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Strauss Center Summer Update

Jun 8, 2020 |

I write to you at a moment of deep national tragedy, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The wave of courageous and compelling protests around the country that followed has been tremendously inspiring. Yet these same events at times have taken their own painful turns.  Peaceful protestors and journalists acting well within the rights enshrined in our Constitution in some places have been met, outrageously, with rubber bullets and tear gas, in circumstances having nothing to do with looting or the like.  Meanwhile, some have attempted to corrupt the protests with violence, and the terrifying specter of race-based domestic terrorism—illustrated by the recent terrorism-related charges against three men in Las Vegas associated with the violent racist “boogaloo” movement—has raised its head as well.

The work of the Strauss Center, as you know, is directed primarily at international affairs. But none of us can or should stand by quietly amidst these still-unfolding—and, it must be said, repeatedly-recurring—tragedies at home. We all have a role to play in overcoming hatred, as individuals, as neighbors, as colleagues, and as fellow human beings, and we must look for and seize opportunities to make a difference.  

Some of our programs, such as our Central America and Mexico Policy Initiative directed by Prof. Stephanie Leutert, already speak to this challenge routinely. I’m pleased to report, too, that our Intelligence Studies Project (a joint venture with our friends at the Clements Center) is sponsoring a year-long “policy research project” course at the LBJ School this coming academic year, focused on domestic terrorism. In a similar vein, our weekly “National Security Law Podcast” show (now averaging more than 9,000 downloads a week) has been focusing lately not only on domestic terrorism but also on the rights of protestors and the legal and policy issues raised by the federal government’s response to them, and will continue to analyze these issues as the summer progresses. Meanwhile, we are actively developing plans to ensure that our speaker series for the coming year will provide our students with recurring opportunities to engage with all of these issues and more. 

It is tempting to end this newsletter right here, without turning to the usual task of highlighting key aspects of the Strauss Center’s activities over the past year. But those activities reflect the hard work and talents of our wonderful students, staff, faculty, and fellows, and I would be remiss not to share the fruits of their labor with you. And so I invite you to read on, while also encouraging you to reach out if you have ideas for speakers or activities you would like to share with us. You can reach me directly at rchesney@law.utexas.edu

Respectfully,

Bobby Chesney, Director of the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law

Please read on for a brief set of updates on our recent activities.

1. World Affairs Speaker Series

2. Our New Site

3. Pioneering Cybersecurity Education

4. Space Security & Safety

5. Studying Migration and the Border

6. Our Brumley Students in D.C.

7. Our Newest Colleagues

1. World Affairs Speaker Series

What: With campus closed due to the pandemic this spring, we have continued our long tradition of hosting world-class speakers for live presentations by moving our World Affairs Speaker Series to Zoom.

Who: In the first installment in the modified series, Dr. Tamara Wittes of the Brookings Institution presented on U.S. policymaking in the midst of crisis and upheaval. Dr. Wittes served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs at the State Department from November 2009 to January 2012, coordinating U.S. policy on democracy and human rights in the Middle East during the Arab uprisings. Previously, she served as a Middle East specialist at the U.S. Institute of Peace and director of programs at the Middle East Institute in Washington. 

The second installment of this series features Ciaran Martin, head of the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (part of the UK’s GCHQ). As the chief executive officer of the U.K.’s premier cybersecurity organization, Ciaran has a unique vantage point from which to describe the latest cybersecurity trends and challenges. 

2. Our New Site

What’s New: Our website.

Why it Matters: It’s not easy to convey the wide array of high-impact programs underway at the Strauss Center. Our website is our “front porch,” introducing our people, programs, and events to the world.

From our renowned cybersecurity program to our emerging emphasis on space operations, the Strauss Center’s focus on the intersection of technology, security, and international affairs has deepened considerably in recent years. The new site drives this home, while also highlighting our national security law programs, our regional-challenge programs relating to Mexico and China, the Intelligence Studies Project, and much more.

We’ve grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, but the old site didn’t really convey that dynamism. This one does—click here.

3. Pioneering Cybersecurity Education

What: The Strauss Center has had an extraordinary impact through its nationally-renowned Integrated Cybersecurity Studies Program, which blends the study of technology, policy, law, business, and other perspectives that matter for cybersecurity. 

What’s new: 2019-20 was another big year for the program. Highlights include:

  • Launch of our Cyber Fellows Program for UT graduate students who commit to taking at least four courses from our roster of cybersecurity courses (20 students participated in 2019-20).
  • Partnering with the Atlantic Council for the second-straight year to host a student-focused cybersecurity policy competition at UT, with teams from around the nation coming to Austin to compete (and dispatching teams of Longhorns to compete in similar events in New York and Washington, too).
  • Publication of Strauss Center Director Bobby Chesney’s free eCasebook Cybersecurity Law, Policy, and Institutions v.3.0 (with nearly 4000 downloads of the book in its first three months).  
  • Securing our 4th grant from the Hewlett Foundation to support this program.

4. Space Security and Safety

Strauss at the intersection of space, security, and safety

What: As part of its fledgling “Space Security and Safety” program, the Strauss Center partnered with UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering and the International Association of Astronautics to host at UT (for the second year in a row) the 6th Annual Space Traffic Management Conference. The event drew a brilliant array of scientists, engineers, and policymakers discussing the latest research and trends relating to the security challenges in Earth’s increasingly-crowded orbital zone. If you are interested, you can watch the proceedings here.

Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar Dr. Moriba Jah was the moving force behind this event. He continues to be a national and global leader in this area.

Why it matters: The Space Security and Safety program embodies the Strauss Center’s deepening focus on the intersection of technology, security, government, and the private sector, and the conference was a particularly fun and interesting way to bring this topic alive for UT’s students.

5. Studying Migration and the Border

Regional instability continues to be a Strauss Center focus

What’s new? Three things: First, a year-long “policy research project” course led by the Director of our Central America and Mexico Policy Initiative (CAMPI) program, Stephanie Leutert, has just wrapped up. You can view the results of the students’ research here on our YouTube page.  Second, CAMPI has just released an extraordinary report on migrant deaths in South Texas over the past eight years; read it here. Finally, the May 2020 update on metering procedures performed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on asylum seekers at U.S./Mexico ports of entry is now available here.

Why this matters: CAMPI is one of the most well-established of the Strauss programs, focusing on topics that are particularly important for Texas. The “Beyond the Border” policy research project involved a tremendous amount of work by a wonderful team of LBJ students under Director Leutert’s guidance, and stands as a testament to the vitality of the program.

6. Our Brumley Students in D.C.

Look out D.C., here come the Longhorns…

What: This January, our undergraduate Brumley Scholars visited Washington, D.C. with Professors Stephanie Holmsten and Michael Mosser to meet with officials from a range of institutions including the House Committee on Science, Space and Tech, the American Council on Education, and the State Department.

Why it matters: The trip was a fine illustration of the incredible opportunities the Strauss Center generates for UT students. The Brumley fellowship program for graduate and undergraduate students—generously supported by benefactors Jon and Becky Brumley—is our marquee student fellowship. Each year, the undergrad scholars participate in a special course that introduces students from across campus to the world of policy, and this year the experience culminated in a remarkable field trip to D.C. itself. The students weren’t just site-seeing, though. They briefed officials at the offices they visited and led moderated dialogues with them. We are grateful to Professors Holmsten and Mosser for making it possible.

7. Our Newest Colleagues

New faces:  The Strauss Center (often acting in partnership with our friends at the Clements Center, the LBJ School, or both) has formed relationships with an exciting array of scholars and practitioners who are enriching the lives of our students. Some are (or soon will be) here at UT full time. Others are Austin-based experts from outside the University, and still others are non-resident fellows who join us periodically for short courses, events, and the like. But all of them are remarkable, and we and our students are lucky to get to work with them:  

  • General Vincent K. Brooks (ret.) – General Brooks is a recently retired four-star general whose storied career included concurrent command of the Republic of Korea-US Combined Forces and the United Nations Command in South Korea.  
  • Eric Greenwald – Professor Greenwald has held an array of U.S. government positions relating to cybersecurity, including that of Senior Director for Cybersecurity on the NSC Staff, Deputy Director of Operations at U.S. Cyber Command, and Principal Deputy Director of the FBI’s National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force.
  • Sheena Chestnut Greitens – Dr. Greitens, who will join the LBJ School this fall as an associate professor, is a renowned expert on matters relating to China, North Korea, national security, and authoritarian governments.
  • Michele Malvesti – Dr. Malvesti has taught at Yale and the Fletcher School, and previously served as the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Combatting Terrorism Strategy.
  • General Robert B. Neller (ret.) – General Neller was the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, among many other celebrated commands in his career. 
  • Seth Nielson – Dr. Nielson, founder and Chief Scientist at Crimson Vista, is a network security expert with a knack for making technical concepts accessible for non-technical audiences. 
  • Michael Schmitt – Professor Schmitt is one of the world’s leading authorities on the application of international law to cyber operations, and a Texas Law alum to boot.
  • Nick Rasmussen – Nick Rasmussen was the Director of the U.S. Government’s National Counterterrorism Center from 2014 to 2017. 

We are proud to be associated with such talented and accomplished individuals.

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