for Policy, and Secretary Carter himself.
There was much for me to learn about OSD Policy and the inner workings of the Pentagon. This internship was great because I was able to work with passionate and trusting teammates and supervisors, who allowed me to do substantial work for senior leadership in order to get the full experience of being a desk officer. My favorite part of the internship was being able to attend a myriad of meetings that focused on current events (one being with Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bob Work!) and building strong personal relationships with foreign embassy counterparts. These things allowed me to become more knowledgeable in U.S. strategic planning, and how the DoD works with partners to advance U.S. goals at the betterment of our partners. This will be a professional experience that I will never forget, and I now have a network of colleagues and friends who I know I will be in touch with for years to come!