Tag Archives: Washington DC

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

 

Clearing a Hurdle

Clearing the Main Hurdle

Picture of Track Hurdle
Not these Hurdles

Many of you who are entering the U.S. government, particularly in the foreign policy and security policy fields, will have to go through the security clearance process. This process, while intimidating, should rarely be a cause for concern and there are a number of steps you can take to make the process as easy as possible. Please note that this is general information. If your hiring authority provides different information, consider that to supercede the information below.

What is Security Clearance?

Holding a U.S. government security clearance allows an employee to access classified information. Clearances are issued at three levels, confidential, secret, and top secret. At each level, clearance holders have access to different types of information on the basis of their job duties. Different agencies have levels within Top Secret (including TS/SCI – allowing access to Sensitive Compartmentalized Information or SAP – Special Access Program Information). They may also call it something different than Top Secret clearance, such as the Department of Energy’s “Q” clearance.

What is the Goal of the Process?

The primary purpose of the clearance is to determine whether a job candidate is determined to be able to maintain classified information. The government is looking for trustworthy applicants with high levels of reliability, loyalty, and character.

What does the Process Look Like?

Once a federal agency extends a conditional employment offer, the agency human resources contact will provide information about the necessary paperwork for clearance positions. This is usually centered around Standard Form (SF) 86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. This information on the form is for the last 10 years (although some forms will list the last ten years or until 18, whichever is closer), detailing residences, jobs, contacts, legal issues, education and much more.

In addition the SF-86, agencies may require fingerprints, personal interviews, credit examinations, polygraph test, or other additional materials at the request of the agency. This can often be a lot of material.

How Long Does It Take?

It is challenging to predict how long each clearance case will take, as each individual investigation is unique. However, when the hiring Department issues the clearance paperwork and a prospective employee completes the paperwork correctly and promptly, the time allocated is usually sufficient.

Are Clearances Transferable?

Possibly. According to the State Department, clearances are normally accepted by other agencies if the investigation was completed in the last 10 years (5 years for Top Secret Clearance) and there has been no more than a two year break in service.

 

Do I need to take a polygraph test?

For a secret level clearance, generally no polygraph test is needed. However, this may be necessary, based on the needs and policies of the hiring authority.

Who’s Where in Public Diplomacy

In the past few days, we’ve helped to define the concept of Public Diplomacy (PD) as the foundation concept of our dual-degree with the Newhouse School.  We have also told the stories of Adam Cyr and Jennifer Osias, who has recently completed exceptional internships in traditional public diplomacy-linked organizations. However, here at Maxwell we do have an expansive definition of PD, which includes public advocacy, organizational communications, and government relations work.

Continue reading Who’s Where in Public Diplomacy

Acronym Salad: Part II – The IC

Seal of the US Intelligence Community.
Seal of the US Intelligence Community. Source: DNI.gov

The section of the U.S. government that is literally and metaphorically shrouded in secrecy is the intelligence community.

While all of the constituent agencies have public presences, they each have different functions and specializations.

Thus, if you area  student seeking to serve in an analytic or management roles within these agencies as professionals, it is useful to understand which agency is the best conceptual fit.  It is also useful to attempt an internship within one of these agencies, as it would secure valuable career preparation for work in the IC. For information about those opportunities, visit the individual websites of each of the IC members.

Continue reading Acronym Salad: Part II – The IC

Acronym Salad: Part I – USAID

USAID Small Logo

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the U.S. Government’s primary agency for international development and humanitarian assistance.  Given the breadth of its programming, the agency and its workers will often use short-hand notation to describe the offices in which they work and the programs that are carried out within.

In this edition of acronym salad, we will discuss two primary acronyms of use to potential development workers, IQC (Indefinite Quantity Contracts) and PVO (Private Voluntary Organizations)

Continue reading Acronym Salad: Part I – USAID

Staying in the U.S. after graduation

Many international students inquire about advice on how best to find work opportunities in the U.S. upon completion of their degree program.  In October 2006, the Career and Alumni Services office hosted an alumni panel that provided advice to students seeking to work in the U.S. Below is some of their advice. Continue reading Staying in the U.S. after graduation