As the POC for JSCNEC, I have the opportunity to travel to California for the Committee meeting. At LLNL, both delegations will tour the nuclear facilities and learn about the laboratory’s research and development. LLNL is a particularly fascinating nuclear laboratory because it is home to the National Ignition Facility, which is the world’s largest and highest energy laser. The National Ignition Facility’s goal is to initiate a fusion reaction with the high energy laser to imitate a nuclear weapon explosion. The facility maintains the reliability and safety of the United States’ nuclear deterrent without full-scale testing. Additionally, at LLNL the delegations will participate in a nuclear forensics demonstration where we will learn about the response mechanism to the detonation of a dirty bomb.
How does your internship contribute to the mission of national security?
At large, ISN is responsible for managing U.S. nonproliferation polices programs, agreements, and initiatives. The United States faces a preeminent challenge preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction to states and non-state actors with nefarious intentions. ISN leads the State Department’s efforts to combat this threat through bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.
My office, NESS, has the lead in developing U.S. policy related to peaceful nuclear cooperation policy, nuclear safety, nuclear export controls, and the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities. NESS serves a critical role in proliferation prevention because there is a thin line between civilian and military nuclear programs. NESS furthers U.S. nuclear nonproliferation goals by ensuring that countries do not cross the threshold from civilian to military nuclear programs and that countries secure their nuclear materials from non-state actor theft.
How will this experience help you in your job search and career?
Interning at the State Department has truly opened my eyes to the importance of interagency coordination and communication, which is critical for pursuing a career in the national security field. As the point POC for JCSNEC, I am responsible for coordinating with Civil Servants and Foreign Service Officers within the US Delegation from the State Department, high level officials from Argentina’s Delegation, officials from the Department of Energy (particularly the National Nuclear Security Administration), and engineers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Without coordinating among the interagency, executing JSCNEC would not be feasible. Understanding “who’s in the zoo”, not only gives me a greater understanding how policy is formed, but also exposes me to other agencies where I might pursue a career one day.
What was the biggest lesson you took away from this experience?
The biggest lesson that I took away from this experience is that you only need two things to be successful: 1. Confidence 2. The ability to step out of your comfort zone. Every week we have a conference call among the interagency officials involved in JSCNEC to plan the Committee meeting. My supervisor and I divided the labor in communicating with interagency officials by deciding he would manage the phone conferences and I would handle email correspondence. Before the phone conference, I briefed my supervisor what we needed to discuss on the phone call and the questions we still needed to be answered by our interagency counterparts. After I briefed him he looked at me and goes, “Do you want to lead the phone conference today?” My heart started pounding and I asked myself a hundred questions in my head. What if you don’t know the answer to a question? What if I’m so nervous that I can’t make a coherent sentence? What if I sound incompetent? What if I blank? Despite the anxious chatter inside my head, I eagerly said “Yes!” As I dialed in to lead the phone conference I thought to myself “Be confident. You can do this.” The end result: The phone conference was a success. In fact, it was such a success my supervisor gave me the lead for the rest of the phone conferences this summer for planning JSCNEC. Stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing my inner confidence led to a pivotal moment in my internship. Instead of listening and taking notes on the phone conferences, I am now leading them.