POLT Students Attend the 2017 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC)
Every year, the US Naval Academy holds a Foreign Affairs conference in Annapolis, MD where delegates from all over the world are invited to participate in various activities over a three-day span. The Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC) commenced in 1960 and has grown to be the leading undergraduate conference in the country. It has welcomed delegates from thirty countries in each of the last five years and has heard speakers as notable as President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. This year's conference focused on the question, "Are we in a new era of great world power?" and considered pressing issues across sixteen different round tables. Joe Scheidler and Abby Pokraka were chosen by Colonel Ingram to be his Spring 2017 Research Assistants, having each taken a class with the Colonel. Part of their duties were to attend the Naval Academy’s Foreign Affairs Conference as representatives of UNH. Each delegate who attended the conference was assigned to a roundtable at the beginning of March and wrote a paper pertaining to the specific topic of their round table.
Joe was placed on "The Final Frontier" round table, which discussed the militarization, commercialization and exploration of space. He detailed his experience with his round table: My roundtable was composed of nine students, including myself, as well as four Midshipmen from the Naval Academy, and two senior advisers. The two senior advisers were, Joe Edwards, a former NASA astronaut and Naval Aviator, and Randy Mamiaro, an industry-leading expert in space policy. We held some truly fascinating discussions, hashing out the issue of applying the rule of law to space operations, considering the notion of introducing sovereign territory to Mars as this new space race gets underway, and pondering questions like, “What defines a weapon in space?”, “Which military actions in space yield an adversarial response?”, “What would a proportionate response be under varying circumstances?” and, “What should constitute an act of war in space?” We drove deep into these questions and debated other topics ranging from the role of private companies in space, and the GPS targeting technology relations with inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), to the array of issues pertaining to space exploration and multilateral cooperation. In addition to these incredible conversations, I met students from all over the world which helped in stimulating the discussions, as there were many different perspectives and dissenting opinions. One of the students at my round table came from Greece, another from Kashmir, one from the Australian Naval Forces, another studying at Oxford University and the rest also held incredible origins and backstories. While forming new social connections with the members of my roundtable and other attendees at the conference, I was also able to connect with a gamut of professionals from across the globe and the DC area. Many were high-ranking military officials, including a senior JAG Corps Lawyer from the Navy. I plan to pursue a Juris Doctor degree following graduation at UNH and I have always been interested in the idea of serving as a JAG at some point in my career. Having the opportunity to speak with a Navy JAG was incredibly rewarding and insightful. In addition to meeting people from all walks of life, NAFAC presented a barrage of decorated speakers and panelists, each day of the conference. We heard four-star generals and admirals speak on what they believed to be the most pressing issues the United States and the rest of the world are facing now and what they can expect to tackle moving into the near future.
Abby was assigned to “Defining the Undefined”, which discussed what countries are considered threats to the United States’ superpower status and how to approach a possible shift in world order. She provided some insight on her round table experience: My specific roundtable focused on how to define the term “great power”, what countries pose a threat to American power and how to deal with them, and what type of world system (unipolar, bipolar, multipolar) would be ideal for the United States. My roundtable included four midshipmen from the Naval Academy, six students from around the country, and two midshipmen from South Korea. There were also two senior advisers; Captain Mark Golden and John S. McCain IV. Captain Golden graduated from the Naval Academy in 1960 and was a direct input to the Nuclear Power Program. He served on various nuclear submarines, commanding USS TECUMSEH, but has since retired. John S. McCain, son of Senator John McCain, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2009, following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Both senior advisers contributed helpful information that pertained to their areas of expertise but allowed the delegates to control most of the conversations.
The roundtable discussions were incredibly intriguing but were only a small part of the conference. Delegates also listened to speakers and panelists who discussed various topics ranging from great power competitions between countries to technology and cyber competition. To top it all off, the midshipmen were tremendous hosts. They took us on very intimate tours of the campus, showed us around the historic and gorgeous coastal town of Annapolis and took all the student delegates on a harbor cruise on the Naval Patrol boats. The Midshipmen referred to this outing as a “tour of the yard”, and it was an extremely enjoyable time. We had the opportunity to speak with the Captain, the crew ship gave us a tour of the engine and control room, and we were afforded a beautifully scenic view of the panorama. Across the three days, they carried out multiple formal lunch and dinners gatherings, with some being informal as we joined them for lunch in their dining hall one day. Our second night consisted of dinner and cocktail hour, which allowed the Midshipmen, faculty, military officers and the delegates to all converse in a far more casual manner than our roundtable setting. These conversations were just as intuitive, if not more so than the round table discussions. On our last day, the Midshipmen took us to the gift shop where the other delegates were overwhelmingly amused by all the “Beat Army” apparel and were given the opportunity to explore downtown Annapolis, or DTA according to the Midshipmen.
On the final night of the conference, we had a closing banquet where Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, former PACOM Commander, gave the closing speech. Our final night consisted of great food, a beautiful view, and amazing company. The conference gave delegates the opportunity to discuss topics that are pertinent to today’s world, learn from professionals who have worked within the international community and who could shed some light on areas civilians don’t know much about and make lasting friendships with the delegates they met from around the globe. It was truly one of the most amazing experiences, and we can’t thank Colonel Ingram and the UNH Political Science department enough, for providing us with this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Article written by POLT Students Abby Pokraka & Joe Scheidler