With personnel from the State Department, Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies working together under one roof, the mission provides constant U.S. leadership, engagement, and direction on an incredible array of issues. From my position in the Civil Emergency Planning Office, I supported several U.S. initiatives that sought to enhance the civil preparedness and resilience of NATO Allies and Partners. Most prominently, I found myself deeply involved in formal and informal negotiations amongst Alliance members on a pledge that would ultimately be announced at the Warsaw Summit in July: the Commitment to Enhance Resilience. Through small and large meetings at the working level with foreign diplomats, my office slowly but steadily built consensus on the negotiated language while navigating at times treacherous diplomatic waters. By the end of the process, we produced a substantive text that represented a significant step forward for the Alliance as it continues to develop its capacity to resist armed attack in a rapidly changing security environment.
Simultaneously, our office led efforts to develop workshops, seminars, and other programs for NATO Allies and Partners on key topics like continuity of government that are essential to resilience. This work, in coordination with the NATO International Staff and other delegations, sought to enhance national capabilities by leveraging NATO and U.S. expertise and resources while developing common standards and requirements across the Alliance to enhance collective efforts and capabilities.
While it might not have been glamorous, this implementation phase of the policy process was critically important. Without constant attention and consistent attempts to engage national governments through their Allied delegations, things can quickly fall between the cracks, undermining the entire effort.
Looking back on this summer, I am most grateful for the opportunity to witness, support, and participate in diplomatic negotiations over a document that would be signed by NATO heads of state and government. As much as Georgetown prepares you for a career in foreign policy and national security, there is something truly special and incredibly valuable about being in the room where it happens. It’s an experience that shed so much light on how hard - but valuable - diplomacy can be, and it provided the unique chance to really see how nations choose to balance their competing and common interests.
This experience also increased my appreciation for the personal dimension of international politics and international security. At the end of the day, the integrity, character, and personalities of our diplomatic colleagues played a significant role in the success of our negotiations. With a different group of people, it is easy to see how negotiations could have taken a turn for the worse - and this applies to the U.S. delegation as well.
Above all, my time in Brussels has shown me that some of the most important policy contributions in national security don't come from above, but rather from below. In the run up to the Warsaw Summit, the U.S. Mission was fighting not only for Washington’s ideas but their own as well. As the men and women who serve every day in NATO Headquarters, they are incredibly well positioned to understand the Alliance’s potential and realistic enough to know its limits. Policy makers would be foolish to substitute their expertise with their own without a second thought.