2009 PFIG Recipient Tyler Duke

Career Administrator

Tyler Duke 
College of Arts & Sciences 
Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies 
2010 Graduation Year

Internship: US Department of Defense in Washington, DC

Notes on the first week 

I’ve just finished up my first two weeks of my unpaid internship at the U.S. Department of Defense, where I am working in the Office of the Secretary of Defense – International Security Affairs, Middle East Policy. The countries to which I have been assigned are Lebanon , Syria , Jordan , Egypt , Israel , and the Palestinian territories. Although I served in the same office (assigned to Iraq Policy) during the summer of 2008, the first two weeks have been no less exciting. I was quickly put to work – since I started, I have met with two top-ranking Israeli generals regarding regional security issues, prepared maps for the Secretary of Defense for his meeting with the Israeli Minister of Defense, and been involved in several interagency meetings at the Department of State focusing on the Gaza Strip. I’ve been kept busy and I’m really enjoying my time here.

It has been particularly interesting to note the changes the office has undergone since the Presidential Administration and senior leadership transition. It has been a unique and rewarding experience to intern under two different Presidents, as there have been significant changes in the Pentagon to align defense policy with the overall foreign policy vision of the President.

Overall, the first two weeks of the internship have been a great experience and I am looking forward to the rest of the summer. I cannot thank the Parents Committee and University Career Services enough for all they have done to make this experience possible.


Quite a bit has happened in the Middle East since my last blog update, and I’ve been busy trying to keep up. I have been working closely on issues related to the June 7 Parliamentary elections in Lebanon and the impact of their results. Next week I will be meeting with the Lebanese Ambassador to discuss the US-Lebanese relationship following the elections. I’ve also been heavily involved with covering the aftermath of the Iranian elections and evaluating their impact on Defense policy and overall U.S. foreign policy. It has been incredible working in the DoD leading up to the elections and the protests that followed.

The other topic I’ve been heavily involved in is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the continued effort to achieve a comprehensive peace deal in the region. I most recently met with a Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the commander of the United States Security Commission, to discuss on-going efforts to facilitate a peace agreement. The USSC is an international force tasked to build the security capabilities of the Palestinians in the West Bank , acting in full cooperation with both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The first half of my internship has been great, and I look forward to my last few weeks in Washington.

Final Reflections 

It's hard to believe my internship is over. The last few weeks I spent preparing the Assistant Secretary of Defense for his trip to Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE, and I was also tasked with preparing the Secretary of Defense for his trip to Israel, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey. In addition to the trip planning and preparations, I worked closely on several issues relating to the peace process, as the DoD is playing an important role in achieving the two-state solution President Obama supports. Specifically, I contributed to a comprehensive brief that outlined possibilities to reconcile Israeli security concerns with Palestinian sovereignty requirements.

Overall, the internship experience was extremely rewarding, in large part due to the material I was assigned to work on. Although each day brought something new to my desk, I must say that getting a first hand view of the Iranian elections and the unrest that followed in real-time was incredible. Working on the issues and informing our senior leaders of the changing situation was probably my favorite and most exciting experience of the summer.

Additionally, the internship was made all the better because of the people with whom I was able to serve. I've come away with a tremendous respect for civil servants, both civilian and military, that dedicate their lives for the benefit of the country. I've also gained important new perspectives on the region – a functional, working knowledge to complement my classroom experience at UVA. I am looking forward to drawing from this experience in my final year at the University, and I hope to be working for the DoD or another government agency in the future. Lastly, I'd like to thank the UVA Parents Fund and the UVA Career Center; without their generous support, this internship would not have been possible.