A Reflection on the 76th Student Conference on United States Affairs

Blake Dudley ’23

Blake Dudley ’23

From the third of November to the sixth, I had the privilege of attending West Point’s Student Conference on United States Affairs. This annual gathering grants students from across America the opportunity to get together and draft memos for future policy initiatives. Each year, there is an overarching theme, with this years’ being Disruptive Technology. This broad theme is split into more specific topics, which vary table-to-table. From the impacts of social media to space technology, students gathered to discuss varying matters; my table was assigned the concern of China. 

At my table there were twelve students and four West Point cadets, as well as two expert advisors, Dr. Fei-Ling Wang, and US Army Lieutenant, Colonel Justin Fincham. We were given the task of creating a US policy approach that would deal with China’s rise of power in, through the use of technology. This proved to be quite a complicated policy issue. Yet, as a team, we managed to produce a brief memo outlining the best approach. 

We decided to engage with this matter from three sides: economic, socio-political, and military. In our economic approach we advised the United States to cooperate with local actors in South Asia. For one, we believe that it is vital to provide and construct 5G networks to increase South Asia’s internet access through US technology. We also advised that the US provide aid for infrastructure which in turn will help boost these nations’ economies and reinforce relations. In our socio-political approach, we decided that it is crucial for the US to circumvent the Chinese “Great Firewall.” In providing the Chinese population with access to free internet, the United States would be dismantling the Communist Party’s hold. This policy could be executed through satellite internet constellations as well as new “smart” VPN systems. Finally, in our military approach we came to the consensus that China’s military encroachment in Taiwan should be countered, and with that comes the need for artificial intelligence. In developing and deploying an A.I air defense system, the United States is able to establish security in a period where stealthier aircraft and drones are being used. 

 Thanks to the incredible design of SCUSA, my team and I were able to create these policy proposals and engage in productive discussion. Every one of the students was dedicated to putting in hard work, while learning a great deal from the experts. We had the honor of listening to the head of the NSA (National Security Agency), General Paul Nakasone, give a lecture to the cadets as well as former and current military officers. My time at SCUSA was truly remarkable, and I cannot put into words just how much I experienced from this trip. It was enlightening to see how passionate students are about US policy as well as the military’s dedication to listening.