The National Defense University hosted its 13th Alumni Continuing Education Security Seminar (ACESS) in partnership with the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, Estonia from 24 to 28 June 2019. The event brought together alumni of the NDU International Fellows Program for a robust academic program complemented by a robust series of networking events which included a cultural field study. The seminar’s theme was Hybrid Warfare and Grey Zone Operations.
ACESS Estonia 2019’s delivery of academic programs and networking activities provided a robust and fulfilling opportunity for NDU International Fellow alumni, faculty, USG stakeholders, as well as representatives from the NATO Centers of Excellence, to connect with one another and reconnect with their shared NDU experience.
Academics consisted of plenary sessions and speakers covering topics such as Regional Threat Assessment, Emerging Threats to Democracies, Implications for NATO of the New Competition Space, and Contested Information Spaces. In addition to plenary sessions, which were punctuated by lively question and answer sessions, NDU IF Alumni were divided into four working groups to address key security challenges identified by the European Command, specifically Hybrid Warfare, Cyberspace, Strategic Communications, and Energy Security. Finally, participants were able to select from a range of electives ranging from Great Power Competition in the Arctic to Tools of Strategic Influence, allowing attendees to engage with issue and experts of most interest to them.
The seminar also featured the induction of four IF alumni into the NDU International Fellows Hall of Fame (IHOF): Lieutenant General Gábor Böröndi, Ph.D, Chief of Land Forces and now Deputy Chief of Defense, Hungary; Major General Siniša Jurković, Commander of the Croatian Army; Major General Josef Kopecký, Commander of the Land Forces, Czech Republic; Major General (Retired) Michael Beary, Irish Army, Head of Mission and Force Commander United Nations Interim Forces In Lebanon (UNIFIL). Their comments on the transformative effect NDU had on their lives and careers were inspirational.
ACESS was punctuated with a series of networking events which included an icebreaker to kick-off the seminar. NDU-P hosted a small-scale VIP dinner in honor of the International Fellows Hall of Fame inductees. Thanks to the gracious and generous support of the NDU Foundation, the most significant networking event and capstone of the week was the NDU IF Alumni Dinner. Approximately 150 alumni, spouses, faculty, staff, and visiting dignitaries attended a superb meal served at the iconic and historic White Hall at the University of Tartu. NDU-P spoke of the power of the NDU Alumni Network and the Mayor of Tartu shared his thoughts on the importance of the event. A final cultural field study visit to the Estonian National Museum ended the week. The NDU Foundation also provided funding for the museum visit, which is an globally recognized, award winning museum. The networking events allowed for deeper conversations to continue outside of the academic setting and encouraged the strengthening of both old and new connections between International Fellows Alumni, NDU leadership, faculty and staff, and other USG stakeholders. The museum visit allowed for some wonderful shared insights into the history, culture, and innovations of the host country, Estonia.
All in all, the seminar was attended by 94 IF alumni and 20 spouses. Additionally, more than two dozen faculty, staff, and leadership participated making it our largest overseas gathering of alumni in NDU’s history. Of the 94 alumni, 39 were General and Flag Officers, including 8 officers of 3-star rank, a current Minister of Foreign Affairs, and several Ministers and Ambassador. The seminar was one of the most successful for NDU and across DoD.