2008 PFIG Recipient Tyler Duke
College of Arts & Sciences
2010 Graduation Year
Internship: US Dept of Defense in Washington, DC.
I began my internship at the United States Department of Defense this week – an opportunity which I have been looking forward to for months. I am working directly in the Pentagon, 5th floor, B-Ring. I was chosen as an intern for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, International Security Affairs, Middle East - Iraq Policy. I am working directly with the 20-person team that handles issues concerning U.S. military operations in Iraq, post-war reconstruction and post-war diplomacy. Of the other two offices within the Middle East division, one focuses on Iran and the other on the rest of the Middle Eastern countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel/West Bank/Gaza, Syria, the Gulf States).
Notes on the first week
The first day was extremely eventful – besides the fact that I got on the wrong metro line to get to work, I eventually got turned around and made it in to work right on time. The day was filled with red tape – making sure my security clearance was in place and that I garnered the necessary badge to come and go from the Pentagon as necessary took a painful amount of patience. Besides the necessary "start–up procedures," I was immediately thrust into a staff meeting for the entire Iraq Policy team. I received an incredibly warm welcome; they had a cubicle designated especially for me with my own computer, office phone, and plenty of space. From the meeting, I was handed a copy of the report that the office is working on to submit to Congress later this month, referred to in the office as the "9010 Report." This report is an evaluation, composed primarily by military sources inside Iraq, of the security and stability situation in Iraq. I was tasked to offer grammatical corrections to the 70–page document as well as the classified annex. Little did I know that my corrections were to be sent out to Baghdad and General Petraeus the next day. Also of note the first day, I got a misguided phone call from the Israeli Embassy in Washington looking for my boss. Needless to say I was flustered and nearly cut them off in trying to find the "hold" button on my phone.
The rest of the week I was able to enter and exit the Pentagon very freely – I obtained a badge on the first day which allows me to get into the Pentagon without even going through a metal detector. I was given a number of assignments throughout the first week, many of which involve classified work. I was tasked with the job of preparing what is known as a "read ahead" for a visit scheduled between the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense – Middle East (the boss of the entire Middle East office) and a Minister–Counselor from the Danish Embassy. A "read ahead" consists of a biography of the visiting diplomat, an outline of talking points for the host stemming from the topic(s) of interest of the visiting diplomat, and a background of the relationship between the two countries. In this case, I was tasked with detailing the Danish assistance to the United States in our efforts in Iraq and offering suggestions to the Deputy Asst. Secretary about what questions might be pertinent and what points he may want to make during the visit. Compiling all this information took a significant amount of research and involved many classified documents – it was a great experience.
Also during the week, I was given the task of evaluating a request by the Department of State to "borrow" an employee currently working in the Department of Defense. I was given the responsibility of evaluating the necessity of the position being created and the credentials of the requested employee to fill that position. Additionally, I was involved in the on–going brokering of a deal between provincial governments of Iraq and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding provincial reconstruction projects. I also accompanied a senior leader of the Iraq Policy team to the State Department for a briefing regarding the Essential Services (water, electricity, oil, etc.) in Iraq, which I was later tasked to summarize and analyze for an inter–office memo. Other work included the analysis and summary of State Department Cables for the Deputy Asst. Secretary. Cables are sent several times daily from Baghdad and are classified. My newest task has been preparing a summary and analysis of important topics from with the 9010 report for the upcoming hearings with several House and Senate committees.
One fun thing to note is the access my security clearance affords me. I now have access to daily intelligence briefings from all the intelligence agencies and other very sensitive information regarding national security. I do not take this access lightly and I understand the responsibility I have in safe–guarding the sensitive information to which I am exposed. Nonetheless, I have come to realize just how much the U.S. Government knows that the American public does not.
Overall the first week has offered tremendous insight into the workings of one of the largest departments of the government. The Iraq Policy Team is working extremely hard to meet the daily requirements of the U.S. military presence in Iraq and I consider it an honor and a privilege to work with such dedicated civil servants. I must extend my deepest gratitude to the members of the Parents Committee and the University Career Services Office – without your generous contributions, this incredible opportunity would not have been possible. Thank you for your support in my pursuits; I intend to make the absolute most of the opportunities that have been afforded to me through your generosity.
Having now been through my sixth week at the Pentagon, I am gradually becoming more and more comfortable with the requirements of my job. Since the last blog, I have been involved in the on-going negotiations between the US and the Government of Iraq concerning the long-term security relationship and the accompanying agreements. I spent a day on Capitol Hill briefing House and Senate Committees regarding the report my office recently submitted regarding "Security and Stability in Iraq ." I regularly travel to the Department of State for interagency meetings regarding the reconstruction effort in Iraq . I have also been to a number of different briefings inside the Pentagon, including a Defense Intelligence Agency briefing regarding the influence of Iran and Iraq as well as Secure Video Teleconferences with the National Security Council, CIA, and the State Department regarding the current situation in Iraq . I am currently working on coordinating an Iraqi donation to the September 11th Memorial Fund through the Iraqi Embassy.
Needless to say, this experience has been extremely rewarding. I am so grateful to the Parents Committee and their generous grant that has made this incredible summer possible. I hope the other recipients are having equally-rewarding experiences this summer.
At first, the Pentagon was extremely intimidating. Even on my last day, after working nine hours a day for 2 and ½ months, the Pentagon was still intimidating. Thankfully, I was able to get over my "healthy respect" for the building to be able to have an incredible summer. It was an enriching and fulfilling internship, where I was given real responsibility and expected to produce significant material. I gained a functioning knowledge to go along with my classroom knowledge. Valuable lessons and tremendous examples were presented to me with each passing day. Some memorable tid-bits that I took away from the position:
1. The differences between the United States and Iraq are less significant than those between US Government agencies and departments.
2. Oftentimes what happens on the margins of the meetings is more important than what goes on in the actual meetings themselves.
3. It never pays to upset anyone in the government; it’s a very small world. Manners, respect for authority, and being polite are incredibly important.
4. Never mix up the chain of command in an office run by a Marine Colonel.
5. The Government knows a LOT more than the American public. Seriously. The media is often behind, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
6. We have incredibly smart people devoting their lives to serve our country – military, civilian, and contractors alike.
Most importantly, I learned that I have a lot more to learn. I come back to the University with a renewed sense of vigor for my academics, as I learned to appreciate the college lifestyle and time schedule after working 8-6 everyday. I’m ready for the professional lifestyle, but only after I’ve enjoyed the rest of my stay here in Charlottesville.