National Security

Lauren Sutkus, Financial Crimes at Treasury

This past semester living, taking classes and interning in Washington DC is one of the most memorable times I’ve had at Syracuse. Although, DC has been exhausting and a huge change from my time spent at Syracuse, it is extremely rewarding. I am lucky enough to have received a pathways internship with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the Treasury Department.

As a pathways intern you are expected to work as close to full time as possible while finishing your degree. At the Treasury department, a high level of trust is placed on interns as they are treated as a member of the team albeit working at a less sensitive level than full time employees. Intern duties vary, however mine focused on assisting in the preparation of presentations for public audiences, data research and analysis for and drafting of reports and documents. As well as performing open source and commercial database searches to assist research specialists on open cases.

FinCEN has continued to impress me in the ways that they focus on developing each employee weather it be an intern or a high-level full time employee. The director especially pushes for workplace integration of all levels of employees and encourages communication and the facilitation of ideas with other elements within Treasury and within the government as a whole. However, the most enjoyable aspect of my internship has been getting the chance to know my coworkers. Each person has a more diverse background than the next.

Lauren Sutkus was a joint MPA/MAIR student who graduated in May 2020.

Lauren Sutkus in front of the Treasury building
Lauren Sutkus in front of the Treasury building
MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
Maxwell-in-Washington Program

Askar Salikhov, Conflict & Stabilization at DoS

For three months, I interned at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) in Washington, D.C. CSO’s mission is to anticipate, prevent, and respond to conflict that undermines U.S. national interests. The bureau implements this mission in two complementary ways: through data-driven analysis and forward deploying stabilization advisors to conflict zones. The objective is to inform U.S. strategy, policy, and programs on conflict prevention and stabilization.

During my internship, I’ve worked with civil servants, foreign service officers, and other experts to manage programming and provide analytical products relating to Ukraine. I have drafted documents, collated trip books, and briefed principals ahead of important interagency meetings with high-level interlocutors. Additionally, I have produced research on electoral processes and violence in post-conflict environments. Finally, my office relied on my assistance for logistical support: organizing meetings, taking notes, writing readouts, and managing tasks.

My objectives for my internship were to get exposure to public sector work, connect with conflict practitioners and grow my network of colleagues, learn new skills relating to project design, management, and monitoring, and have a positive impact on the mission of CSO. Looking back at my experience, interning for the U.S. State Department has shaped my perception of civil service in a positive way. I hope to begin my professional career within the public sector, working on supporting and delivering exciting development programs that advance the interests of the United States.

Askar Salikhov is recent graduate of the MAIR program. In pursuit of his degree, he also completed an internship with IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in Ghana during summer 2019.

Askar Salikhov poses from the speaker’s balcony at the U.S.
Askar Salikhov poses from the speaker’s balcony at the U.S. Capitol Building during a work-sponsored tour.
MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
Maxwell-in-Washington Program

Askar Salikhov Opens a Door to Fieldwork

Nick Rogers, Intel and Strategic Legal Services in DC

Dentons is the largest law firm in the world, employing more lawyers than any other firm. With branches and partner firms all over the globe, the company’s interests are broad and varied. The Washington, DC office houses the government contracts, public policy, intellectual property, health care, energy, and corporate representation practices, among others. The firm also provides business intelligence and strategic services for a variety of clients.

Nick Rogers in front of Denton's Washington office
Nick Rogers in front of Denton’s Washington office

As an intern in the Intelligence and Strategic Services group, I was granted a view of national security and international relations unlike anything I had experienced before. Our group creates a variety of products for our clients, and the work can best be described as “taking the pulse of Washington.” We cover several pertinent topics, track the conversations being had in Congress, by the Administration, and various non-governmental organizations around town. I would regularly be dispatched to events around town, and after taking notes I would write up an analysis of the event for the clients. One of the most exciting aspects of my internship was seeing the finished analysis that I had written and knowing that important people would be reading it.

The work fell into three broad categories: analysis, investigations, and special data-driven projects. Analysis falls into the description of “taking the pulse” of the city, and in some ways the special projects did as well. I took full control of a few different data-driven projects, and I’m grateful for the experience I gained at the Maxwell School and iSchool during undergrad at Syracuse, because it equipped me with the skills I needed to build a few valuable projects from the ground up. Investigations, on the other hand, requires a completely new set of skills to think creatively and solve complex problems. Our group performed due diligence for internal and external clients, providing global insight for mergers and acquisitions decisions. My internship at Dentons was challenging, but incredibly rewarding because I saw the impact my work was having every single day.

Nick Rogers is a fast track BAIR/MAIR students who will complete his bachelor’s in international relations AND his master’s in international relations in five years.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
International Relations Undergraduate Program
  • For more about the Fast Track BAIR/MAIR program, contact the Director of Admissions, Christine Omolino, at comolino@syr.edu
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Ivan Ponomarev Looks at Threats Inside Aviation

I spent this fall in Washington D.C. as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program. After spending a wonderful summer here, I had decided to continue my studies here this past fall. It was important for me to get the most out of my final semester in the program, and so I took two classes and participated in an internship as well.

My internship was at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which is a research center at the University of Maryland. It focuses its studies on the causes and consequences of terrorism, as well as on national and international responses to terrorist groups and activities. START conducts extensive firsthand and secondhand research and works with vast quantities of data, as evidenced by its Global Terrorism Database (GTD) which it describes on its website as “the most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world.”

Ivan Ponomarev at START

More specifically, I have been part of the Unconventional Weapons and Technology (UWT) division. This division studies terrorist use or potential use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. The project that I have been working on is the Aviation Insider Threat project, which is working on the development of the Cargo Aviation Insider Threat Assessment Tool (CAITAT) to help detect vulnerabilities within the air cargo supply chain which may potentially be exploited by insiders looking to commit illicit or terrorist activities. My tasks have included, but have not been limited to, conducting research on air cargo supply chains and potential vulnerabilities within them, conducting red-teaming exercises with CAITAT to help refine it before it is finalized in December, and assisting with the preparation and editing of
CAITAT training materials.

I am eternally grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I had this fall, as it was certainly one to remember. This has been quite a unique experience for me, as my previous two internships were very different from this one, and I have learned a great deal about national security and counterterrorism. I will always look back at this fall as an important building block in the person that I will become and am beyond excited to find out what lies ahead in my future.

Ivan Ponomarev is a recent MAIR graduate. He also interned at Nonviolence International and the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in DC.

Ivan Ponomarev Wastes No Time with Two Internships in DC

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
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Scott Clements, International Law Enforcement at DOS

This summer, I have had the amazing opportunity to serve the State Department as an intern in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) in the Management Assistance and Program Support Division (MAPS). As a bureau, INL works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

As a Bureau, INL consistently receives a heavy amount of appropriated funding to continue to carry out its meaningful mission. INL is a program heavy Bureau and is subdivided into Program and Functional offices which help to carry out its overall mission. INL program offices consist of Afghanistan and Pakistan (AP), Africa and Middle East (AME), Europe and Asia (EA), and Western Hemisphere Programs (WHP). INL’s functional offices consist of Aviation (A), Anti-Crime Programs (C), Criminal Justice assistance and Partnership (CAP), and Policy Planning and Coordination (PC). Finally, The Resource Management Division Offices (RM) consist of a variety of supportive offices including MAPS – the division that I worked in.

During my time at INL, I got to work on a multitude of trainings, department projects, and bureau protocols. When I first started at INL, I was responsible for being part of the planning and oversight team for INL 101 – a crash course on the bureau, and its capabilities, aimed at foreign and civil service officials, in between their time at embassy posts, or headquarters assignments. This experience served as a great opportunity to familiarize myself with the Bureau and gain in depth knowledge of how INL functions as a greater part of the state department, while being able to converse and network with high level foreign and civil service personnel.

Additionally, I was given a leading role in the development, creation, and manipulation of several critical accountability databases for the departments property, construction, and contractual information at overseas embassy posts. Engaging in this detailed analytical work really gave me a better idea of the overall scope, mission, and capability of the INL Bureau, and just how broad and global their reach is. Other projects throughout my tenure at INL involved establishing current points of contact (POC) with embassy and program officials for the department, as well as attending and participating in high level meetings, trainings, and educational events put on by the division, bureau, and greater state department.

While the exposure to working in the Federal Government was certainly informative and beneficial to my career goals, I was also blessed to work with a team that was incredibly welcoming, and supportive of my efforts, and contributions to the departments mission. I established a variety of long term relationships, and critical contacts with experienced individuals that I am grateful for. Overall, working at the State Department and INL as an intern has been a great learning experience, and I will be better off professionally and personally for having served in such a role.

Scott Clements in front of the State Department in DC

Scott Clements completed the MPA degree in 2018.

MPA Degree at the Maxwell School

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Jacob Wisenbaker, National Security Innovations at MD5

Tucked away amid the hustle and bustle of Crystal City, Virginia is a small team of men and women who are working to completely transform the Department of Defense. Created in October of 2016, MD5 is a program office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense tasked with creating new communities of innovators to solve national security problems. We do this by partnering with those individuals who are typically not associated with the DoD. These include students, entrepreneurs, university professors, startup companies, venture capital communities, city governments, and private accelerators/incubators. We collaborate with our above partners to bring solutions to the national security problems of our customer, the DoD.MD5 is organized into three distinct yet integrated portfolios: Education, Collaboration and Acceleration. The Education portfolio is tasked with building a DoD workforce that has strong innovation skills and an improved problem framing capacity. The Collaboration portfolio helps to develop the novel solutions that are put forth by our partners in addition to creating new communities of innovators. Lastly, the Acceleration portfolio works to improve the viability of dual-use ventures and solutions for defense market entry.

As an Innovation Fellow with MD5 I have had the opportunity to work at the headquarters located in Crystal City. My tasks over the summer have ranged from writing policy recommendations for how the program conducts itself to meeting with various DoD entities to better understand the problems they face. I have been tasked with constantly seeking more innovative and streamlined ways in which MD5 can complete its mission. By enabling better communication processes, developing publications, consolidating and distributing workflows, and optimizing MD5’s vast troves of data, I am helping MD5 team members to better serve our customer.

Before coming to work for MD5 I had little understanding as to what innovation truly meant. Many times the word is used as a buzzword that few people efficiently know how to employ. MD5 actualizes this abstract concept by teaching hard skills relating to Human Centered Design (HCD), Lean Launch Pad (LLP), Mission Model Canvas (MMC), and Minimum Viable Product (MVP). With these skills the DoD will undoubtedly hold its competitive edge in the 21st century.

Jacob Wisenbaker is a recent graduate of the MAIR program.

Jacob Wisenbaker

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Chris Tonsmeire, Peace Operations Initiative at DOD

The U.S. Department of Defense’s USINDOPACOM headquarters is located on Camp HM Smith, Oahu, Hawaii.  It was recently renamed from USPACOM to reflect the importance of India in USINDOPACOM’s Area of Responsibility.  USINDOPACOM is unique among the Global Combatant Commands (GCC) because it is the only GCC with its subordinate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Commands co-located in the same state and island.  Additionally, the island of Oahu is home to Joint Interagency Task Force – West (JIATF-W), the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM), the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Asia-Pacific Security Studies (APCSS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research facility.  An internship with USINDOPACOM offers an amazing opportunity to learn about all of these organizations.

Seal of USINDOPACOM

My position was as a Visiting Fellow in the J372 office.  The J372 is a sub-category of the J3 Operations directorate.  The J372 office consists of Multinational Programs and Theater Security Cooperation Exercises.   Multinational Programs, where I interned, consists of two programs: the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) and the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).  While my internship was officially with GPOI, I was also able to work extensively with the MPAT.  GPOI was created in 2004 as the U.S. contribution to the broader G8 Action Plan for Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations because of the strategic importance of international peace operations to US national security.  Increasing the capability of partner nations to conduct international peace operations was seen as a cost-effective way of increasing world stability and sharing the burden of conducting peace operations. To meet this objective, GPOI funds training, equipment, and facilities building capabilities worldwide for USINDOPACOM’s twelve regional partners. GPOI is unique in that it is a US State Department program that is executed by the US Department of Defense to build capacity of partners to train and sustain peacekeepers who deploy to United Nations missions around the world.

Like the GPOI team, the MPAT works to improve the capabilities of multinational partner forces.  Unlike the GPOI team the MPAT is regionally focused and was an initiative developed by the regional Chiefs of Defense in 2000 with the goal to facilitate the rapid and effective establishment and/or augmentation of a multinational force headquarters (MNF HQ) and/or other multinational military and civil-military coordination mechanisms.  In order to improve the ability of regional multinational response to natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and any other operation in USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility that fall short of war, they have developed the Multinational Forces Standing Operating Procedures (MNF SOP) and conduct the TEMPEST EXPRESS exercise.  The MNF SOP is a living document that collects best practices, compiles and defines new terminology, and standardizes methods for all of these operations.  Yearly MNF SOP conferences are conducted to update the document as well as create relationships between military planners and civilian organization leaders active in the region.  These relationships are seen as added benefits that decrease response time when different organizations arrive to deal with a real-world crisis.  The TEMPEST EXPRESS and other theater security cooperation exercises are where the planners try to “break” the MNF SOP.  It is a scenario-based exercise that allows the planners to work together using the MNF SOP to deal with a simulated crisis.  Flaws exposed by the TE exercise and from real world use are then compiled into the MNF SOP at the next conference.

Getting to attend the MNF SOP 20 conference in Wellington, New Zealand was undoubtedly the highlight of my internship.  The conference sought to update and complete sections on Defensive Cyberspace Operations, Protections of Civilians, Logistics, Inter-agency Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response, and the Glossary.  I was assigned to the Glossary section which compiles new terminology, acronyms, and definitions from the other working group.  This allowed me a great opportunity to see what every section was working on as well as meet experts from foreign governments, USAID, the IFRC and other NGOs, and different directorates of the US military. I was also asked to research options for a regional case study to include in the Inter-agency Cooperation section.  This greatly increased my familiarity with multinational operations in USINDOPACOMs area of responsibility.

USINDOPACOM Area of Command

My background as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant has given me exposure to planning on the tactical level and this internship expanded that planning knowledge to include the operational and strategic level.  My main projects working for the GPOI team was to create a spreadsheet that compiled the GPOI partner nations’ military force pledges to United Nations peacekeeping and identified the priorities for training programs location and subject.  Creating the pledge tracker required research into all of the different types of military units that are sent to support UN missions.  These included infantry, engineering, force headquarters support, medical, military police, reconnaissance, riverine, special forces, transportation and logistics units.  For the MPAT I was assigned the task of incorporating the changes to the MNF SOP from the conference in New Zealand.

Oahu is a great place for recreation as well as professional development.  The close relationship with my office was increased with participation in the MPAT fencing club and attendance of the MNF SOP 20 workshop.  There are numerous hikes, beaches, and coral reefs that are great to explore with other interns in the program.  The food is also unique due to the many cultural influences from Hawaii’s diverse immigrant population.  Hawaiian poke is a personal favorite.  Getting to know all of the great people in the office: Tak, Dan, Bernie, Joe, Bob, Bobby Ray, Murray, John, and Scott was a lot of fun.  Additionally, getting to know all of the other interns from Texas A&M, University of San Diego, University of Hawaii, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and other schools was great as well.  I want to especially thank Steven “Tak” Takekoshi, Crysti Woods, Dr. John Wood, Professor Robert Murrett, the Global Programs Coordinator at Maxwell, and Gerald B., and Daphna Cramer for their support during this experience.

Chris Tonsmeire completed his MAIR degree in December 2018.

Chris Tonsmeire in Hawaii

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Libby Kokemoor Receives Crash Course in Defense Strategy in Hawaii

In June 2018, I arrived on Oahu to begin my internship as a Summer Fellow at the headquarters of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, or USINDOPACOM. One of six geographic combatant commands under the Department of Defense, USINDOPACOM had recently assumed a new name (formerly, U.S. Pacific Command) as well as a new Commander, Admiral Phil Davidson, less than two weeks before I arrived. USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility covers nearly half the earth’s surface and stretches from the west coast of the U.S. to the west coast of India, bringing with it a set of challenges as diverse as the region itself and encompassing several of America’s most steadfast allies. The dynamism of the Indo-Pacific was highlighted when my first week coincided with President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

As part of the Strategy and Policy branch, which develops strategy and plans for the command’s area of responsibility in accordance with national guidance such as the National Defense Strategy, I grappled with a new language – Department of Defense acronyms – but received support and encouragement, and a crash course in the Napoleonic military staff structure, from those around me. As a joint command, USINDOPACOM’s staff includes personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, as well as Department of Defense civilians, contractors, and liaison officers from other federal agencies, each bringing different perspectives to the work of the command.

One of the highlights of the summer was observing the 2018 Rim of the Pacific or RIMPAC exercise, the world’s largest international naval exercise, which takes place every two years in Honolulu. In addition to improving interoperability between forces of different countries (such as Vietnam, participating this year for the first time), RIMPAC is an opportunity for building international trust and cultural exchange. This was on full display during open ship tours, as vessels from the U.S., Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, the Philippines and other countries welcomed visitors aboard (with the Peruvian sailors offering samples of RIMPAC pisco aboard their ship!).

Working at USINDOPACOM throughout an eventful summer gave me an unparalleled opportunity to apply my academic work at Maxwell in national security and Asia-Pacific affairs to thorny strategic questions in a rapidly evolving environment – with just enough time to enjoy the beauty of Hawai’i as well.

Libby Kokemoor is a joint MPA/MAIR student in her final semester. She is also a Robertson Fellow. During her second Fall Semester, she also interned at the U.S. Department of State.

Libby Kokemoor in front of the naval hospital ship USNS Mercy during RIMPAC ship tours

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Emma Buckhout, Internal Communications at USCIS

This summer, I participated in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Summer Enrichment Program at headquarters in Washington, DC. As “student trainee,” or intern, with the Internal Communications (IC) division within the Office of Public Affairs, I supported internal workforce communication for 19,000 government employees and contractors. Among other tasks, I provided primary support on USCIS’ tri-weekly internal newsletter, editing and publishing articles for the agency intranet site.

Through my MPA/MAIR studies at Maxwell I am concentrating on immigration and refugee policy. I applied for this internship with hopes of learning first-hand what USCIS actually does and how it operates. USCIS is the component within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tasked with, as its mission statement says, “adjudicating requests for immigration benefits.” I had previously worked on immigration and U.S.-Mexico border policy for two NGOs in Washington, DC, but had focused primarily on political debates, border enforcement issues, and migration through Mexico. I was eager to learn more about how the actual U.S. immigration services are carried out and more about the granular process of immigrating to the U.S. and gaining citizenship.

Emma Buckhout addresses fellow interns and a USCIS audience at the USCIS Summer Enrichment Program 2018 closing ceremony

While internal communications may seem removed from the actual immigration and refugee adjudications, and even farther from the big-picture policy work, it was the perfect window from which to learn how all of USCIS’ varied components fit together. My office cleared and sent out any policy directives and announcements from USCIS or DHS leadership to all USCIS employees. At the same time, we received articles and announcements from field offices across the country on special events, accomplishments, and trainings. To properly edit and publish them, I not only had to learn the agency style rules, but I also got to learn a little bit about what each agency component does.

The USCIS Summer Enrichment Program also provided invaluable learning and professional development opportunities for the cohort of over 60 interns. We visited a regional USCIS service center, where we heard from the officers who review the applications for specific immigration benefits, and the Virginia asylum office, where officers explained how they conduct in-person asylum interviews. We also attended a naturalization ceremony in which we got to witness dozens of people complete the rigorous process to become U.S. citizens. Furthermore, the internship program worked with several headquarters offices to host career panels and skills workshops, as well as a talk with USCIS Director Cissna. As a result of my participation, I was honored as one of three Summer Enrichment participants chosen to speak at Intern Closing Ceremony.

In the end, I succeeded in learning more completely about the structure and work of USCIS. I also built invaluable relationships with my talented Internal Communications team, and gained a renewed respect for the value of communication, clear writing, and editing in any professional field.

Emma Buckhout is a MPA/MAIR student and Robertson Fellow focusing on immigration and refugee policy.

Emma Buckhout with the USCIS-DHS seal

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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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