Developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP) works to address global health security issues by collaborating with other states to reduce threats caused by biological warfare and infectious diseases (1). The CBEP was first developed as a nuclear nonproliferation program, previously named the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (2). However, the program has developed over time with a stronger focus on biological, chemical, and radiological threats, in response to a growing number of incidences, such as the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic and the 2014 Ebola crisis (2). Today, the CBEP engages with 30 countries around the world (2).
On Wednesday, July 13, 2016, the CBEP opened a new facility in Yerevan, Armenia, which will help the country build its disease prevention network. According to U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Richard Mills Jr, this new partnership with Armenia “benefit[s] not just Armenia…but the larger world…in today’s globalized and interconnected world, diseases have no boundaries…we must all work together to prevent the proliferation of bioweapons” (3). In addition to the new facility, the CBEP recently finished renovations of two separate laboratories in Armenia, and is set to open three more facilities next year (3). Not only is the CBEP’s presence in Armenia a realization of the CBEP’s vision, but the initiatives there represent a huge diplomatic success, presenting the United States as a force for peaceful collaboration towards wellness around the globe, not just in the U.S.
Some of the CBEP’s current responsibilities include monitoring facilities that handle hazardous materials, eliminating “unnecessary stockpiles” of dangerous materials and waste, improving disease detection capabilities, and updating public health measures (2). During a recent DoD interview, CBEP chief Dr. Lance Brooks reported that the program’s purpose is to help partner states “safeguard and secure any biological material they may have for public health purposes, [and] to give them the capability to detect, diagnose and report incidents focusing on weapons of mass destruction, related bio threats and bio material” (2). In order to keep the CBEP initiatives organized and connected, the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency runs offices around the world (2). According to Dr. Brooks, physically stationing CBEP representatives out in the areas they service is crucial to the success of the program, which was built out of a vision of human presence and cooperation, rather than remote oversight (2).
In 2005, the CBEP began collaborating with the World Health Organization to establish a stronger presence in infectious disease prevention, supplemented by a 2009 memorandum creating ties with the national departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, among a myriad of other international organizations (2). Describing the CBEP’s vision and goals, Dr. Brooks explains, “we want [the states we work with] to be able to detect diseases beyond everyday acute diseases like cholera, tuberculosis and others, but it has to be integrated into the everyday job and function they're doing, otherwise they can't sustain it” (2). For example, during the initial outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014, the CBEP was one of the first organizations to develop and distribute diagnostic kits and contribute to preliminary work on the ZMapp drug (4).
The CBEP boasts a wide range of detection and prevention technologies, most notably what is known as the Biosurveillance Ecosystem. The Biosurveillance Ecosystem is a virtual network that “uses commercial and government technologies to aggregate and analyze data streams,” using many different types of data from different sources, including social media (5). The system was developed after a series of organized visits with several biosurveillance organizations in 2011, where the CBEP learned about common practices surrounding biosurveillance in different countries and assessed their needs (5). Following the visits, the CBEP began development of the Biosurveillance Ecosystem, melding different existing data collection methods and filling several gaps they noticed during their field research (5). Although the Biosurveillance Ecosystem is primarily a data sharing network accessed over the internet, it is highly customizable, offering a wide range of security options such as the ability to restrict and privatize certain data sets or applications (5). Given the huge amount of data sourced by the program, some of which is subjective, some experts were concerned about the quality of information in the database (5). To mitigate those concerns, the program allows analysts to rank all of the incoming information based on their confidence level in its reliability (5). The informed, real-time, easily accessible data provided by the Biosurveillance Ecosystem gives the CBEP an edge that allows them to respond quickly and effectively to any emerging threats. In addition to the Biosurveillance Ecosystem, the CBEP also uses an e-mail service called the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, which provides steady, real-time updates to subscribers. It is used mostly by doctors, scientists, and public health workers for any news regarding infectious diseases.
Over the years, the CBEP has significantly redirected its endeavors away from warfare and nuclear nonproliferation, and towards public health service and disease prevention, filling a much needed but previously neglected role. As seen in Armenia earlier this month, the program’s continued expansion into countries that lack adequate protection from biological threats has already made a huge impact on their defense infrastructures, regardless of whether the threats they face are caused by intentional or accidental exposure to dangerous pathogens (1).
(1) The U.S. Department of Defense. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The CBEP Research Strategic Plan: Addressing Biological Threat Reduction Through Research. Dtra.mil. U.S. Department of Defense, June 2015. Web. 21 July 2016. http://www.dtra.mil/Portals/61/Documents/Missions/CBEP%20Research%20Strategy_FINAL_July%202015.pdf
(2) Pellerin, Cheryl. "DTRA Program Helps Nations Tackle Biological Threats." Defense.gov. U.S. Department of Defense, 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 21 July 2016. <http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/689971/dtra-program-helps-nations-tackle-biological-threats>.
(3) Ghazanchyan, Siranush. "U.S. Embassy Works with Armenian Government to Protect Nation from Disease." Armradio.am. Public Radio of Armenia, 13 July 2016. Web. 21 July 2016. <http://www.armradio.am/en/2016/07/13/u-s-embassy-works-with-armenian-government-to-protect-nation-from-disease/>.
(4) Pellerin, Cheryl. "DoD Chemical-Biological Program Has a Global Mission." Defense.gov. U.S. Department of Defense, 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 21 July 2016. <http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/649239/dod-chemical-biological-program-has-a-global-mission>.
(5) Pellerin, Cheryl. "DTRA Scientists Develop Cloud-Based Biosurveillance Ecosystem." Defense.gov. U.S. Department of Defense, 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 21 July 2016. <http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/681832/dtra-scientists-develop-cloud-based-biosurveillance-ecosystem>.
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By sharing costs with Japan, the United States has been able to develop more advanced missile defense technology, both protecting Japanese territory and securing the safety of U.S. officers in Japan, home of the U.S.’ largest deployed naval fleet (1). Although both Japan and the U.S. share the benefit of geographic isolation, new weapons developments weaken the geopolitical advantage of being surrounded by water, especially with Japan’s close proximity to North Korea (1). Despite its distance from the U.S., North Korea’s extensive nuclear arsenal is as threatening to the U.S. as it is to Japan, with some of the largest U.S. military bases in the world stationed in Japan. Consequently, the U.S. has heavily financed ballistic missile defense projects, bolstering its existing programs by pooling resources with Japan in service of their mutual interests (1).
Aside from building a relationship with Japan, the U.S. has also pursued similar defense initiatives with China, such as the establishment of a Joint Center for Nuclear Excellence in 2011. America’s simultaneous cooperation with Japan and China, while keeping the U.S. in a favorable position, has created a complicated “triangular relationship” between the three countries (2). While the U.S., Japan, and China are all dedicated to the denuclearization of North Korea, significant tension remains between Japan and China, given their history of conflict and continued hostility over disputed territory in the East China Sea (1). Given the strained relationship between Japan and China, the possibility of a conflict erupting between them still remains, explaining why China’s recent military buildup is a such a concern for Japan (1). Furthermore, while a similar conflict between the U.S. and China is less likely, given their recent nuclear security collaboration, China’s military advancements—particularly the development of multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, or MIRVs, is still worrisome to the U.S. as well (3).
While the developments in China only increase Japan’s trepidation, Japan has reason to remain confident in its capabilities. Not only has Japan invested more in missile defense than any other Asian country (1), but Japan also maintains its own mature and comprehensive security relationship with the U.S., dating back to the 1980s. The U.S. and Japan rely heavily on each other in national security, having co-created a two-tiered ballistic missile defense system that includes both Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors to protect from both sea and land-based attacks (1). In addition to their already successful collaboration, the U.S. and Japan have another co-funded, co-developed defense project in the works that will upgrade already existing destroyers, which are to be deployed in 2018 (1). Even with a much smaller defense budget to work with, Japan contributed $85,376,154 to the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor project in the 2015 fiscal year alone, in conjunction with America’s $263,695,000 that same year (1). According to official budget reports from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Japanese Ministry of Defense, Japan’s contributions to the program have saved the U.S. a substantial $431 million as of 2015 (1). Thus, the collaboration between the U.S. and Japan has been hugely beneficial for both countries, enabling them to maximize their resources and make significantly more progress as a joint force, especially during a period of financial stress for both (1).
(1) Hoff, Rachel. "U.S.-Japan Missile Defense Cooperation: Increasing Security and Cutting Costs - AAF." Americanactionforum.org. The American Action Forum, 2 Dec. 2015. Web. 06 July 2016. <https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/u-s-japan-missile-defense-cooperation/>.
(2) Goldstein, Lyle J. "America's Big Opportunity to Lower Tensions in Asia." Nationalinterest.org. The National Interest, 2 Sept. 2015. Web. 06 July 2016. <http://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-big-opportunity-lower-tensions-asia-13758>.
(3) Wheeler, Travis. "China's MIRVs: Separating Fact From Fiction." Thediplomat.com. The Diplomat, 18 May 2016. Web. 06 July 2016. <http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/chinas-mirvs-separating-fact-from-fiction/>.
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This year, the Pentagon will spend $2 billion on weapons to protect the United States from growing threats in outer space, only a fraction of a larger $5 billion investment in space warfare (1). Once merely a staple of science fiction films and conspiracy theories, space warfare has become a serious matter of national security. The prospect of an actual war in space first became a concern for the U.S. in 2007, when China clearly demonstrated their ability to wage war beyond the boundaries of the Earth’s atmosphere (2). As part of a military experiment, China demolished one of their own satellites in “a burst of energy that, if it were visible light instead of infrared, would have been a hundred thousand times brighter than the sun” (2). In the years following the demonstration, the U.S., China, and Russia have all directed large amounts of resources towards further developments in space warfare. In a defense report written in November 2015, the U.S. actually singled out China’s Counterspace Program as a focal point for the military (2).
While we can take some comfort in existing limitation agreements such as the 1966 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits the use of nuclear warfare and “other weapons of mass destruction” in space (3), the treaty offers no protection from quieter attacks that need not involve actual explosives to do serious damage (1). As military journalist David Axe writes, “It’s hard to say exactly how many weapons are in orbit…With the proverbial flip of a switch, an inspection satellite, ostensibly configured for orbital repair work, could become a robotic assassin capable of taking out other satellites with lasers, explosives or mechanical claws. Until the moment it attacks, however, the assassin spacecraft might appear to be harmless” (2).
Axe’s point of course raises the unnerving suspicion of whether there are existing “sleeper weapons” already out in orbit, simply waiting for the right moment to strike (2). More than any other country, the U.S. military relies heavily on satellites, a vulnerability that our potential enemies are well aware of. As China and Russia gain the ability to disable American satellites with increasingly advanced anti-satellite technology that is not always detectable, the U.S. must act quickly to ensure they are prepared to fight back in the face of an attack (1).
(1) Palmer, Coburn. "Pentagon Spending $2 Billion on Weaponized Satellites to Fight War in Space." Inquisitr.com. The Inquisitr, 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.inquisitr.com/2920300/pentagon-2-billion-weaponized-satellites-war-in-space/>.
(2) Manaugh, Geoff. "The Growing Risk of a War in Space." Theatlantic.com. The Atlantic, 21 June 2016. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/06/weaponizing-the-sky/488024/>.
(3) "The Outer Space Treaty." Unoosa.org. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, 2016. Web. 24 June 2016. <http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html>.
Image: © Pixac | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-satellite-earth-image9960534#res14972580">Satellite and earth</a>
As of this very moment, an estimated 4.9 billion smart devices are connected to the internet (1). For reference, that’s 1.7 billion more things than humans that are currently accessing in cyberspace (1). When smart technology was first introduced into our everyday lives through the smartphone, it was revolutionary. Now, we don’t even call our cellphones smartphones anymore, because the idea of having a cellphone that can’t think for you is, well, unthinkable.
In 2016, we don’t just have smart cellphones; we have smart cars, smart refrigerators, smart television systems, smart watches, smart Barbie dolls, smart parking meters, smart streetlights, smart cameras, smart thermostats, smart fire alarms, smart sprinkler systems, smart light bulbs, smart speakers, smart dog collars, smart baby monitors, and smart door locks, just to name a few. Smart objects like these that have the ability to communicate and share information via Wi-Fi or the internet are collectively referred to as the Internet of Things, or IoT (1). Not only does the IoT make our lives easier and more efficient, but it also boosts our economy, creating jobs and adding trillions of dollars to the global GDP. In fact, GE Digital estimated in 2015 that the IoT is likely to add 15 trillion dollars to the global GDP by 2035 (1).
Undoubtedly, the IoT has the potential to do great things for us in the future, but the question remains whether it is safe (2). The IoT is transforming the way we go about our everyday lives at an alarming rate, most notably in the automobile and healthcare market, where smart technology is in increasingly high demand (1). In an interview with NBC News, Tripwire security expert Lane Thames warned, “While the emergence of new smart products might be exciting, very few of these devices are designed and developed with cybersecurity and data privacy in mind. Often, a skilled hacker can break into a new IoT device within a matter of days, if not hours (3).” These days, hackers don’t need sophisticated skills nor do they need a lot of money to do serious damage, which is why we must take extra precautions to protect ourselves from security breaches. As Thames suggests, the idea of a hacker having access to your car or television is frightening enough (3). But as the IoT becomes increasingly integrated into our healthcare system with technology like patient monitoring, we also have to worry about hackers gaining access to our most sensitive personal information (3). According to a report published last year by the Raytheon and Websense Security Labs, the healthcare industry already faces 340 percent more cyber attacks than the average industry (3).
While there are plenty of private security companies out there working to prevent cyber attacks, the rapidly growing IoT might necessitate government involvement in cybersecurity measures (3). According to Jeff Hill, Spokesperson for STEALTHbits Technologies, “As international cyber threats increase and cyber warfare tactics are increasingly used by America’s high profile enemies—ISIS, North Korea, Iran—the pressure to do something at the federal level will provide politicians an attractive issue in an election year (3).” In order to prevent the collective of security weaknesses in the IoT from becoming a weapon in the hands of our enemies, the government will need to take action. Unfortunately, however, formulating a standard security protocol for all devices that transmit and receive information takes time. Achieving consensus from every company that makes products with smart technology is no small task, but it is one that the government must undertake in light of the rampant growth of the IoT (1).
(1) Whyte, Alisa Valudes. "The Future of the Internet of Things Is Amazing, If We Don't Muck It Up." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alisa-valudes-whyte-/the-internet-of-things-future_b_8640360.html>.
(2) Weise, Elizabeth. "Hacking the Internet of Things Looms over CES." Usatoday.com. USA Today, 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/01/01/internet-of-things-security-privacy-concerns/78035646/>.
(3) Wagstaff, Keith. "Hack to the Future: Experts Make 2016 Cybersecurity Predictions." Nbcnews.com. NBC News, 2 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 June 2016. <http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/hack-future-experts-make-2016-cybersecurity-predictions-n486766>.
Image: © Nils Ackermann | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-illustration-internet-things-iot-cloud-computing-concept-connected-devices-world-wide-web-vector-illustration-icons-image64419235#res14972580">Internet of things (IOT) and cloud computing concept for connected devices in the world wide web</a>
In January 2011, the United States signed an agreement with the People’s Republic of China establishing the Center of Excellence in Nuclear Security (CoE) in China. The agreement allows the U.S. Department of Energy and the Chinese Atomic Energy Authority to collaborate in the field of nuclear innovation and security, with a special emphasis on training. According to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, “This agreement reflects the commitment of the two governments to strengthen their cooperation in nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear security, and in combating nuclear terrorism and represents a major step forward in implementing the global nuclear security outlined by our two Presidents (1).”
In March 2016, the U.S. and China reinforced the ties formed through the CoE by releasing a joint statement announcing their intent to continue to join forces in nuclear security. The statement outlines a handful of focal points for the U.S. and China, including the development of more advanced nuclear reactors, initiatives to counter nuclear smuggling by terrorist organizations, and preventative measures to reduce the dangers associated with nuclear radioactivity (2).
When asked about the security relationship between the U.S. and China following a series of nuclear summit meetings in March, President Barack Obama said that the two countries are particularly dedicated to the “denuclearization” of North Korea (3). However, in light of the unfriendly history between the U.S. and North Korea, attempts at stabilizing the Korean Peninsula have proved difficult. Although the United Nations Security Council has already issued several sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear program beginning in 2003, North Korea has continued to display nuclear aggression ever since the U.S. used nuclear threats against the regime in the Korean War (4). Nonetheless, President Obama has expressed that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are looking to the UN to enforce further sanctions on North Korea (3). Despite the U.S. and China’s collaboration and the support they have received from the UN against North Korea, North Korea continues to push back, conducting more missile tests in violation of the UN sanctions. In an informal letter vilifying China’s involvement with the sanctions, the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of North Korea reportedly called for an unabashed nuclear confrontation with China (3). According to North Korean foreign minister Lee Su-Yong, “In response to the U.S. frenzied hysteria for unleashing a nuclear war…we state resolutely about the readiness to deliver a pre-emptive nuclear strike (3).” For the U.S. and the international polity as a whole to remain strong in the face of North Korea’s hostility, it is crucial that China participate in spite of the nuclear threats. Only with serious pressure from China, North Korea’s most important trading partner, can the UN hope for some compliance from North Korea (5).
(1) "U.S., China Sign Agreement to Establish Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security." Nnsa.energy.gov. The National Nuclear Security Administration, 19 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 June 2016. <https://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/chinacenterofexcellence01.19.11>.
(2) "U.S.-China Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation." Whitehouse.gov. The White House, 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/03/31/us-china-joint-statement-nuclear-security-cooperation>.
(3) Sandhu, Serina. "North Korea Threatens 'Nuclear Storm' Against China as Ally Makes Pact with US." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-and-china-agree-to-oppose-north-korea-nuclear-programme-a6962901.html>.
(4) "North Korea." Nti.org. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, Apr. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/north-korea/nuclear/>.
(5) Gaffey, Conor. "North Korea Fires Another Missile as U.S. and China Agree to Cooperate on Nuclear Threat." Newsweek.com. Newsweek, 1 Apr. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.newsweek.com/north-korea-missile-barack-obama-xi-jinping-442899>.
Image: © Gordeev20 | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-north-korea-soldier-image26048705#res14972580">North Korea soldier</a>
On May 15, 2016, India test fired a supersonic interceptor missile, much to the dismay of Pakistan. The 7.5-meter, 1.2-ton solid fuel interceptor missile, nicknamed “Ashwin,” was built with its own mobile launch mechanism along with advanced homing and tracking capabilities (1). Although post-flight analysis is still being conducted to determine the efficacy of the new technology, India’s publicized interest in developing an anti-ballistic missile defense system has certainly caught the attention of Pakistani authorities. In a study conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India was ranked sixth in military expenditures worldwide, allotting $51.3 billion to the military in 2015 (2).
If India’s new project is successful, they will be the fourth country to have effectively created an anti-ballistic missile defense shield, following the United States, Russia, and Israel (1). Advisor to Pakistani Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was quoted on Radio Pakistan commenting that, “such a missile test disturbs the regional balance of power,” and that Pakistan intends to proliferate its defensive measures to compete with India (3). Tension between India and Pakistan has been high ever since the 1999 Kargil War over Kashmir, during which both countries reportedly positioned ballistic missiles against one another, albeit a full-blown war never erupted between them (4).
During this time, rumors about Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities provoked an international response, leading the U.S. to advise India against further military involvement across the international border. India conceded, withdrawing from the conflict and signing the New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship (NFDR) in 2005. NFDR gave India the opportunity to develop an anti-ballistic missile defense system with help from the U.S., a strong gesture in favor of bilateral ties with India (4). The pact was renewed in June of 2015, reinforcing those ties and reminding Pakistan that India is a force to be reckoned with. The establishment and renewal of NFDR represents a significant power shift in South Asia in favor of India. As India refines their anti-ballistic missile defense shield, nuclear deterrence—once a powerful tactical device for Pakistan—is no longer a threat (4). Faced with this reality, Pakistan must move quickly if they are to remain a formidable adversary to India, making it likely that they will look to buy their own anti-ballistic missile defense shield as soon as possible (4). Pakistan may look to buy defense technologies off of the U.S., though it is highly unlikely that the U.S. will comply in light of NFDR. Hence, the renewal of NFDR not only heightens competition between India and Pakistan, but in doing so also increases tension between the Pakistan and the U.S., who must continue to remain loyal to India. Simply stated, every step India takes towards developing a successful anti-ballistic missile defense shield is a step towards gaining the upper hand on Pakistan. The resulting tilt in the South Asian balance of power potentially leaves the prospect of a formal war between India and Pakistan up to India, launching Pakistan back to the drawing board.
(1) "AAD Interceptor Missile Successfully Test Fired off Odisha Coast." Odishasuntimes.com. Odisha Sun Times, 15 May 2016. Web. 1 June 2016.
(2) Cawis, Jereal. "Total World Military Spending Hits $1.7 Trillion In 2015: Here's A List Of The Top 15 Spenders." Techtimes.com. Tech Times, 08 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 June 2016.
(3) Bhat, Aditya. "India Augments Its Ballistic Missile Defence Shield, Test-fires Indigenous Interceptor Missile." Ibtimes.co.in. International Business Times, 16 May 2016. Web. 01 June 2016.
(4) Rashid, Dr. Qaisar. "India's Anti-ballistic Missile Defence Shield." Dailytimes.com/pk. Dailytimes, 18 May 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.
Image: © Chen Li | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-air-defense-missile-weapon-efficient-modern-war-image50499735#res14972580">Air defense missile</a>
Iliana Arbeed is a student at the University of Southern California originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Law with a double minor in International Relations and Italian. She is involved in several campus organizations including University Student Government, and spends her summers pursing business and legal internships and traveling abroad. Outside of USC, she has studied at Oxford University and is looking forward to spending Summer 2017 at the American University of Rome. She started working with Global Intelligence Trust in 2016 as a Security and Legal Specialist prior to becoming an Editor. Her professional interests range from national security and intelligence to international law, and she plans to receive a combined law and business degree in the future. She aspires to work for the U.S. government or to work as a human rights lawyer for the United Nations.