A Seat in the Situation Room
National Security Simulation gives students hands-on experience in crisis response
A government shutdown. A Russian cyberattack. A looming declaration of war.
Any one of these situations would require a thoughtful, strategic response. But for participants in the 2023 Ohio State National Security Simulation, these were just a few examples of the crises they handled.
Led by Moritz professor Dakota Rudesill and sponsored by the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, the simulation is a two-day professional skills training exercise. The experience puts students in real-world government, media, and private sector roles to give them hands-on practice with handling crises.
“Our goal is to bridge what students are learning in the classroom with situations they would find in the work world,” said Rudesill. “What makes our simulation at Ohio State unique is the interdisciplinary aspect – we have people across several fields working and learning together.”
The simulation has been held every other year for the past 10 years. Over time, the number of universities and students who participate has grown. This year was the largest simulation, with 200 participants representing The Ohio State University, Penn State Dickinson Law, Purdue University, Ohio University, University of Dayton, and Georgetown University.
Twenty-nine students from Moritz College of Law participated and held a wide range of roles in the simulation. 2L Ryan Cleary served as Game Master, which involved overseeing the writing of the simulation scenarios, the big picture narratives, helping to build out and organize the Game Team, and ultimately executing the behind-the-curtain aspects. As an active-duty U.S. Air Force Officer, Cleary already had a deep interest in national security. The simulation gave him a chance to explore that interest even further.
“The simulation trains important competencies that will be important for anyone working in or adjacent to the government.,” he said. “It also dealt with key subject matters involved with national security that I had been involved with in my earlier career and will likely be involved with in the future.”
For Cleary, one of the most impactful aspects of the simulation was getting to work with practitioners from a wide range of fields, including law, military, communications, management, and policy. The professionals that participate have extensive expertise and experience.
“Professor Rudesill recruited and coordinated a true all-star team of practitioners from across the military, interagency, judiciary and private sector to make the experience as immersive as possible,” said Cleary. “The ability to work with these individuals and draw on their expertise both in the simulation's prep and execution phases was the highlight for sure.”
That feeling is mutual – many of the practitioners who volunteer at the simulation participate year after year and see the substantial value of the program.
“I wish that all young professionals before they go into government could have the benefit of this remarkable simulation Ohio State has built, said retired U.S. Senator Kent Conrad, who previously roleplayed as the Senate Majority Leader. “You will not find a more intensive or realistic experience, short of doing the real thing.”
Ashley Deeks, a law professor at the University of Virginia, recently served as a senior lawyer on the National Security Council in the Biden administration. In the simulation, she served as the National Security Advisor to the President.
"It was a lot of fun, and it’s astonishing how well (the simulation) has been able to replicate decisional pressures, intelligence feeds, etc.,” Deeks said.
As he looks forward to the next simulation in two years, Rudesill hopes more schools will send participants. With the continued support of past participants and practitioners, the simulation will keep being an impactful opportunity for experiential learning.
“I think that the program is great,” said former Ohio Senate Majority Leader and simulation volunteer Larry Obhof. “I look forward to (the simulation) every time, and I am already looking forward to the next one!”