Tag Archives: MPA/MAIR

Bureaucracy: How Things Get Done in Foreign Affairs

This post has been reblogged from PAIA Insider. Read the original post.

BY

Beth Gawne is a MPA/MAIR student, and  a regular contributor to PAIA Insider.

I’ve been thinking about bureaucracy a lot lately, especially as I hit my 4th week in the Department of State. This past summer, the MPA students took “Public Administration and Democracy,” where we learned that basically bureaucracy exists to get things done. Sure, there’s the glitz and glamor of policy and politics, but when it gets down to it, bureaucracy lies at the heart of a functioning society. Of course, back then my impression of what that meant was in terms of making sure the lights come on and the buses run (sometimes even on time). However, I never realized how that related to foreign affairs until now.

Source: http://media.fakeposters.com/results/2012/01/28/zniah5e4q3.jpg
Not even tanks can escape the bureaucracy of the toll booth operator!

Bureaucracy helps make US embassies safe. Bureaucracy uphold US diplomatic relationships with other nations. Bureaucracy keeps nasty weapons out of the wrong hands. Heck… bureaucracies even help us MAIR interns get to our internships when we fly! When it comes to State Department bureaucracy, there’s a lot of waiting around for clearances, for badges, and even for access to a computer. You have to check a document that 10 other people have checked, then forward it on for 5 more people to check over. I used to think this was over-kill, but then when I considered what might happen without these checks… well, those things that I mentioned in the first few sentences might not be the case anymore. International security and foreign relations might be compromised without these basic steps that so annoy all of us.

Whether it’s diplomacy, humanitarian aid, international organizations, trade, or nonproliferation, bureaucracy makes sure that policies can be put into place. It helps the right people get the right resources in order to make sure everyone can do their job. Without it, we’d just have a bunch of words and nothing being done. All of the things that people want to actually do in the world wouldn’t be able to happen if bureaucrats weren’t rolling up their sleeves and typing up some memos to an embassy. It’s just amazed me how many of the officers in DOS rely on this kind of bureaucracy to make sure things happen. International relations isn’t just a set of theories and abstract concepts about security or development work…. instead it’s filled with real people doing real work to make the world a better place. And the rules that govern them help keep it all relatively in order despite everything that’s working against it.

source: http://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-the-only-thing-that-saves-us-from-bureaucracy-is-its-inefficiency-an-efficient-bureaucracy-is-the-eugene-mccarthy-330947.jpg
(source: http://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-the-only-thing-that-saves-us-from-bureaucracy-is-its-inefficiency-an-efficient-bureaucracy-is-the-eugene-mccarthy-330947.jpg)

If it’s one last thing I’ve learned in the State Department– besides lots of foreign affairs– it’s that MAIR students learn just as much about bureaucracy as MPA students. We may not have the requirement to take the specific class on it (although thanks to Maxwell we’re still 100% able to take the class), but we sure as heck learn about it during our time here anyway. The internship has been an incredible way to take all of the big concepts we learned in the classroom in Syracuse and apply it directly to what we want to be doing in the first place. This is even more important when you consider how hard it is to get your foot in the door in some of these places.

Also, it wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the mad writing skills that Maxwell has helped me gain– I’ve gotten so many compliments on my memos!

 To find out about how Beth Gawne’s experiences at the State Department began, read her other article: Intern by day, student by night.

Beth Gawne waves to her fellow Maxwell students from the United States Department of State in Washington, DC.
Beth Gawne waves to her fellow Maxwell students from the United States Department of State in Washington, DC.

Kyra Murphy, Learning from Her Supervisor at National Security Network

Kyra Murphy, MPA/MAIR studnet
Kyra Murphy


Kyra Murphy is a joint MPA/MAIR student who after interning in Washington, DC is now Head Intern at the National Security Studies Program at the Maxwell School under Col. Smullen.

My first experience living and working in Washington, DC could not have been more rewarding. This past May I relocated to the DC area for the opportunity to work as a graduate policy fellow with the National Security Network (NSN). The professional experience, lifestyle, and general atmosphere of Washington in the summer collectively cultivated a time that I will never soon forget.

As a graduate policy fellow for NSN I worked very closely with my supervisor, the head policy analyst within the organization. Due to the similarities in our national security focus, I spent the majority of my time researching and preparing internal policy memos regarding the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi border and currently volatile regions. Delving into U.S. foreign and defense policy on Islamic State (IS) and the geopolitical relationships in the Middle East allowed me both the time and the resources to investigate some of my interests more fully outside of the classroom settings back in Syracuse.

One of the most integral parts of my experience with NSN was the exposure to the high level practitioners within the national security industry in Washington, DC. Due to the connections and relationships that both my supervisor and others in the organization had throughout Capitol Hill, I was provided many unique opportunities that most graduate summer interns do not get to benefit from. One of the assistants to the Deputy National Security Advisor of the United States gave me and my three fellow interns a private tour of the West Wing of the White House late one Thursday evening. Additionally, due to the Executive Director of NSN’s personal professional experience in the State Department I received a special tour of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms located on the upper levels of the Harry S. Truman building located in Foggy Bottom, as well as the executive level halls in which Secretary of State John Kerry’s Office resides.

The exposure that NSN and the DC area provided me this summer in professional experience, networking opportunities, policy analysis, and professional writing skills have been invaluable to my graduate experience at the Maxwell School. An internship or fellowship opportunity in Washington, DC is not something that any Maxwell graduate student should ever pass up!

West Wing , White House, Washington, DC

 

Celina Menzel, Gaining Valuable Experience in the United Nations in New York

 

UN Headquarters, New York City, USA
UN Headquarters, New York City, USA

Celina Menzel  is a dual degree MAIR/Atlantis student in Syracuse University.

From May to July 2015, I did my internship at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York.

Since my internship took place in the development section of the Division of Economic Affairs, my own responsibilities evolved around development-related topics such as:

  • Health, including emergency responses to Ebola and other epidemic diseases, non‑communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and rights, antimicrobial resistances, etc.
  • Migration, including refugee and IDP issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis
  • Food security and nutrition, particularly interventions by WFP and FAO
  • UNICEF interventions, particularly humanitarian action and emergency responses as well as long-term development measures
  • South-South Cooperation and Triangular cooperation
  • Reforming Peacebuilding and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, particularly the role that social services and dialogue may play
  • Support to Haiti and the ad-hoc advisory group
  • The Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including their implementation in countries affected by conflict and crises

My daily responsibilities mostly included participation in different sessions and events that were held at the UN Headquarters or organized by the member states and then report back to the Permanent Mission and the Headquarters of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. For example, I attended sessions at the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Executive Board of UNICEF, and different thematic Side-Events. Moreover, I took part in informal negotiations concerning draft resolutions as well as in different conferences (e.g. the Ebola conference in July) and conducted my own research on various topics that were of interest to me.

I personally feel like I gained a lot of knowledge and new skills during this internship. So far, the focus of my studies was mostly on conflict, security and post-conflict reconstruction. One of the reasons why I chose this internship position was that I wanted to expand my focus and learn more about long-term development in post-conflict settings because I believe that it is important for sustained stability and peace. Therefore, it was very valuable for me to deal with topics that I did not know that much about before. Moreover, I learned a lot about the daily work at the Permanent Mission and the United Nations Headquarters, the decision-making processes, the way interventions are designed and implemented, the importance of sufficient political will, etc.

In conclusion, my internship was very insightful for me. I gained a lot of knowledge – content-wise and skill-wise – and gained valuable experience. Particularly the relation to my supervisor, her supportive and encouraging conduct towards me, her eagerness to show me every facet of her work, and her willingness to entrust me with real responsibilities allowed me to have a very productive time during my internship.

Celina Menzel at a UN Headquarters staff BBQ
Celina Menzel at a UN Headquarters staff BBQ

Keome R. Rowe, Managing Costs to Welcoming VIPs at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing

Keome & Ambassador
Keome Rowe and Ambassador Max Sieben Baucus

Mr. Keome R. Rowe is a graduate student in the department of Public Administration and International Affairs. He will be on campus in Syracuse during the Fall Semester of 2015.

This summer I had the pleasure to serve as a Charles B. Rangel Fellow at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China. Since President Obama’s “ Pivot to Asia” announcement the U.S.-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships—if not the most important. As an MPA/MAIR student I wanted to see the internal and external workings of the U.S. Mission to China from the management, political and public diplomacy section perspectives at the Embassy.

Management Section

I did a cost-benefit comparison of housing for diplomats, analyzing the conversion of landlord furnished housing to U.S. government furnished housing to judge which one had cost savings for U.S. taxpayers. This required me to do a series of interviews with diplomats, embassy staff, Chinese landlords and property management companies in Beijing to gather data. The skills I learned in public budgeting, policy implementation, Public Administration & Democracy and Public Organizations & Management came into great use. After analyzing my data, I presented my analysis and policy recommendations on cost effectiveness to the Minister Counselor for Management. Several of my recommendations will be implemented this fall! This particular project gave me the opportunity to see a specific aspect of the management section’s function at the Embassy.

Public Diplomacy Section

I teamed up with the State Department’s historian to thumb through countless pictures of past presidential bilateral meetings and create month long original content for the State Department’s social media accounts for Chinese President Xi Xinping’s first official visit to Washington later this month. This project allowed me to create original and informative content for the more than 2 million Department of State’s social media followers.

Political Section

Perhaps the most high profile project was helping the V.I.P. teams in the management and political teams prepare for the visit of National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I helped the advance team here at the Embassy and the Secret Service prepare all details for her visit. I also prepared most of the logistics and presentations for the visit AND was present for her arrival at the airport alongside Ambassador Baucus.

Conclusion

I learned that being a diplomat is never a dull moment! One day I could be conversing with Chinese landlords on property issues, visiting with members of U.S. Congress and/or officially receiving high profile foreign policy leaders!

Keome Rowe on the tarmac welcoming National Security Advisor Susan Rice
Keome Rowe on the tarmac welcoming National Security Advisor Susan Rice

To learn more about becoming a Charles B. Rangel Fellow, visit the program website.