Alice Friend is the Principal Director for African Affairs in OSD Policy. She joined the Department of Defense in 2009 as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and has also served as the Senior Advisor to the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (DUSD) for Strategy, Plans, and Forces (SPF) and Country Director for Pakistan. She has held research positions at the Center for a New American Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. and has worked at the International Labor Organization and with the Senegalese Association for Research, Study, and Aid to Development.
Describe the impact on foreign policy you have made in your current/past positions.
During my time in OSD, I have had exceptional opportunities to work on some of the highest-priority missions in the Department and advise senior leaders on key policy decisions. I spearheaded DoD’s participation in the first meeting of the renewed ministerial-level U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in 2010 and also worked on two U.S.-Pakistan Defense Consultation Group meetings. I have also had the chance to pitch in on some our major defense posture discussions over the past few years, to include reviews of our presence in the Pacific. I contributed to several strategic reviews of our defense policies and most notably supported the development—and ran a team that worked on the roll-out—of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. Now, I am working with an exceptional group of people to implement the President’s policies in Africa and to coordinate DoD’s role in supporting African peacekeeping operations. It has been an adventure and a privilege to see and participate in so many pivotal moments in recent foreign policymaking.
What personal contribution to foreign policy are you most proud of?
Right now, I am most focused on mentoring and supporting the talented people around me and ensuring that those of us in the next generation of leadership have a reliable network of experienced and helpful colleagues to lean on. My best days are when someone I work with said that I helped them achieve a goal or made navigating the professional terrain easier. I think the foreign policy community needs to take human capital investment seriously and devote real time to growing experts. If our people are trained, enabled and supported then they can be successful at protecting and advancing our country’s interests.
What is your vision of foreign policy in the 21st Century?
I think there is a broad consensus that the U.S. should use its unique position in the world to protect our interests, promote our values, and help underwrite a peaceful, stable international order. The question for the new century is how we implement that enduring vision given the changes in the global security and economic contexts. In that vein, I think we need to pay serious attention not just to how threats and opportunities have evolved, but also to changes within individual states, particularly those with the capacity and will to exercise regional and global agendas of their own. Many of our tools of engagement and influence—sometimes even our way of thinking—are still indexed to a post-Cold War construct of helping enfeebled governments rebuild after years of war or emerge from closed economic systems. But that is a model of a world decades in the past. The vibrancy of BRIC countries, the growing influence of regional and economic communities, greater freedom of democratic expression, and the demographic and environmental implications of emerging markets are just a few trends reshaping interests and influence around the world. At the same time, both the challenges we face and the resources required to meet them are driving a renewed conversation about burden-sharing. I think it is time to re-imagine U.S. global leadership on transnational problems in a system of ever-more self-actualizing states.
What challenges need to be overcome to create better foreign policy? What leadership traits are needed for this?
I think every generation of American foreign policymakers since at least World War I has had to overcome the challenge of a high demand for American leadership in the context of limited resources. As a global power with global interests and therefore global commitments, the United States needs a foreign policy with a clear sense of priorities so we can best distribute time, money, and personnel. This is an enormous and constant challenge in such dynamic security, economic, and diplomatic environments. The people I have most admired in and out of government are those who consistently allocate their time and their organizations’ time in transparent, disciplined ways. To my mind, great leaders are clear about their goals and how they prioritize activities to achieve those goals.
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