Congress and Counterterrorism

Following Account of Sherman Patrick Provided by Guest Blogger: Sam Glover

Following Account of Stacie Oliver Provided by Guest Blogger: Evan Meltzer

Following Account of Melanie Nakagawa Provided by Guest Blogger: Jimmy Zhang

Following Account of NCTC Provided by Guest Blogger: Ryan Neuhard

May 17, 2013

Friday morning, the National Security Fellows visited the U.S. Capitol for a lesson in good, old-fashioned politics. We convened in the historic chamber of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where we were welcomed by Mrs. Meg Murphy who works in the Capitol and knows absolutely everything about Capitol Hill operations. In fact, she pointed out how we were sitting in seats that were once assigned to both Barack Obama and Joe Biden (in addition to other senators – former and current). She also let us in on some fun facts concerning the decor and senators’ favorite snacks. After Mrs. Murphy, we talked with Democratic staffer Sherman Patrick of Senator Chris Coon’s staff.

Sherman, a William & Mary grad, spoke to the Fellows about his role in working for the committee as well as his personal viewpoints and frustrations. On a daily basis, Sherman collects information to assist Senator Coons in his policy making. He regrets the current partisan divide on foreign policy and explained how the press has the potential to make senators say different things, as everyone wants a good camera angle when it comes to an important hearing. Ultimately, Sherman thinks that Congress needs better vision and a reevaluation of its priorities to be most efficient.

Stacie Oliver, the national security policy adviser to Republican Senator Bob Corker, spoke with us next. One of the interesting points she discussed was the importance of military equipment sales to foreign governments. In selling armaments, the United States maintains pressure points on other countries, inspiring international change. She also noted Congress’ increase in polarization following the 2006 midterm elections, which makes creating bipartisan solutions to foreign policy issues difficult. I particularly liked how Oliver found her degree in Education quite beneficial, as creating order in a classroom of young children takes the same tactical expertise as keeping the attention of government officials in a briefing.

Lastly, we met with Melanie Nakagawa on a visit to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Nakagawa was a senior staffer on the committee for many years, specializing in environmental security and clean technology advocacy, until she was recently selected by Secretary John Kerry to join the policy planning staff at the State Department. According to Melanie, it is vital for the international community to cooperate and promote access to water in regions of Africa and the Middle East. Difficulty or inability to access water resources increases the probability of regional conflicts, or different political groups fighting to gain control of these resources.

In sum, during our visit to the committee, we were able to appreciate the role of the legislature in coordinating foreign policy, and the importance of bipartisan cooperation in addressing national security challenges domestically and abroad. Furthermore, Mrs. Murphy, the woman who welcomed us to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room, is also mother to our TA, Kathleen Murphy. D.C. strikes again! I swear the connections here are never ending.

We then drove to the discretely placed, unmarked, security-laden facility that houses the National Counterterrorism Center (N.C.T.C.). We had the opportunity to speak with several counterterrorism specialists and tour some of the building. It was indescribably cool. After leaving N.C.T.C., we proceeded to board the bus back home – but not without experiencing the infamous and ever-present D.C. traffic! Nonetheless, we made it to the Buchanan Apartments (or to our respective metro stops) in due time, excited for a weekend of rest and…rest.


Categories: Student Blogs, Study Away, W&M in Washington

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