Rob Mixon’s 2021 Summer internship developed from the Carlucci Fellowship network. James Settles (MPP ’21) connected him with North Carolina State’s Laboratory for Analytic Sciences (LAS) after Matt Buchannan (MPP ’20) linked him up previously. The lab is a collaboration between the National Security Agency, NC State University, and other industry and intelligence community partners. The pandemic affected this internship and he was required to conduct it virtually instead of in person. However, despite the challenges of remaining virtual, the experience was beneficial.
Mixon’s summer focus consisted of assisting LAS and the NSA analyze current policies regarding completed and ongoing projects. LAS and the NSA develop technology and algorithms for a variety of functions. Many times after LAS completes the assigned task, the NSA’s risk analysis panel disapproves its intended use. Although the team did not discover a direct solution for the problem, they did identify that the sticking point was not with LAS but rather with the NSA’s high level policies. In order to positively effect this, the team developed some solutions to categorize and retain submitted staff processing forms (SPFs) enabling them to be analyzed and assessed for trends. As these SPFs have been used as constant exceptions to policy in order to navigate vague and ambiguous policy guidance, analyzing their trends helps the NSA determine what is being asked across the agency and how policy needs to be refined.
This was a challenging and rewarding experience afforded Mixon the opportunity to research policy and risk assessment practices as well as network with various technology and government professionals. As an Officer in the U.S. Army, this experience gave him great insight into how another government agency works and understanding their operational and administrative processes will aid him in future interactions with the intelligence community. He is very thankful for the Carlucci family’s support, which was key for this internship.