My ear being stuck to a telephone

                         Well, what a week it was. That must have been the busiest week I have ever experienced. I even had to work on Saturday and Sunday and I missed the Mexico vs Portugal game in a crucial match. But enough of what I missed and more about what I had to do overall. I think I communicated with as many people in the last week than I have in my entire life before arriving in the nation’s capital. As I confirmed in last week’s post, I had to reach out to literally 100 people to confirm that they were selected as one of the 100 most influential people for the Latino community in the D.C. metro area.

 

                        One of those people was the Mayor of this D.C. area. Muriel Bowser. I did not who she was before I arrived in D.C. Even as a political junkie, I wasn’t informed of anything related to her politics. I didn’t get to directly talk to her, but I was able to read into her story and what she does and how she got to where she is now.  She was a councilmember in the D.C. area, went to American University and got educated there. She basically lived D.C. from her beginnings. She is seen a huge role model in this community.

 

                     One thing I learned from last week was that journalism is much more than typing. I came into thinking I was only going to report and worry about putting my fingers to work. I was wrong. I think the most valuable thing I’ve done this week was communicating with people more than I ever will as a young student. I will cherish this crazy experience.

Week 3: What am I doing here?

At ASU, I am studying Molecular Biology and Finance. Molecular Biology is a field concerned with the central dogma of genetic expression from DNA to RNA to protein that drives life. Finance is a subfield of economics that deals with the study of assets and liabilities over time an how they behave under the conditions of uncertainty and risk. Although these fields are not really related, they both have very practical uses. Take for example, the company Google started by Sergery Brin and Larry Page. In the beginnings of the company, Larry actually changed Google’s philosophy in a radical way that changed the landscape of the tech space in Silicon Valley, he fired all the business managers and replaced them with managers with a strong engineering background. This revolutionized the way that companies do business, and has been a big reason why companies such as Google have been able to be so prosperous. This same movement is gradually happening within every field, especially now with the medical field. It would be foolish to assume that someone with a non-science background can predict the outcome of a research project or understand how much value next generation proton beam therapy can provide for an organization. After all, how can a person who has never been inside a clinical setting make such big decisions that influence healthcare? In my current role on the budget formulation team, both of my majors have helped me out in terms of being very proficient with Microsoft Excel and being able to understand the healthcare products that HHS carries out, making it easier to communicate programs to congressional staff to negotiate appropriations. I would say the most important skills for my role would be to be really good at skimming extremely large documents for key, specific information and being able to synthesize numbers and explain them in a clean and concise way.

The most important skill to have while being on an internship is to be like a sponge. At first, I was overwhelmed with the massive amounts of legal language that is plentiful in the budget world and the plethora of processes and terminology that one must be familiar with to be in this role. Although it was intimidating at first, I have really gotten used to most of the technical financial terms used in the budget world and have been able to gradually gain more and more exposure and responsibility in helping assist the team creating the budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

Something I have learned this week is to take no person for granted. I was able to meet some other federal government interns today at HHS and luckily learned all their names and what they were studying. Although they were all graduate level students, I still felt like I fit in well and it was great to here each intern’s unique experiences that led them to where they are now at HHS. It is important to make these connections with people your age because you never know when you might need them when your supervisor might not be available or you need help from a different department within the organization. In my role on the budget formulation team, it is actually very crucial to maintain good relationships with management in different areas of HHS to have a good understanding of future costs to create good budget allocations for the next fiscal year to avoid any potential recisions or sequestrations. With all that being said, I look forward to continuing the learning process and making value for HHS!

Lean Mean Peace Corps-ing Machine

Senator John F. Kennedy challenged college students in 1960 at the University of Michigan to serve the country’s goal of promoting peace by working and living in other countries. A year later, in 1961, President Kennedy officially began the Peace Corps with help from Sargent Shriver and his family. Peace Corps is a federal agency with an Office of Inspector General (OIG) that is overseen by the House Appropriations, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform Committees and the Senate Appropriations, Foreign Relations and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees. The defined Peace Corps’ mission is to “promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals: 1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women. 2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. 3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans,” (Peace Corps Website). Peace Corps volunteers also joke that the fourth goal is to find a spouse because a large portion of volunteers go into Peace Corps single and leave engaged or married.

The actual mission is accomplished by placing Peace Corps Volunteers in developing communities throughout the world. During their 27-month service commitment, Volunteers learn the local and possibly regional language, adapt to local customs and become completely integrated into the life of their new communities. Volunteers work in one of six sectors: community economic development, health, education, agriculture, environment and youth in development. While volunteers have an official goal defined by their sector and specific job title, they are also encouraged to take on a secondary project based on what the community needs and their own interests and skills. More than 200,000 volunteers have served in over 139 countries since its inception.

The Inspector General Act of 1978 was in response to a lot of government corruption around President Nixon’s time. It The initial act designated 12 large federal offices in need of inspector generals. Later it was amended to include small to middle sized offices titled ‘designated federal entity’ such as the Peace Corps. The Inspector General of a federal agency exists to provide oversight and detect fraud, waste, and abuse. They are usually made up of teams of evaluators, auditors, and investigators. The OIG has special agents in the investigator team who investigate crime that happens on overseas U.S. property and mismanagement by Peace Corps related to crimes. The Peace Corps OIG specifically focuses on building legislation to better protect Peace Corps Volunteers (such as the Kate Puzey Act and IG Empowerment Act), the safety and security of volunteers and the IT security of Peace Corps systems. The OIG is a really interesting and fairly unheard of part of the government that I suggest everyone learn more about.

In the office right now, I am juggling a lot of different projects. I already completed organizing and updating our congressional contact list and created a master bill list to track bills that affect inspector generals. I had a meeting with the acting director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships and Intergovernmental Affairs to determine who our key external stakeholders are so I can begin fleshing out the strategic communication plan. The strategy’s main goal is to make sure all of our stakeholders know who we are and where they can report fraud, waste, and abuse too. My boss and I met with the marketing team to get OIG their own Google Analytics dashboard so we can track our users a little better. Last week I went to the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s public affairs meeting at the Environmental Protection Agency’s OIG. The IG Empowerment Act of 2016 changed the reporting requirements for the OIG’s Semiannual Reports to Congress (SARC). Because of this, I have been evaluating how other inspectors generals updated the formats of their SARC’s to see if we should change our format or adapt others. I have also been editing two statement of works for two different contracts we need to have competed for as the last ones end. Lastly, I have been gathering data for and updating our annual presentation to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). I’ve been working with a special agent to ensure the data is correct as well as going through past SARC’s and presentations to pull the data. I’ve learned a lot about excel this week (i.e. how to create drop down lists and add up the number of times a string of characters occur in the spreadsheet). I have also been reading a lot about FISMA, FSA and the related laws and acts surrounding them. I created 17 tweets to be tweeted by @PCOIG about the Audit of the Eastern Caribbean’s post. They got high praise from my boss and the Deputy Inspector General so hopefully, they get a lot of interactions and traffic. I started listening to the ‘My Favorite Murders’ podcast on Feral Audio so I’ve also learned a lot about serial killers throughout the U.S. I started walking home from work as well and am now exploring the city and I feel like I’m learning more about the sidewalk life of D.C., the layout and the people in it. Overall it’s been a very informative week.

LeanMeanPCLoveLife

Thankful for Capitol Police

What a week it was… Let me start off by saying there is NEVER a dull moment in Washington, D.C. I woke up Wednesday morning around 6:30 a.m. The first thing I did was check my phone… I noticed I had a Fox News “Breaking News” update. The update read “Rep. Scalise, officer, and aide shot during baseball practice for upcoming charity game”, then right after I read that I started receiving multiple text messages from family members and friends back home in Arizona. Everyone from home was asking me if I was okay, if I was at the baseball practice, and so on. I, of course was not there, but I was confused on why because I did not read the article right away. When I read the article I started to understand why so many people were concerned on my behalf. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a congressional aide, and one U.S. Capitol Police officer were shot by a man with a rifle that very morning. Before the gunman went on his mass shooting spree he asked U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis, whether those playing baseball were Republicans or Democrats. So, Representative Ron DeSantis stated they were Republicans… when the party was identified the attacker started shooting at the members practicing. At that very moment, a bullet hit Majority Whip Scalise in the hip, a staff member in the leg, and two Capitol police officers. But thankfully there were no causalities other than the shooter himself. If it were not for Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s security detail, there may have been much more. The whole time I was reading this article I was in such shock, I could not believe it. These men were practicing for a CHARITY baseball game and out of nowhere a man started shooting at the members because they were Republicans and did not agree with our United States president. That morning I walked into the Rayburn building on Capitol Hill with an even greater sense of gratitude for the Capitol police. I have never seen so many security guards in one building than I did this whole week because of this incident. The mood on the Hill was very subtle and quiet, there was not much talk about it from staff and members because it was hard for many to speak on behalf of the shooting. Many gave their condolences and have been showing amazing support in every way.

 

Congressman Franks’ office is the light of my summer. Every one of his staff members are the nicest and most personable people I have been involved with. I have never been in an office where everyone gets along as well as they do, they are like one little work family. The district Congressman Trent Franks represents is very interesting. He is the Arizona, District 8 representative, which is Surprise, Peoria, Glendale, Litchfield Park, Goodyear, and Wittmann. His district is majority very conservative and what I have learned from phone calls was that they really appreciate the work he has done and is currently doing. Congressman Franks is on the Armed Services Committee which highlights the nation’s military including the Department of Defense, military research and development, and nuclear energy. He is also on the Judiciary Committee which oversees the administration of justice within in the federal courts, administrative agencies, and Federal law enforcement entities.

 

This week I learned to never take life for vantage. Since I have been in Washington, D.C. I have heard about more attacks than I have being in Arizona. I have never been so thankful and appreciative for the men and women that serve our country every day and risk their lives for us. We the people get to live our lives normally because of them. I learned we do not do enough to support the everyday heroes and show them how much they mean to us. So every chance I get to thank a Capitol police officer I do.

The Benefits of Being Politically Incorrect

The main lesson that I have learnt at the NDU CISA center is political correctness and principled positions on policy are counterproductive to gain security and keep world peace. Moreover, the security of the United States and its people sometimes rely on reaching quick agreements with its adversaries. It is an uneasy decision to renounce policies that have been enforced for decades, but those are tough measures that though are not ideal will succeed in providing stability. A perfect example of this decisions is to suggest to the civilian leadership that the U.S. Government should provide weapons and heavy equipment produce to “X” adversary in order to make “Y” ally stronger. It is not by far the perfect solution, but is the best advice that can be given to policymakers and military commanders. That is what the NDU does, find solutions, fast and efficiently. The faculty of the NDU CISA center is unique because influential and high quality scholars are in close proximity of each other. Next to the office of an expert in Middle East or Central Asia studies, there is a professor with a strong professional background from their service in the U.S. Army and was stationed in that region. This makes NDU’s research more credible on how U.S. forces and its allies can win in today’s complex battlefields. It requires courage to tell an American lawmaker that he or she has to support a bill that provides funds to buy Russian made weapons to equip the Afghan National Army. However, knowing that NDU is known for their fast and efficiency, supporting bills of this magnitude is possibly the best solution for the security of the United States.

There are many misconceptions about the military, the defense bureaucracy, and the intelligence community. Many people have the erroneous idea that many men and women in uniform are warmongers. The false belief that the people in the armed forces do not reconsider the consequences of going to war or to launch an attack over other nation is an enormous misunderstanding. Fortunately, the defense and intelligence community is made up with the most measured and thoughtful people that I have come to meet. They are very aware that sadly there are threats to the U.S. and its allies that cannot be solved by peaceful means, but they have in mind one golden rule: wars are costly, in lives and economic resources. In the NDU and the CISA center, there is a high skilled group of professionals that are devoted to developing the tools needed by the American Government to avoid wars and keep the nation safe. Through the halls of the NDU complex, you will see military personnel from all around the world. Soldiers from all continents, in uniform, representing armies from across the globe. Having this array of cultures, representing different religions requires a great deal from CISA faculty and brings out their diplomatic qualities. The goal is to solidify friendships with partnering countries, so tomorrow the friend will become an even better ally.

During this two weeks, my co-workers and I were given the great opportunity to assist classes given by CISA to a group of officials from countries around the globe from Europe to East Asia. It has been a great lesson not only by the content of the classes, but it has also been a great chance to listen to how men and women, coming from different countries, have the same worries. Mankind has been able to build an International Space Station, but also has created Chemical, Bacteriological, Radiological and Nuclear weapons–– CBRN ––capable of completely destroying our civilization in hours. It is vital to develop the cooperative norms, and the legal international framework, to force nations to take care of its arsenals. International agreements and treaties are the pillar of any strategy to deny terrorist groups the ability to acquire WMDs. America has to convince adversaries and friends to keep their doors open to inspections, because transparency is the golden rule to global stability. We need “to know” who has what, the amount of it and where.

The variety of weapons of mass destruction––WMD­­––that has been produced in the last century is frightening. Dirty bombs, anthrax, modified viruses give the name to some of the terrifying menaces that the U.S. and its allies have to be ready to face. Also new discoveries like 3D printers and laboratory equipment designed to manipulate in a “domestic” environment cells at genetic level, increase the burden carried over the shoulder of the peacekeepers.

However, thanks to centers like the CISA, we will keep the advantage over the enemies of peace. There are thousands of people working to develop detection devices able to warn ahead of time any threat that maybe tried to be shipped to the U.S. Moreover, the U.S. makes great efforts to convince friendly nations and adversaries that is in the benefit of all to keep hazardous materials, and substances that maybe used as weapons, under strict surveillance. I have learned how the U.S. with the help of its allies worked with the former Soviet Republics to improve the control over the radioactive materials left behind of the sad legacy of the communist empire. It seems that for many experts, diplomats, intelligence, and security agencies the Cold War has not ended; it even could be said that with the emergence of radical and extremist terrorist groups––Al-Qaeda and ISIL and rogue states like Iran, the Cold War is still going on and worsening. The NDU is a center that studies how to prevent Pandora’s box from opening. Therefore, having guest military personnel from all around the world, listen to their worries, exchanging knowledge and ideas with the U.S is the best strategy to avoid future conflicts.

We, the interns at the CISA had the honor to meet with the Chancellor of the NDU, Ambassador Michael A. Hammer. It was a very rewarding experience; his biography is very impressive. He spent his whole life dedicated to serve his country. He gave us advice on how to build a career in the foreign service, international relations and security establishment. Also he answered our questions with great attention and interest. I would like to mention his clarity in explaining how sometimes we have to sit with our adversaries and reach a peaceful agreement. Before resorting to violence it is worth to engage in dialogue and face our enemies in diplomatic negotiations. Ambassador Hammer also said something that I think is very important: words matter. We are in the age of instant-news, any important event that happens no matter how far away our borders in minutes becomes “breaking news.” Therefore, the public will demand an immediate response to those events, making the role of government officials and the duties of policymakers much more challenging. This environment requires thoughtful preparedness. Officials must always be ready to deal with any unexpected event. That is why words matter, because they must be measured carefully so their impact does not cause a backlash.

Mankind is living in a contradictory age, we are enjoying the largest period of peace in human history, despite all we may watch, listen, and read in the news, there has not been a major war since 1945. It is a contradiction because in one hand we have to renounce to some ideas and theories that were “the right thing to do”, but at the same time we have be politically correct in order to solidify friendships with allies. Measuring our words is an essential endeavor, because the U.S. needs more than ever to be “politically correct” to convince others to fight on our side. Through peaceful and sensitive dialogue, I am optimistic that we can maintain this period of peace.CISA - Interns & Ambassador Hammer

Lean, Mean, Cataloging Machine

The National Museum of Natural History held Staff Day for the first time in almost 15 years this past week. Staff Day’s intention is to allow the diverse array of departments the opportunity to showcase their work to others within the museum. The day began by touring the soon to open and much anticipated Narwhal exhibit and then moving on to the Fossil Hall which is under partial renovation. I opted for this opportunity over seeing inside one of the gem vaults though it was definitely a tough decision. By the time these tours were completed the museum was open to the public. The rest of Staff Day was then dedicated to the open houses of labs within the museum. My favorite lab that I toured was the Lab of Analytical Biology. I was unable to take any photos during my visit to the labs, unfortunately. In the Lab of Analytical Biology, LAB for short, I got to listen to some researchers talk about some really cool ongoing projects within the Smithsonian and those that are a part of outside contracts with other agencies and institutions. In an effort to keep it less technical and more interesting, I would describe the coolest thing I saw as essentially a barcode scanner for DNA. The machine could identify a specific species of an animal through insertion of a DNA sample like hair or a feather.

I got to see a lot of exciting things during Staff Day and also meet a lot of new people who work in all parts of the Natural History Museum. At one point in the day, I got a little lost trying to find one of the labs and made some new friends who work in the Entomology Department. We worked together to navigate our way through the winding halls to find the Paleobiology lab. Although my interests don’t lie with bugs, having these friendly interactions with staff outside of the Department of Anthropology can still lead to forming great connections and should still be taken seriously in efforts to expand my network.

Events like Staff Day are perfect for networking; I did my best during the event to speak to those around me about their role within the museum and be sure to introduce myself and describe my position in the anthropology department. I hope in the coming weeks to attend more events offered by the museum particularly the many intern and fellowship activities specifically those designed to help with career building. This coming week we have a “Lunch with an Executive” with the Director of Fundraising and Development. I hope to attend the event and leave with some new information and contacts. I will utilize these opportunities as they come over the summer to refine my networking skills as I know they can always be worked on. These events will also help me practice networking in the sense that I can work out some of my awkward kinks with my peers as opposed to maybe making those mistakes with established academics and professionals.

Since last week, I’ve learned some more technical collections skills in my internship. I’ve been able to run through the cataloguing from basically start to finish as opposed to just assisting at different intervals. I began by reading the only publication about the site I was to be working on to gain important contextual information about the materials I would then sort. The site that this is in reference to is a habitation site in the Lower Casamance area of present day Senegal. In particular, researchers who excavated the site in the 1960s (yes, that’s how long it sometimes takes for things to get properly cataloged) were studying shell mounds and middens formed by the inhabitants in what we currently believe to be during the Iron Age. After reading through the journal, I sorted the bags I was going to be working on from the site by provenience level. At this point, I was getting to the step I already had experience doing, which was sorting, counting, and labeling. I did also get to learn about how catalog numbers were assigned, some issues that come up when doing so, and the general practice of numbering in the department. Many of these skills seem tedious and boring but they are integral functions of museums and collections. These efforts also ease researchers who are interested in the collections to work through them efficiently and with a lessened chance of damaging items.

 

Ashley Marie, LLC.

I have been enjoying my time at the lobbying firm! I have been given many fun and exciting tasks. My typical day consists of going to committee meetings and taking notes on issues pertaining to our clients.The committee meetings can be complex, so it takes some time outside of the meeting to fully note everything that’s going on. The meetings generally are pretty quick-paced and sometimes I miss part of a member or witness’ testimony so I have to go back and look at the recording. This allows me to fill in the gap and make sure my notes are complete. Sometimes, when trying to capture everything, my notes come out not making the most sense. A funny example of this is the time that in my notes I wrote, “5G takes away the need for driverless cars. The industry. The car industry makes cars. It is going to be super but we don’t know what it is going to be.” It is important to check your work before sending it in because sometimes you can end up with a funny, but confusing, jumble of words. After the hearings, I go back to the office and write a memo to send out to the clients and the lobbyists in the firm. I reread my notes and then turn them into easy-to-read memos, highlighting what is pertinent to the client.

 Another fun part of my job is getting to go to special events. Last week, I attended a Politico Live event and learned about 5G and wireless infrastructure from an expert panelist. On Tuesday of this week, I am going to another exclusive Politico Live event about women in politics. I also have been able to go to several campaigning events and a few insider meetings. It is interesting to see the inside working of lobbying.

I also have been given the opportunity to work on a couple of special projects. I had to research and write about section 230 of the Communication Decency Act. I have gotten the chance to listen in on high-importance phone calls with big clients like Google. I have thoroughly enjoyed the different tasks that I have been assigned.

I report to multiple people. The main person I respond to is Marissa. Marissa is the glue that holds the office together. She wears many hats, from coordinating events to running the office. She is a light in the office. We also report to all the lobbyists in the office. When one of them needs a task done, they will normally come to us. It could be anything from researching a topic to arranging a conference room. Marcus, one of the lobbyists, is actually an ASU alumni! It is a great working environment because I get to experience different lobbying styles. My co-interns and I joke about opening our own nonpartisan lobbying firm. Keep your eye out for Ashley Marie, LLC (based off of our middles names).

This week I learned an insider tip about Washington, D.C. If you want to avoid all the children and tourists, go to the monuments at night! My roommates and I went to the Jefferson, the MLK, and the FDR monument last weekend. It was beautifully lit up and quiet. We had a chance to enjoy the monuments and spend more time there than we normally would be able to. It was stunning! Everywhere in D.C. will fill you with a sense of patriotism. I am glad I got to spend time with my roommates.

 This week, I am looking forward to attending a Google event. I hope to explore more museums this weekend. I cannot wait for the Fourth of July! I have a family member coming out to visit me, so I know it will be a blast (ha ha get the joke?). Washington, D.C. has been great to me and I am excited to continue my adventures here.