This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the State Department’s China desk as a member of the Kimsey Program. A ’62 West Point graduate, Mr. James Kimsey deployed to Vietnam and the Dominican Republic before leaving the Army to found AOL. Mr. Kimsey generously funds this program which brings ten service academy cadets and midshipmen to Washington, DC, for summer internships.
Each cadet and midshipman interned at a different government agency for three weeks. In addition, Mr. Kimsey organized meetings for the group with successful leaders in business, government, and the military. In a mere three weeks, we met with General Stanley McChrystal; Colonel Gregory Gadson, Director of the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program; Robert Kimmitt, former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury; and Chris Matthews. These interactive dialogues gave us a chance to ask many questions and learn from these successful individuals.
While interning at the State Department, I did everything from reserve a private dining room at a restaurant in Honolulu to coordinate a meeting with Chinese general officers. The desk officer also extended me the opportunity to sit in on a meeting between him and Mongolia’s ambassador to the U.S. In preparation for the Mongolian president’s visit to Washington, the desk officer needed to produce a joint statement with the Mongolian ambassador. I found the debate between the two extremely interesting, with each side deliberating over seemingly minute details. They spent several minutes deciding whether to use “agreed,” “acknowledged,” or “noted” for one sentence in the joint statement.
I gained significant respect for the State Department workers. The officers at the China desk worked ten to twelve hours a day- assuming no crisis or major meeting between the U.S. and China. These highly skilled foreign and civil service officers could all make more money and work fewer hours in the private sector, but, fortunately for our country, they choose to use their skills at the State Department instead. Many of the foreign service officers at the China desk had deployed to extremely dangerous countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
If you believe that war is just an extension of politics, then the relationship between DOD and DOS has always mattered significantly. But since future wars will likely involve terrorist groups in failed states, this relationship will become ever more important, and complicated. State, in conjunction with U.S.A.I.D., distributes the foreign aid that could turn these failed states around- if distributed appropriately. As shown by the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan, the State Department and the military are both more effective when they coordinate their efforts.
In addition to the State Department, Naval Academy midshipmen interned at other government agencies including the FBI, the DIA, and ATF. My internship afforded me the opportunity to access how another government agency works. I believe this practical experience will aid my decision-making as an officer.