Lester Munson Speaks on Changes in Congress at February 23 Symposia

The Center for Advanced Governmental Studies was pleased to have Mr. Lester Munson, Chief of Staff to Senator  Mark Kirk (IL) speak before a full house at the symposia Wednesday night. 

Professors James Norton and Dorothea Wolfson with speaker Lester Munson

Mr. Munson shared the ways in which Congress has changed over the last 20 years in which he has been serving there, first as a Legislative Aide and Press Secretary to Representative Henry Hyde and later as a Senior Staff member on the House International Relations Committee handling African affairs.  Mr. Munson focused on three areas in particular:  the legislative process, campaign finance, and political communications. A theme of Mr. Munson’s talk was how much faster-paced Congress has become in recent decades in all of these areas.   For example, communications, as Mr. Munson pointed out, is governed by the internet and Twitter, which dictate immediate reactions (in contrast to the days of “snail mail” when stuffing envelopes to regional newspapers was the norm!).  The decline of the Committees’ role in the legislative process in favor of leadership’s role produces much faster bills.  For example, the recent health care reform bill was a product of the Speaker and the President, not the committees. Finally, campaign financing once ran at a much slower pace:  Mr. Munson shared that Representative Hyde would hold a fund-raiser once every 2 years, now congressmen are engaged in what some call the “continual campaign.”   

 Mr. Munson touched on all three areas with thoughtful insight and humor, along with fascinating anecdotes gleaned from his years in public service (which began, incidentally, with a baptism by fire – interning for Hyde at the height of the Iran Contra hearings!).  Students also came away with a better sense of the impact staffers can have on important policy matters (and even on important world historical figures, such as Nelson Mandela, who singled out Mr. Munson for a report he wrote as a staffer on the House International Committee).  Mr. Muson’s love and knowledge of Congress as an institution were deep and impressive, and it was a treat to have him share his experiences in public service at the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies. 


Info Session Recap: Summer Course in Israel

We had a good showing at last night's information session about "Politics, Culture and Security in Israel," a study abroad course we are offering during Summer Session II.  The course will meet in DC on July 14 and July 18, then students will spend the week from July 23 to July 29 in Israel, visiting key political and cultural sites and attending lectures.  We will spend several days in and around Jerusalem, and will also travel to the Golan Heights and Haifa.

Click here to access last night's presentation, which has details about the itinerary, accommodations and costs.  And more detailed information is available here.



GSS Professor Mara Karlin's new publications

Professor Mara Karlin, who developed and directed the recent GSS program crisis simulation of the Six Day War, recently published two articles on Mideast affairs.  

The first article, in The Daily Star, explains that if the Obama administration seeks to engage Syria, its appointment of Ambassador Robert Ford was a prudent move.

The second, a piece on the Foreign Affairs website, discusses the intriguing role played by Lebanon's Druze community. 

Professor Karlin teaches Political and Security Issues in the Middle East.  She was the Levant Director at the Pentagon in 2006-7 and the Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy in 2007-9.


Professor Iris Lav testifies to House Committee on Oversight and Gov. Reform

Last week Governmental Studies Professor Iris Lav testified at the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs.  The hearing was entitled "State and Municipal Debt: The Coming Crisis?"

Some of you have taken Prof. Lav's course on Problems in State and Local Government.  You can find a blog entry about her testimony, including a link to the transcript, here.

The pension issues that she testified about are hot topics lately, and are covered in detail here.

Professor Lav is a senior adviser at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


General Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, speaks at JHU

The Center for Advanced Governmental Studies was honored to welcome General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, who kicked off the Spring 2011 symposium series with a detailed talk about the role of the USAF as an indispensable component of U.S. national power.  

In the segment above, General Schwartz responds to MA in Global Security Studies student and Marine Corps veteran Andrew Scallan's question, "What do you see as the role of the Air Force in the next 20 to 25 years?"  Scallan asked the General to evaluate the argument that in the future, the Air Force may be needed only for support roles for the other services.

General Schwartz argued yesterday that the importance of the USAF has only expanded in recent years as the intelligence community’s insatiable appetite for real-time data and analysis has driven the Air Force to upgrade its remotely-piloted vehicle programs, increase the number of operators for these crafts, and fill out the roster of analysts that interpret the data.  

He also made extensive comment on the budgetary constraints which shape the evolution of the procurement agenda of all the armed services.  Arguing that American economic power is essential to military power, he called for fiscal discipline, which includes the need for the USAF to "tame our ambitions" for future technological development and acquisitions.  He also called on industry to deliver the systems that are promised on-time and under-budget, and on Congress to stabilize funding.

In a spirited Q&A session, General Schwartz addressed a wide array of subjects, from the potential of remotely piloted vehicles to change the culture of the USAF to a robust defense of the unique role of the USAF in facilitating the projection of power, which is the key both to America’s deterrent strength and its ability to protect the national interest when that deterrence fails.