Elliott School Students Present Research on Russia, Eurasia to Defense Intelligence Agency
Each year, the Defense Intelligence Agency's Knowledge Lab asks experts from across the U.S. intelligence community to examine a national security issue using new analytic methods and innovative techniques. This year, for the first time, the DIA invited D.C.-area graduate students to participate in a parallel exercise. DIA officials were so impressed with a presentation by five Elliott School students that they plan to continue reaching out to students in the future.
Jeff Bowen, Stacy Groff, Richard Mereand, Gregory Panaccione, and Jason Richards, all M.A. candidates in security
policy studies at the Elliott School, were asked to assess areas of the world where changing demographics were affecting military power, and how those trends affected U.S. national security. Having studied together in a course on fundamentals of intelligence, taught by George Fidas, adjunct professor of the practice of international affairs and a former CIA and State Department official, group members used techniques from their class on writing national intelligence estimates.
"What we did was a writ-large version of our classes," Bowen said.
The group chose to focus on Russia because of its strategic importance to U.S. interests and because of the availability of demographic data, according to Richards. "We were able to find that Russia has been combating a series of negative demographic trends for quite some time," he said.
Through its research, the group found that though Russia was having trouble fielding conscripts, due in part to its falling population and to the poor health and education of its recruits, Russian military leaders have been able to compensate by modernizing their military in ways that use less manpower. The group expects that trend to continue, which should affect U.S. strategic planning regarding future bilateral and multilateral relations with Russia, according to Panaccione.
"Russia will continue to oppose missile defense and NATO enlargement and may rely more heavily on brandishing its nuclear arsenal as a means to a political end," he said.
On the same day the group presented its findings to officials from the FBI, CIA, DIA, and Office of Naval Intelligence, the office of U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates released a very similar report suggesting that Washington ought to maintain better relations with Russia.
The group presented at the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center, otherwise off-limits to personnel without security clearance.
"It was really exciting to meet with the intelligence officials on their turf," Bowen said.
The presentation was well received at DIA. Richard Cincotta, a National Intelligence Council demographer who was in attendance, invited the students to present their findings at the International Studies Association's 2009 annual conference in New York. Panaccione and Richards attended the ISA convention in mid-February and presented the group's paper, "Russia: Demographic Trends and the Projection of Military Power," on a panel about the projected global demographic landscape in 2025.
Groff said the project provided the group with intelligence-related experience that members could not have found elsewhere.
"It was very exciting to get to present our findings to the intelligence community," she said.
Panaccione agreed, and called attending the conference a rich experience. "I had never been to an academic conference before as a presenter, so I was eager to observe one from a different perspective," he said.