For former Secretary of Defense and UNO alumnus Chuck Hagel, the world is a much different place than when he first entered public office in 1997.
With conflict in the Middle East; a growing threat in the well-financed and media-savvy ISIS; refugees fleeing dictators across the globe; and cyber-terrorism as one of the most immediate threats facing the United States, he says that there is “no part of the world that doesn’t affect every other part of the world.”
It is because of this “new world order,” in Hagel’s words, that partnerships between the military and academic institutions are more vital than ever.
The setting for this vision of the future from the former head of the Pentagon was a gathering of military and academic leaders who were on the UNO campus for the inaugural Assurance and Deterrence Conference and Workshop, which took place Thursday, March 3, and Friday, March 4.
Hagel provided the conference’s opening keynote and was joined by the commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), Adm. Cecil Haney, and UNO Chancellor John Christensen in speaking to conference participants, made up of USSTRATCOM officials, researchers from universities around the country, and several dozen UNO political science students, about the importance of avoiding international conflict in order to protect national security, particular in the case of nuclear weapons.
“Deterrence isn’t easy,” Haney said. “We need to inspire and develop the next Thomas Schelling or Henry Kissinger to address 21st century deterrence, assurance and escalation control issues. This is why it is so important to me to have an academic alliance with universities across the country.”
The choice for UNO to hold this conference, one of the first of its kind, follows on the heels of being named the best four-year university for veterans for a second straight year.
The achievement places UNO as a leader among its peers in military-focused partnerships, including within the USSTRATCOM’s Academic Alliance, which was founded in 2014 as a way to stimulate new thinking and develop future generations of deterrence practitioners. Since then, 23 local and national universities, including three of the four University of Nebraska campuses, have teamed up with the command to confront the challenges in the increasingly complex security environment in which USSTRATCOM operates.
“As one of the first institutions to join the alliance, we were excited to be the host for the inaugural conference and to bring alliance members together,” explained conference co-chair Lana Obradovic, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science at UNO. “When we began planning this event with USSTRATCOM back in November, we were expecting less than 100 participants but ended up hosting 220, so it really exceeded our wildest expectations.”
We need to inspire and develop the next Thomas Schelling or Henry Kissinger to address 21st century deterrence, assurance and escalation control issues. This is why it is so important to me to have an academic alliance with universities across the country.
- Adm. Cecil Haney (USSTRATCOM Commander)
USSTRACOM’s Academic Alliance members support USSTRATCOM and the program by promoting research topics within their departments; participating in workshops, speaking engagements and panels; and populating an electronic database with research papers and proposals on subjects related to the command’s global strategic missions.
The two-day conference featured an interactive tabletop exercise hosted by USSTRATCOM, paper presentations from scholars, panel discussions from security experts and workshops on topics such as model diplomacy and war games.
Among the papers presented were three UNO projects featuring the work of nine undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Political Science. The students are part of the department’s Intelligence Community Scholars program and will be the next generation of experts on the topics of national security and nuclear deterrence.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Robert Hinson, who was on-hand for the remarks and discussions, has first-hand experience on both sides of the Department of Defense relationship with academic institutions. In addition to his current role as the founding executive director of the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska - one of 13 University Affiliated Research Centers (UARC) in the nation - he is also a former USSTRATCOM deputy commander.
Hinson said military organizations have collaborated with academic institutions and UARCs as far back as World War II. He noted the importance of receiving an “academic perspective” in key areas of interest.
“I think the academic community brings a different insight to what technology is out there versus what the military has to deal with on a day-to-day basis,” he said during a University of Nebraska leadership visit to USSTRATCOM Headquarters in January.
As home to the USSTRATCOM Strategic Leader Fellowship Program for the past three years, as well as a uniquely focused Center for Collaboration Science, UNO is just beginning to explore what research and educational possibilities exist at the forefront of addressing national, and international, security.
“The importance of collaboration with institutions like the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and others, is critically important,” Hagel said during his address to conference attendees. “The help that’s going to be required for our government and for our military and our intelligence agencies is very much now dependent on relationships outside those institutions.”
* The USSTRATCOM Public Affairs Office assisted with the content in this story *
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