Food for National Security Thoughts

May 23

Our two weeks of classes were dwindling down to two more days, and I began to realize that I wouldn’t be seeing Professor Floyd or my fellow Fellows every day anymore. Instead, I’d be at my designated internship (with Oak Ridge and Associated Universities), which probably wouldn’t consist of listening to such amazing speakers and discussing national security issues – well, maybe the latter. It was about time for change (yet again), but the week wasn’t over and Thursday was chock-full of great stuff, so I’ll stop being modillion and get on with my blog.

The first speaker of the day was Jessica Taylor from the Department of Agriculture (DOA). I was interested in seeing how she would link agriculture to national security because I understood that food can help or hurt the wellbeing of a population – which is important for a country’s stability, and thus, national security; but there are other components to ensuring food safety. We, as Americans, have much confidence in the food that we consume, and with the exception of calorie counting or allergy checks, it’s rare for us to question its quality or contents. Some may think that’s unfortunate, but I view it as a sign that protective food agencies like the DOA are doing their job. Taylor explained the phenomena of “agro terrorism”, where terrorists target food – making it extremely important that the DOA help protect our farms (which usually don’t have the best security). The DOA also handles nutrition assistance programs that are part of international aid, but has to ensure that these contributions aren’t being directed toward terrorist organizations within developing countries. Evidently, the DOA has a lot to do with national security; and it was a joy to hear from Taylor – a W&M alum who has a personality as fascinating as her past (which includes Secret Service training in the intelligence field)!

Our next speaker, David Solimini – from the Truman National Security Project – was no less fascinating, as he engaged us in a discussion concerning nuclear weapons, China, cyber-security, and the different schools of international relations theory. This was much like an overview – a broad review of everything we had been learning for the past two weeks (and for some of us, the past couple of semesters). It was interesting to hear Solimini’s views on the current world order – and his opinions on what steps the U.S. should take in dealing with terrorist organizations and transnational crime (both being quite slippery slopes). From our talk, I’ve learned that the U.S. has a demanding future in front of it; but we’ve had demanding times in the past, and with proper critical thinking skills, this country can get through anything.

Next on the agenda was a visit to National Public Radio (NPR). Located in the coolest, most modern building you can imagine, NPR was definitely a departure from the more formal, somewhat stuffy environments of governmental sites. As we snacked on free cookies, NPR journalists, Bruce Auster, Tom Gjelten, and Larry Abramson, discussed the ins-and-outs of being a journalist in today’s world. The government has certainly cracked down on intelligence-sharing, and government employees are discouraged from speaking with the press, making the search for information highly difficult. In addition to the scarcity of sources, journalists are also under constant pressure to be the first in getting the public its news – creating a stressful and competitive environment for those involved. However, NPR is both credible and distinguished, and everyone who worked there seemed honored and beyond-happy to be part of it. We all felt the same way, and some Fellows were inspired to describe their favorite aspects of NPR twitter-style:

  • The surprising casualness versus other offices – people having decorated offices, comfortable clothes…I heard someone yell at one point – “Yo, look at this Tumblr!” It was like heaven #NPR
  • Super sweet sound technology in the studios was awesome to see #NPR
  • Gotta love surround sound safari music in the recording studios! #NPR
  • Interesting in-depth explanations of how journalists protect sources and deal with classified government information that the public needs to know #NPR
  • COOKIES!! Just kidding. The open office environment clearly fostered a creative and fast-paced work environment #NPR
  • Rock’em-Sock’em Robots! #NPR
  • Whiteboard walls were nice. Maybe these should be put in the dorms #NPR
Categories: Student Blogs, Study Away, W&M in Washington

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