Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Uhh, what's an "offset"?

When I initially read the internship listing on AU's CareerWeb, the ad had mentioned "reporting annually to Congress on offsets in defense trade". And I'll be the first to admit that at first glance, I had no idea what that was really-- I thought to myself, "Uhh, what's an 'offset'?"

Naturally for my interview this was something I was going to have to learn about and be at least a bit well versed in. So of course I got down to research. Well as it turns out that offsets are the practice by which the award of contracts by foreign governments or companies is exchanged for commitments to provide industrial compensation. In the context of defense this could mean mandatory co-production, licensed production, subcontractor production, technology transfer, and foreign investment.

So how is this important at all?-- Well it's critical from a national security standpoint and when it comes to influencing foreign policy. It could increase the industrial capabilities of allied countries, standardize military equipment, and modernize allied forces. Suddenly, I started to get reminded of my days at DHS. Okay, so then I started to understand the relevance of these so-called "offsets". Information about these offsets eventually gets compiled into a report and sent to Congress. And apparently I was going to be doing that.

Well I thought that might mean I'd be making copies of the report. Standing over a Xerox machine or binding the reports, perhaps? Of course, I'm just an intern after all, right? Wrong. While the Bureau has a template of how the report is to be written, I'd be editing the report and crunching the numbers in it. I'd be helping write an actual report to Congress. I thought that was pretty cool.

So then came the day that I had to learn to do it. One of the analysts who usually writes the report was showing me to how assess data from the tables for a few minutes and then I was off. Much of the report was able to stay the same in terms of language but all the data would be different. Some of the calculations were a bit difficult to manage. And of course getting all of the data from DoD and the Census Bureau was a bit time-consuming. Soon though I got to plugging numbers and after awhile I had finished Chapters 1-4 of the Report. I think when I head back into the office on Friday I'll begin writing up Chapter 5. The finalized version will be out by the end of the year I think, so feel free to check out my handy work!

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