1998-99 Defense Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Defence
Despite a strong background in national security and technology, my one-year fellowship experience at the Pentagon helped me realize how little I actually knew about the decision-making process in Washington, DC. Not only did I learn a great deal about policy, I also learned a tremendous amount about new areas of technology, and about managing other people?some of whom were much more senior than I was.
The excitement of the fellowship year began when I walked in the door on my first day and was told that I was in charge of a multi-million dollar computer security program. In my mentor?s words: ?The project needs a little baby sitting.? I muttered some feeble objections about the fact that I knew nothing about computer security, but he replied, ?You can handle this,? and that was it. Over the next year, I learned a great deal about computer security, but more importantly, I learned how to manage a very complex and difficult project. Of course, I had help along the way, but I was given as much freedom as I wanted. Opportunities of this kind are few and far between. In addition to managing the computer security project, I was involved in a number of other equally educational activities. For example, I worked with two colleagues to develop a strategic plan for our office, which had a budget of nearly $100 million. This plan described our office?s goals, the metrics we would use to measure our performance against those goals, and assigned responsibilities for achieving our targets. I was also our office?s representative to an interagency working group that reported to the Department of Defense?s (DoD) Deputy Chief Information Officer. Our working group helped define a DoD-wide information technology program called the Global Information Grid.
My year as a Defense Policy Fellow had a profound effect on my life. I developed an interest in computer security and privacy issues, and I became intrigued by the interaction between the private and the public sector. Before my Fellowship, I had not realized how much the federal government depends on the private sector for support of every kind. I now know that businesses can have a profound effect on the federal government?s policies and operations. In fact, it is because of the lessons I learned at the Pentagon that I have joined the private sector. My interest in public policy issues has not diminished, I have simply realized that one can try to solve societal problems from the private sector as well as from the public sector.
I highly recommend the AAAS Defense Policy Fellowship to anyone with an interest in national security, technology, or a general curiosity of how the government works. The fellowship is truly a unique experience?one that may even change your life.