ISD Graduate Students Brief White House Officials on Guantanamo Bay

Students in the ISD Capstone class on "Marketing America's National Security Policy" spent the spring 2016 semester learning to draft and deliver concise narratives to explain national security policy objectives to multiple stakeholders, including the American public, U.S. Congress, and the international community. Capstone classes are a requirement of the new ISD Certificate in Diplomatic Studies, offered to all graduate students within the School of Foreign Service.

After examining the nuances of the policy debates and decisions surrounding key national security issues of the Obama Administration—including the Iran nuclear deal, the diplomatic opening with Cuba, and U.S. counter-terrorism operations—the class worked individually and as a group to provide recommendations on how to achieve President Obama's goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility (GTMO). Throughout the semester the students spoke with senior U.S. government officials, human rights officials, lawyers, Capitol Hill staff, think tank experts, and other parties to learn more about this contentious issue. They also had the opportunity to spend a day at the White House, where they attended the Daily Press Briefing and met with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to learn more about the art of communicating national security policy.

A key goal of the course was for students to learn how to communicate policy recommendations to a wide variety of audiences. For their final project, the students drafted a joint report outlining specific policy and communications recommendations the Administration should take on the GTMO closing. On April 27 the class presented its findings to a panel of experts, including Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications; David Newman, Office of the White House Counsel; Class Instructor and ISD State Department Fellow Bernadette Meehan; ISD Director of Studies Jim Seevers; and ISD Fellow Col. Michael Pratt. After their 20-minute presentation, the class answered questions from the panel members, defending and further detailing their GTMO recommendations. At the conclusion of the class, the students had the chance to ask questions of Rhodes and Newman, and gained valuable insight into White House thinking on the path forward to closing GTMO.