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LBJ Students Propose National Security Strategies for Next Presidential Administration

The Reinventing Diplomacy Program draws on the research and teaching talents of the LBJ School, as well as that of UT’s School of Law and College of Liberal Arts, to inform, inspire and challenge top students in the study of diplomacy as a historical, contemporary and career subject. For more information, related news and other university partners, visit the Reinveinting Diplomacy page.

In a project designed to expose students to real-world policymaking, LBJ School students produced sample briefings for the next presidential transition. The project was part of a course on strategy and decision-making in global policy, which showcased the blending of scholarly study and policy relevant exercises that are the hallmark of education at the LBJ School.

Led by Professor Jeremi Suri, Mack Brown Distinguished Chair of Leadership in Global Affairs, this course was part of the new Reinventing Diplomacy program, a multidisciplinary initiative spearheaded by the LBJ School aimed at informing and challenging top students in the study of diplomacy.

Devin Fitzpatrick, a recent graduate of the Master of Global Policy Studies (MGPS) program, felt the project was the most challenging and rewarding team exercise he experienced at the LBJ School.

“I was the team leader of an outstanding group of individuals,” said Fitzpatrick. “Our approach was simple— develop a fundamental principle around which the national security of the United States could be designed and implemented.”

Fitzpatrick’s team, which included Josef Varga, Brittany Burns, Austin Woody and Megan Reiss, describes in their briefing the international environment the United States faces in the 21st century. The team depicts how the United States can navigate a peaceful and stable order in the future by leading the global economy, protecting critical global strategic interests, and maximizing the disposition and strength of our military. The briefings centered around the hypothetical presidency of Michael Bloomberg, an Independent, to eliminate political bias. Download the full briefing.

Caitlin Sharp, a recent graduate of the Master of Public Affairs program, led a team that included Patrick Bunch, Ismael Cuevas, Sarah DeCuir, Sarah Hamshari and George Kioussis. Sharp’s team focused on outlining the tenants of the national character that would be required to make real change to foreign policy.

“We tried our hand at rectifying the nation’s values and interests as they pertain to our treatment of allies and enemies,” said Sharp. “In doing so, we tried to reflect what we learned: identify the national character, identify the correct strategy for the time, and imagine a leader that could connect the dots.” Download the full briefing.

Larry O’Bryon, a second-year MGPS student, led a third team, which included Kelsey Hawley, Adam Parker, Jaromir Sedlar, Alex Sterling and Miha Vindis.

“Our recommended strategy focused on key priorities including strengthening the U.S. economy through fiscal reform and investments in the energy sector, engaging with China and other regional partners to support global economic growth and diplomacy, and re-aligning a strengthened military and security profile,” said O’Bryon.

According to O’Bryon, the briefings created a forum for students to experience a real-world group work setting.

“The working teams, which integrated various viewpoints, expertise and experiences, reflected a realistic example of a group work assignment, requiring participants to manage priorities and master team dynamics in order to meet deliverable requirements and timelines,” said O’Bryon. Download the full briefing.

Additionally, students were required to present their briefings.

“The final project felt like the highest stakes presentation I gave in two years at LBJ,” said Sharp. “We presented to a ‘mystery guest’ who ended up being Peter Feaver of Duke University, a former advisor to the National Security Council. It was modeled after a real security briefing setting, which meant that we could be interrupted, ‘crises’ would happen in real time, and they would have no problem pointing out flaws in our argument.”

Fitzpatrick also felt that the presentation portion was vital to his educational experience and attributes the quality of the course to Suri’s teaching style.

“Suri’s course on decision-making in the global age was the pinnacle of my education at the LBJ School,” said Fitzpatrick. “He is a great leader in the classroom and fosters meaningful discussions. I will never forget his courses nor will I forget his influence on my global perspective.”