Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is among the featured speakers at Texas A&M University’s 57th annual Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA), which this year is themed “Reviving an Exhausted America.” The three-day meeting that draws student delegates from colleges and universities throughout the nation begins Thursday (Feb. 23), with sessions scheduled at various sites throughout the campus.
The student-led SCONA 57 committee, which is part of Texas A&M’s Memorial Student Center, will host more than 100 student delegates from across the country. Organizers say the conference is planned so as to give college students an opportunity to come together and discuss relevant policy issues with the authorities who make those policies and other experts in the field.
Out-of-state institutions scheduled to be represented at SCONA this year include Auburn University, the University of Florida, University of West Florida, University of Oklahoma, Principia College, The Citadel, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy.
Texas schools sending delegates include the University of Texas at Austin, Baylor University, Texas Christian University, the University of Houston and Texas State University.
Organizers of this year’s conference say it will focus on informing delegates about current domestic issues and fostering an environment to brainstorm potential solutions to those issues. With delegates coming from universities across the United States and abroad, the conference is essentially a think-tank created to get students proactively thinking about the present and future of America in regards to the economy, defense, foreign relations and energy.
Winnefeld, in addition to being a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the nation’s second highest-ranking military officer. He has most recently served as the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). He will speak at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 1105 of the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building.
Other speakers include Jorge A. Bermudez, president and CEO of the Byebrook Group, a firm dedicated to research and advisory work in the financial services industry. He will speak at 9 a.m. Thursday in Room 110 Koldus Building.
Col. Thomas J. Sexton, the Air Force representative for the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Penn., will speak at 11 a.m. Thursday in Room 110 Koldus Building.
Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, president and CEO of Business Executives For National Security, has deep experience in strategic policy, training, leader development and technological innovation. Meigs will speak at 9 a.m. Friday in Rudder Theater.
The final scheduled speaker is William K. Lietzau, who was appointed as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy in 2010. The department’s Rule of Law and Humanitarian Policy Office has since consolidated under his leadership as well. Lietzau will speak at 3 p.m. Friday at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Throughout the three-day conference, delegates will listen to and ask questions of prominent foreign affairs speakers. These speaker events are free and open to the public.
Following each speaker session, delegates will participate in roundtable work sessions with their respective policy teams. Organizers say these work sessions will culminate in the development of a policy proposal, which each team will present and submit for critique by a panel of policy experts. Experts will select one policy proposal for special recognition.
The U.S. Army War College and MSC SCONA will host a pre-conference event, the International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise (ISCNE), Feb. 21-22. Students will be divided into teams representing nations, each facilitated by an officer from the U.S. Army War College, in order to discuss and negotiate an international incident. This year the discussion will be the real-world scenario of the frozen conflict over the region known as Nagorno-Karabakh, between the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Military experts and professors will guide the student teams to reach a diplomatic solution. For more information on MSC SCONA, visit http://scona.tamu.edu/index.html.