Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting More Experience with "CFIUS"

As I had mentioned earlier, "CFIUS" stands for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. This group is essentially an inter-agency committee of the United States government that reviews the national security implications of foreign investment in U.S. firms and U.S. defense industry. Such that, should a foreign entity buy a U.S. company or part of that company, it is necessary to review that purchase because it could pose a potential threat. How about a for instance? Let's say that the North Korean government wanted to buy a U.S. company that produced long-range missiles-- as you can imagine this would set off a definite red flag. Usually, CFIUS cases are not nearly as dramatic as that one but I'm sure you are getting the idea by now.

Earlier on, one of my primary roles working with CFIUS was to create vetting lists for the analysts. I also needed to answer any questions that the analysts may generate that required a quick response. Basically, that entailed me reviewing all of the documents from the involved firms and getting myself familiar with the acquisition.

More recently however, I have actually been able to prepare briefs on prefiled acquisitions. In doing so, I examine the acquisition at hand and look at a variety of indicators (like the firms' market share of the industry or work related to government contracts for example) in order to assess the overall threat. Unfortunately, due to the confidential nature of the CFIUS cases, I cannot divulge any specific details on any of the cases I have worked on. I realized that most of the cases contain proprietary business information which is why they cannot be shared.

However, as time has gone on, I find each case to be unique and complex in its own way and in the end, they each turn out to be very important because of their potential impact on national security. So far I have prepared two briefs on prefiled acquisitions, and I am looking forward to doing more.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Site Visit from Professor Park

So the semester appears to be winding down and so it became that time for Professor Park to stop by and do a site visit at my office. Professor Park coordinates all of the internships for credit within the economics department at AU. In doing so, he reviews my work at my internship in order to make an assessment on my progress over the semester. As such, he comes to visit each student at their respective office and see what we each do firsthand.

Of course, the day that Professor Park visited my office seemed like the busiest day this semester. He was to arrive at around 11:30 and I was going to pick him up at Federal Triangle metro stop-- a few quick steps from my building. I realized I had gotten very involved with my work and hadn't been paying attention to the time. Soon enough it was 11:25 so I raced over to the metro to pick him up. It was important that I do this because, in order to access the building, Professor Park would need an escort to obtain permission to enter the building. Two metal detectors and 2 baggage scans later we were in. I took him up to see my boss-- Eric Longnecker-- so they could meet and talk a little bit more in-depth about what SIES does. After they met, Mr. Longnecker brought him over to my desk and I showed him some of the projects I had completed that day. I also got to explain what all of those were because just hearing the term "armament agreements" or "offsets" usually doesn't make much sense at first. Good thing I had been busy-- I had a lot to show him! As I was walking him out I started to talk with him about how the offsets report has changed over the years, about its practical application and about what we have been doing to improve it more recently. After that I escorted him out of the building and down the street to the national mall so he could relax a bit until his next site visit that day.

And that was about it. Otherwise, for the academic credit portion of my internship Iwill complete a somewhat lengthy paper describing the substance of my internship and then my supervisor will complete an evaluation on my work. Fingers crossed I do ok!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Latest Efforts: Assessing Armament Agreements

The majority of my time lately has shifted away from offsets since the report has been submitted. Since that time, I have spent most of my days at the office examining the feasibility of proposed DoD armament agreements. To explain this in greater depth, I think I will begin by explaining what an armament agreement is and how SIES is relevant to these agreement.

Essentially, a DoD component (e.g. Department of the Army, Department of the Air Force, etc.) will submit a proposal for some kind of agreement with a foreign entity-- usually a Minstry of Defense from overseas. The agreement could be for any number of tasks-- all somehow contributing to the advancement of DoD programs. They could simply be the proposal for the exchange of information or for the development new weaponry, aircraft, etc. DoD seeks concurrence from our office in this process. Our job is to assess the potential U.S. industrial base impact of the agreement and any export control implications of the agreement.

It is more difficult to understand this in abstract so I will give you an example. Let's say that the Army was interested in creating an information exchange agreement with the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence regarding the research of a helicopter. We will go on to examine the proposed information exchange. Is the information being exchanged in accordance with the ITAR? Is top-secret, secret information being shared? What costs are associated with it-- are they equitable? All of these are questions (among others) that we pose and analyze based on the proposal.

My first armament agreement was by far the most complicated strictly because of the number of countries participating in the agreement. Normally, there is 1 (maybe 2) proposed foreign partner. In this case, there were 27. Needless to say, there were far more issue areas to be considered, and far more time needed to assess the agreement.

So I will make my assessment, draft the review and send it in for approval/edits. Thus far, I think I have drafted reviews of 10 agreements. And at the pace they keep coming in at... I think I will have a lot more in no time!

A Welcoming Feeling...

Well, just this week I had to opportunity to meet with Matt Borman, as I had mentioned in my last posting. I knew the meeting wouldn't be long but I was excited at the opportunity to meet such a busy and high-ranking official within my Department. One of the analysts at my office escorted the other intern and I down to his office. We passed him in the hallway as we made our way down to his office as he was off to make one last stop before we could see him. He approached Victor and I right away to introduce himself. I found him particularly cordial and welcoming. He quickly returned and we had some time to discuss what he had been working on at SIES thus far and he went on to discuss his role and how he even got involved with BIS in the first place. All in all, I would say it was a good meeting and everytime I have walked by Mr. Borman since, he always makes a point to say hello. It definitely gives a more welcoming feel to what is the largest office building in Washington DC.

As it turns out, Mr. Borman told Victor and I that he worked with a man named Jim Jochum, who worked under the Clinton Administration there at Commerce. As he said the name, I stopped for a second and realized it was an old professor of mine from sophomore year. There are so many people within the AU community working in the government-- I really had no idea. The analyst who escorted us to Mr. Borman's office, Lani, actually did her graduate work at AU as well. Just another connection that made Commerce feel more familiar.

Victor introduced me to another AU student currently interning at BIS named Nick. It's nice to meet other interns at the office-- if not only for the networking, it makes lunch much more fun!