PENN STATE DICKINSON LAW STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN NATIONAL SECURITY SIMULATION
November 2023 — In early November, Professor Amy C. Gaudion and eight Penn State Dickinson Law students traveled to Ohio State University to participate in the OSU National Security Simulation, sponsored by the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and led by Professor Dakota S. Rudesill of OSU’s Moritz College of Law. The two day Simulation served as the capstone for a new experiential learning course developed by Professor Gaudion and offered for the first time in Fall 2023. “I designed the course to introduce students to the national security decision-making process and to the actors, institutions and entities engaged in that process,” said Gaudion. “The Simulation requires students to take on a particular role in an entity within the national security decision-making framework, and through that role assumption students gain an appreciation for the complexity, speed and volatility of legal decision-making in the security environment while also recognizing how legal processes interact with public policy processes and public-private sector relationships.”
Held every other year, the Simulation is an unforgettable two-day, real-time role-play and professional training experience that bridges academic learning and practical application. It involves the interaction of more than 100 students and practitioners from policy, legal, military, intelligence, communications, and business management backgrounds as they engage in the national security decision-making process while navigating the governing legal and policy frameworks all within a noisy political context and fast-paced media culture. Retired U.S. Senator Kent Conrad offered the following comments on the Simulation: “I wish all young professionals before they go into government could have the benefit of this remarkable Simulation Ohio State has built. You will not find a more intensive or realistic experience, short of doing the real thing.”
In addition to the group from Penn State Dickinson Law, students and faculty participants hailed from Ohio State University, Purdue University, the University of Dayton, Ohio University, Georgetown University, and the University of Virginia. In the Simulation, students serve in a variety of roles: law students are the legal advisors at the federal, state, and local levels; intelligence and security students are intelligence advisors and agency directors; students with military backgrounds are in military roles; journalism students role-play the press corps and government press secretaries; and business management students role-play corporate executives at private sector entities. The Simulation features an internal news site and social media platform. All Simulation play is strictly off-the-record.
During the Simulation, Professor Dakota Rudesill leads the control team that orchestrates the exercise, including the game team that writes and runs the scenarios. It is composed of OSU faculty, staff, and alumni, and current and former practitioners from law firms, the military, intelligence community, law enforcement, the U.S. Congress, Ohio government, private sector, and the media. Student players work in real time alongside a cast of practitioner players in senior roles (cabinet secretaries, federal judge, etc.). The game team uses media and intelligence injects and in-person contact to present players with intelligence puzzles and pivotal decisions. The Simulation is extremely dynamic, as players interact and the game team responds to player decisions with new factual developments in response to player decisions. Outcomes depend on player decisions.
Russell Marks ’24 indicated that “participating in the Ohio State University National Security Simulation was a great way to see a model of our collective branches of the government reacting during a time of crisis. Filling the position of counsel for one of the senator roles, I gained a better understanding of the legislative branch and difficulties that members of congress and their staffers face when attempting to pass certain bills. Overall, I am thankful Ohio State University invited Penn State Dickinson Law and that the Law School was able to create a course out of that invite. It is clear that the National Security Simulation is already a large regional event and is going to rapidly grow much larger in the years to come.”
Marks also noted, “The contingent of Dickinson Law students represented the Law School in a very positive manner which was evident from the deep national security discussions held in preparation for the Simulation, under the guidance and direction of Professor Gaudion. I am glad I was a member of that group and was able to represent the school.”
The Simulation benefits from the voluntary participation of an impressive array of current and former practitioners. Participants who attended this year (and their roles in the Simulation), included the following individuals from federal agencies, Capitol Hill, state government, law firms, and think tanks:
- Ashley Deeks, Class of 1948 Professor of Scholarly Research at the University of Virginia School of Law and former legal advisor to the National Security Council — serving as National Security Advisor to the President
- Philip Bump, national correspondent for The Washington Post — serving as Senior Editor of The Torch
- Maj. Gen. Mark Bartman (USAF, Ret.), former Adjutant General of Ohio — serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Kirk Herath, chief cyber advisor to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine — on game team – cyber cell
- Col. Peter R. Mansoor (U.S. Army, Ret.), General Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair in Military History at The Ohio State University – serving as President
- Colleen Garcia, former Assistant U.S. Attorney — serving as Attorney General
- Christopher Morgan-Riess, attorney with the Office of General Counsel for the National Security Agency — on game team — FISA surveillance lead
“The real-world experience gained, connections made, and knowledge and advice received at the National Security Simulation is absolutely invaluable in my pursuit of a legal career. Being able to put my knowledge to the test in an environment that felt like the real world but offered the chance to make mistakes without irreparable harm was the best experience. I would highly recommend participation to anyone that gets the opportunity,” enthused Beth McSwain ’25.
Joseph O’Donnell ’24 indicated that “It was a very informative experience as to opportunities with other law schools and government related policy events are always valuable events. This Simulation’s focus on national security will always be relevant in our ever-evolving global environment.”
O’Donnell, who served as general counsel for the house minority leader, stated, “It was an informative and invaluable experience to see and participate in the legislative process in this role. Many of the practitioners and keynote speakers were individuals who have filled prominent positions in the community and region at large. It was enlightening to hear their perspective on both current events and the events occurring in the Simulation.”
John Harker Mangum ’25 observed, “The Ohio State University National Security Simulation was a great experience. It provided an opportunity to engage not only with the legal concerns incumbent on participants in the national security, but also to consider how one must orient themselves when seeking to fulfill professional obligations with finite resources and time. It calls upon the participant to direct themselves within a set of shifting opportunities, deciding which must be seized and which can be foregone. I very much appreciated my experience and would recommend it for its value in teaching one to act as a decision maker.”