Working in the DoD acronyms have become a way of living and subdivisions on subdivisions on subdivisions have become a normalcy for my every day work environment. Constantly, you are running around trying to figure out who you need to talk to, who you need approval from, and what to do next to complete your assignment.
Just a brief description of my office: I am interning with Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy -OUSD(P)
In OUSD(P) there are several divisions under the watchful eye of the Assistant Secretary of Defense(ASD) such as International Security Affairs (ISA), Asia Pacific Security Affairs (APSA), Global Strategic Affairs (GSA), and etc.
My office is Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia (RUE) under ASD Chollet for ISA. Here is ASD Chollet’s bio and job function.
His office is a political appointment, so he has not always been involved with the DoD. ASD Chollet is described as a calm, clear, articulate, and professional. I have seen him in action, and he makes everything he does look flawless and easy. It is pretty unfair to those like me who have to rehearse constantly to deliver speeches and prepare for the unexpected. ASD holds a very respected and good rapport with everyone in ISA, and it has been an amazing experience to work under his ASD-ship.
As I was saying, I am in OUSD(P), ISA, RUE. Within my RUE office there are about 10 policy-makers, two of which are team leaders. These 10 policy-makers represent either Russia, Conventional Arms Control (CAC), or separate countries in the Balkans, Black Sea, and Caucasus (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Kosovo. These leaders along with the team report to two directors: One director for Russia and CAC and one director for the Balkans, Black Sea, and Caucasus. These two directors report along with the rest of the team to the Principal Director (PD) who is the right-hand man/woman for the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (DASD).
The PD in my office is Laura Gross. She is a remarkable woman who is very straightforward, direct, somewhat soft spoken, intuitive, and remarkable intelligent. She previously worked for GSA and in counter-WMD policy.
DASD Farkas runs the RUE office. She is very accomplished, brilliant, chatty, energetic, and always asking questions. Here is her bio.
It has been more than a pleasure working with these two fabulous women and their meticulous team. The inter-office microeconomic structure is very compartmentalized, but it somehow functions successfully through constant team meetings called “all-hands” and never-ending e-mails. Everyone in each team represents a different specific component to the overall course. Within CAC each individual handles separate treaties and their operations. Russia utilizes its 3-man team to separate the issues into policy, economics, and duties within the department. The Balkans, Black Sea, and Caucasus team is split between one person on the Ukraine desk and the remaining 4 people representing the remaining countries. While each person has separate duties, each team united to build a centric approach to issues and utilizes each member to attend meetings, present and write briefs, and to gain inter-agency clearances.
This all sounds very confusing, and IT IS, but it gets easier once you see it and learn each role. As an intern I get to experience the role of each individual as he/she requests help with specific tasks. I will not go as far to say that I have formulated policy because that would be a blatant lie, but I can say I have witnesses and aided the development of DoD policy, gathered intelligence, briefed various counterparts up to the DASD-level, written appeals to Congress, and more. This internship has been essential into learning how the massive organ that is the US DoD functions, formulates policy, and executes orders.
Now, did you see all those acronyms?!
My internship has and still remains one of the best experiences of my life. Lessons learned would be not to discuss any material without knowing specifics because people actually do listen to you at DoD. You don’t want to give them incorrect information, so don’t think on your feet. Make sure you look up details before delivering information. Also, never be afraid to ask questions.
My recommendations: Be sure to always try to determine lessons learned from each assignment; these lessons are how you grow, and that is essential to becoming a professional in an ever-changing field.