Capstone Projects

During their final semester, MIA students participate in a capstone research course. These courses allow students to tackle a problem or project in the real world, often working in conjunction with a government agency or nonprofit organization. Designed to test the knowledge and abilities students have developed through their previous classes and experiences, capstones necessitate strong teamwork, careful research, writing ability, and often a large amount of ingenuity in identifying ways to approach an issue or find a solution.

Illustrative recent MIA capstone projects are described below.

2018 - 2019

Identifying Trends in Democratic Erosion

Instructor: Professor Jessica Gottlieb
Client: Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS)

The Effects of the Syrian Refugees’ Informal settlements on the Lebanese Government Policies and the Labor Market

Instructor: Professor Silva Hamie
Client: Center for Conflict and Development

Competing in a Complex Environment: China in Latin America and the Caribbean

Instructor: Gen. Don MacWillie
Client: United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)

Is Investing in Women’s Economic Empowerment an Investment in National Security and Stability?

Faculty: Professor Valerie Hudson
Client: Office of Global Women’s Issues, US Department of State

U.S. Export Control: Changes and Impact on U.S. Business and National Security

Faculty: Professor Ron Sievert
Client: Stratfor

2017 - 2018

Iran-Contra and U.S. Bilateral Relations with Nicaragua A Retrospective

Instructor: Dr. Robert Holzweiss, Deputy Director, G.H.W. Bush Presidential Library
Client: US Embassy Manaugua, Nicaragua

Democratic Erosion: Knowing It When We See It

Instructor: Professor Jessica Gottlieb
Client: USAID DRG (Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance) Center

Gender, Terrorism, and Foreign Fighters

Instructor: Professor Valerie Hudson
Client: Office of Global Women’s Issues, US Department of State

Understanding entrepreneurship in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Faculty: Dr. Leslie Ruyle
Client: The Center on Conflict and Development

Iran and Kurdish Nationalism in the Middle East

Faculty: Professor Mohammad Tabaar
Client: US Department of State

UNICEF’s Education program for the Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

Faculty: Professor Professor Silva Hamie
Client: UNICEF

Assessing the value of US SOUTHCOM’s “shaping” lines of effort in promoting regional security, stability.

Faculty: Gen. Don MacWillie
Client: United States Southern Command (US SOUTHCOM)

2016 - 2017

Operation Just Cause and U.S.-Panama Relations: A Twenty-Five Year Retrospective

Instructor: Dr. Robert Holzweiss, Deputy Director, G.H.W. Bush Presidential Library
Client: US Embassy in Panama – Cultural Affairs section

Furtherance of WWF Structuring and Framing of Landscape Finance Programs

Instructor: Deborah Walker
Client: WWF-World Wildlife Fund

Attitudes of Host Communities Toward Refugees Over Time

Instructor: Dr. Silva Hamie
Client: Center on Conflict and Development, Texas A&M University

Trends and Determinants of Asylum in Europe: Evidence from the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Faculty: Professor Ren Mu
Client: The Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A & M University and United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Comparative Analysis of U.S., Russian, and Chinese activities in Latin America and the Caribbean to focus USSOUTHCOM Partner of Choice actions.

Faculty: Gen. Don Mac Willie
Client: The United States Southern Command, Doral, Florida

Assessing Health Outcomes in Romania: Interpretation of Results of HCV Treatment Programs in Two Romanian Regions

Faculty: Amb. Eduardo Aguirre
Client: Texas Children’s hospital, Houston, TX

Iran After Khamenei

Faculty Advisor: Professor Mohammad Tabaar
Client: Middle East Institute, Washington, DC


Youth Employment in Ghana: Conditions and Determinants

Client: Human Development Network of the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development
Supervising Instructor: Ren Mu
Authors: Zachary Barrett, Andrea Berrios, Yukuai He, Sean Larsen, Miguel Novoa, Kwame Twumasi-Ankraah, Camille Vega

Youth employment, and its limitations, is a pertinent problem that most developing nations face. “Youth Employment in Ghana: Conditions and Determinants” is a student-led research project that summarizes and analyzes the conditions of youth employment in Ghana as of 2013. The purpose of this report is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of individual, household, and community characteristics on youth employment outcomes. This study finds that Ghana’s youth labor issues center around the low quality of jobs rather than unemployment. The findings highlight the issue of gender gap, the importance of family background and community infrastructure in youth labor outcomes.

Capstone Report

Building Resilience through Crisis: An Assessment of UNDP Syria

Client: United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
Supervising Professor: Silva Hamie

The Frontlines of Justice: Exploring the Impact of Access to Justice Initiatives in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States

Client: The World Bank – Global Governance Practice
Supervising Professor: Reyko Huang

Information and Voter Evaluation of Legislators in a Clientelistic Democracy: A Field Experiment in Benin

Supervising Professor: Jessica Gottlieb

Merging Governance Models: A Norms-Based Cyber Deterrence Strategy

Client: US Cyber Command
Supervising Professor: Andrew L. Ross

The National Security Advisor: Serving a Constituency of One

Client: Miller Center for Oral History, University of Virginia
Supervising Supervisor: Robert Holzweiss

Shaping the Seas: Isolating Chinese Narratives of Territorial Conflict

Client: PACOM
Supervising Professor: David Millar

Strengthening the Federal Government’s Processes for Stockpiling Biodefense Countermeasures

Client: National Defense University, Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction
Supervising Professor: Col. (R) Don W. Bailey

Looking Eastward: Establishing Programs to enhance Trilateral Relations (US, EU, China)

Client: Robert Bosch Stiftung
Supervising Professor: Gabriela Marin Thornton

Using Humor to Counter Extremist Groups’ Use of Social Media

Client: Department of State
Supervising Professor: Ron Sievert


Evaluating the Implementation of the National Strategy for Biosurveillance

Client: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical, Biological Radiological, and Nuclear Matters & The Joint Requirements Office for CBRN Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, J-8
Supervising Instructor: COL(R) Don W. Bailey
Authors: Iain Armstrong, Erin Berry, Alexander Bitter, Leland Colburn, Kathleen Karika, Jose Paulino, Rebekah Redden, Thomas “Tex” Vien, Lodrick Williams

On July 31, 2012, The President of the United States signed into effect the first-ever National Security Strategy for Biosurveillance. On his signature page, President Obama states “there is no higher priority than the security and safety of the American people.” He further states this Strategy’s “goal is to provide the critical information and ongoing situational awareness that enables better decision-making at all levels.” Bioserveillance is not a new concept, but one that various federal and state agencies have worked since before the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States. The Department of Defense has now been asked to assume the lead on developing a strategic implementation plan for the execution of this Strategy. Students in this capstone will be expected to become familiar with the concepts of biosurveillance; review past plans and policies for implementation of biosurveillance; review the current thought on how to implement a national biosurveillance strategy through open source literature and through interviews with on campus and outside experts including technologists, scientists, business experts, and futurists; and then develop recommendations on how to implement this security strategy for presentation to the sponsors by presentation and written report.

Capstone Report

Improving Health Interventions in Conflict Affected Liberia: A Community-based Approach

Client: United States Agency for International Development, Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance
Supervising Instructor: Scott Pool
Authors: Dustin Achgill, Jacob Geray, Hafid El Hachimi, Vaibhavi Jadhav, Emily Mullins, Himani Reddy, Trey Sparks, Natalia Valdez-Vivas, Erik Walker

Many countries receiving development assistance are in the midst of economic transitions and will become increasingly able to fund their own response. However, transitions to country owned, managed and eventually financed health programs require: political stewardship and commitment; institutional and community ownership; capable workforce, systems and institutions; and mutual accountability[1]. In support of these local efforts, donors (sponsors) are engaging with local organizations and governments to facilitate incremental improvements in governance, institutional capacity and formal/informal aspects of accountability. Given this trend, donor (sponsor) agencies are also rethinking their own internal organizational structures to allow for greater cross-sector collaboration. At the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the traditional independent sectors of health and democracy are collaborating to better understand how core competencies from each sector can, if combined, yield more sustainable development outcomes. This capstone builds on efforts taking place within USAID by bringing together students from the George Bush School of Government and Public Service and the School of Rural Public Health for a unique learning opportunity. Bringing students with different skill sets in health, such as epidemiologist or environmental science specialists, with others working on international relations, governance and foreign policy in one capstone course will create a dynamic group that can help collect evidence with mixed methods and perspectives.

Capstone Report

Emerging Trends with a Significant Impact on the US Intelligence Community

Client: CIA
Supervising Instructor: Ron Sievert
Authors: Amber Stubblefield, Leah Stockstill, Emily Westerhof, Eric Hopper, Zach Pinones, Mark Niegelsky, Devon Mickle, Cristina Davis, Caroline Rothrock

How has current culture affected the thinking of college age students who constitute the potential future work force. We need to know how they think for a number of reasons. Specifically, recruiters need to know how to recruit them and what misperceptions they need to correct from the start, the IC needs to know how to construct and shape careers they will find challenging for the long term, and the IC needs to consider how it will conduct the essential business of collection and analysis in a manner that is consistent with the current methodology, approach and attitude of this new generation. At same time, if there are major gaps in millennial’s understanding of the ethic of the Intelligence community, then it would be good for the IC to be alert to steps that would educate them as to the true history, legal grounding, values and principles of the community. With this in mind, this proposal involves conducting a survey of students or new IC employees composed of questions to determine the current attitude, knowledge, perceptions, and standard methodological approach of this group of applicants and employees.

Capstone Report

US Strategic Options for Iran

Client: State Department
Supervising Instructor: Mohammad Tabaar
Authors: Amber Stubblefield, Leah Stockstill, Emily Westerhof, Eric Hopper, Zach Pinones, Mark Niegelsky, Devon Mickle, Cristina Davis, Caroline Rothrock

The goal of this capstone is to identify, analyze, and assess various courses of action that the United States can take towards Iran. Looking through the prism of US grand strategy in the Persian Gulf, this project will evaluate the costs and benefits of a wide range of options, from military confrontation to full rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Examining the history of the relations between the two countries, it will scrutinize the perceptions and positions of moderates and conservatives in each capital and inspect the role of other key players such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Russia, and China. The team will conduct original research, including interviews with former and current US (and possibly) Iranian officials as well as policy makers to address specific issues such as: Iran’s nuclear challenge, its role in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and human rights and democracy promotion. The outcome will be a report that the team will deliver and present to the sponsor in Washington, DC.

Capstone Report


Counterterrorism in Syria: Three Potential Scenarios for 2015

Client: National Counter-Terrorism Center
Supervising Instructor: Richard Mac Namee
Authors: Jacob Brahce, Jessica Koloini, Reginald Thompson, Patrick Issa, Chandra Caldwell, Gabriel Bedingfield, Brett Ayers, Garrett VanderGrinten, Caitlin Harwood

NCTC have agreed to travel to College Station In November 2012, at their own expense, to both meet the students and also refine the subject area in greater detail with both the instructor and the students forming the body of the Capstone Project Team. It is further anticipated that background reading assignments will commence during the holiday break. At the start of the Spring semester the group will be further sub-divided into topic specific areas under a Project Manager. Throughout the semester the team will be required to develop a 60 minute presentation of their collective findings, which will be presented to NCTC in DC towards the end of April 2013. The team’s findings will also be captured in a written deliverable to be submitted to NCTC at the time of the presentation.

Capstone Report


Implementation of the Joint Duty Program at CIA: Analysis and Recommendations

Client: The Center for the Study of Intelligence
Supervising Instructor: Ronald Sievert
Authors: Judah Burk, Elizabeth Jones, Paige Ericson, Cheryl Mitchell, Kara Fillman, Randy Rodgers, Jon Graber, Naomi Wilson

This report assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the Joint Duty (JD) program as it is currently implemented at the CIA. Over the course of approximately six weeks, the Bush School 2012 Capstone interviewed - in-person and by phone - 160 CIA employees who completed a JD assignment. In assessing the qualitative and quantitative responses reported by personnel, we conclude that employees find value in the program, are well-integrated within their host agency, and achieve the program's mission of increasing employees' knowledge of other Intelligence Community agencies. Weaknesses hindering the program include: a disproportionately high number of employees choosing assignments at the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the National Reconnaissance Agency (NRO); insufficient manager guidance in selecting career-relevant assignments; failure to comply with regulations tasking agencies to maintain contact with their JD employees; employees experiencing significant difficulty returning to the CIA upon completion of their assignment; and inconsistent views regarding whether the program aids promotion potential.

Capstone Report

Core Liabilities and Accelerants of Terrorism: A Case Study of Germany, Denmark, and France

Client: National Counter-Terrorism Center
Supervising Instructor: Richard Mac Namee
Authors: David Arceneaux, Casey Braswell, Brett Heil, Adam Kirby, Keith Landry, Amy Murphy, Tom Nypaver, Elizabeth Solch, Keith Wilkinson

Understanding a country’s complex security environment and its vulnerability to terrorism is difficult. Terrorism in today’s world is fluid, personalized, and dynamic. To mitigate the threats of terrorism, a country must understand the nature of threats facing its security environment by identifying the core liabilities and accelerants that most directly impact its security environment in a negative way.

Capstone Report

What to Cut and How to Cut? Historical Lessons from Past Reductions in the Intelligence Community

Client: The Rand Corporation’s Intelligence Policy Center
Supervising Instructor: Jasen Castillo
Authors: Austin Cook, William Edmiston, Stuart Glenn, Derek Goodwin, Matthew Kaehr, James Nebl, Benjamin Phares, Elizabeth Yang, Jessica Yeo

Under what conditions can the Intelligence Community cut its resources while still maintaining their effectiveness? What do past eras of reduction suggest about what to cut and how best to cut? The United States Government faces pressure to reduce its overall expenditures. This will likely spur calls to reduce the country’s foreign policy and defense budget. Under the current fiscal environment, these cuts will surely include the Intelligence Community, which grew rapidly over the last ten year’s. Prudent policymakers, therefore, should start thinking now about what they can cut and how they should implement these changes while still carrying out their missions effectively. This project will help the Intelligence Community think about these problems by examining the lessons learned from previous eras of reduction. The project will produce an article-length report as well as a briefing. Team members will brief the sponsor in their Washington, DC office.

Capstone Report


Background on Zambia's Labor Market with Cross-National Comparisons

Client: The World Bank
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Ren Mu
Authors: Alexander Chester, Thao Dang, Amanda Edgell, Matthew Harber, Dace Mahanay, Matthew Messer, Meaghan Mueller, Luis Ramos

Although Zambia has enjoyed decent economic growth, its employment growth and labor productivity have continued to stagnate. What factors explain the stagnation? This Capstone project aims to answer this question through empirical analysis of employment decisions and labor productivity at the firm level using the 2008 Zambia Business Survey (ZBS) and the 2011 World Bank Investment Climate Survey (ICS). The study concludes that to improve business registration in Zambia, policymakers should target rural and agricultural firms, reduce red-tape and regulatory costs, and expand education to grassroots entrepreneurs. To improve labor productivity and employment, focus should be placed on targeting younger firms, increasing agricultural yields, improving access to and the reliability of infrastructure, and fighting government corruption.

Capstone Report

Report Summary

Database of Development Projects in Conflict Zones

Client: Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Kishore Gawande
Authors: Michele Breaux, Jared Carter, Yue Cui, Mary Gaard, Jerry Kenney, Melissa La Reau, Armando Rojas, David Sutton
Note: The final product for this Capstone will be a website. The site is currently under construction. There will be no formal report.

A database and GIS map detail the location and outcome of over 8000 development projects. Most of these are CERP projects undertaken by US armed forces in Afghanistan. We were also able to include some projects by the Asia Development Bank and the Borlaug Institute. The GIS map allows users to click on points in a map showing the location of projects and access details such as project cost, funder, and project goals. Other kinds of information we were able to make available are photographs, contact information for project manager, and project evaluations. The projects can be searched by project type and executing team. Currently, the database has CERP, PRT, Borlaug, USAID, and other projects; but it is set up to include many other sources once its usefulness is realized by the development community at large.

Critical Infrastructure and Cyber Security

Client: CENTRA Technology
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Jeffrey Engel
Authors: Aimee Anderson, Abby Doll, Andrew Giblin, Matthew Jennings, Shelley Nauss, Renee Pirrong, Stephanie Shaffer, George Stasny

We were tasked by CENTRA Technology, Inc., to create a methodology that could be used to prioritize critical cyber assets in the United States. We have answered that call by developing a user-friendly, consequence-based methodology that requires end users to carefully consider their cyber assets' contributions to vital missions of national security, economic security, and public safety. The user will be able to clearly visualize the potential impact of a loss of cyber assets on those three indicators vis-a-vis one another, which is especially important in the midst of the current budgetary uncertainty in Washington. In this study, we present our definitions of the three indicators; an overview of the eighteen sectors of critical infrastructure and commonalities and the characteristics of their operating systems; a brief review of the literature on cyber security to date; and, of course, a thorough discussion of the intricacies of how our methodology works.

Capstone Report

Identifying the Strength of Iranian Opposition Groups

Client: The Rand Corporation's Intelligence Policy Center
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Jasen Castillo
Authors: Riley Barnes, Stephen Davis, Dori Enderle, Matthew Jacobs, Laura Joost, Michael Perkins, Steven Snodgrass, Nathanael Stone, Melisa Woolfolk

Angry about the results of the 2009 elections, the Iranian opposition took to the streets, coordinating widespread protests to challenge the authority of the regime in Tehran. The protests hampered, but did not stop, the regime's effort to impose its favorite candidate for president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The strength of this opposition appears to have caught both the government and the international community by surprise. Our sponsor asked this Capstone group to address the following questions: How strong are Iranian opposition groups? Under what conditions could they pose a threat to the regime?

To answer these questions, the project develops a framework comparing opposition groups and regimes across different historical cases. We argue the Iranian regime retains a strong grip on power, using both the threat of US intervention and domestic support for its nuclear program to rally support for the government. Unlike recent revolutions in the Arab world, the opposition stands little chance of toppling the government. Opposition movements lack the resources to seriously challenge the government. The project's framework also identified the conditions under which the Iranian opposition might gain enough strength to overthrow the regime. We summarize our findings in both a briefing and a paper. Our findings aim to help intelligence analysts decide which indicators to use when assessing the strength of Iranian opposition groups, and opposition groups in general. The project team briefed the sponsor in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2011.

Capstone Report

Presentation PowerPoint

Fall 2010

Ukraine's Military Role in the Black Sea Region

Client: Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Washington, DC
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Gabriela Marin Thornton
Authors: Amy Beth Coffman, James Crump, Robbi Dickson, Meaghan Mueller, Sarah Pulis

Only Ukraine's civilian and military leadership can determine the best course of action Ukraine should undertake to secure the Black Sea region (BSR). By analyzing Ukraine's precarious security environment and assessing the current security situation in the Black Sea, this paper first sought to identify a prototype for Ukraine's role in the BSR. However, the result of this search was a clear realization of Ukraine's unique situation. Ukraine is a nation with divisionary demographics, external pressures on internal politics, and mixed ideas about economic opportunities and priorities in a neighborhood of states with competing influences and capabilities.

Capstone Report

Spring 2010

China's Pathways to Energy Security

Client: Long Range Analysis Unit, National Intelligence Council, Robert A. Manning, Director, Long-Range Energy and Regional/Global Affairs, US National Intelligence Council, Long Range Analysis Unit
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Christopher Layne
Authors: Steven Beard, Craig Caruana, Charles Coats, Robert Haguewood, Jong-Hwan Lee, Broderick Morgan, Joshua Murray, Michael Riedell

This project explores the growing web of connections - specifically, in the area of energy interdependence among the East Asian states and India with oil producing states in the Persian Gulf region. These relations are characterized by producers seeking reliable markets and consumers seeking reliable suppliers. The project examines whether, and to what extent, these relations are primarily economic or geopolitical. An important issue is whether these relations herald a geostrategic shift with wealth and power flowing from West to East. The project also examines the implications of this relationship for the United States, which remains the principal security guarantor for both regions, even as most of the oil and gas the Sixth Fleet protects is going to free-riders in Asia.

Presentation PowerPoint

The Impact of the US Climate Legislation on Trade with China

Client: Energy Information Administration (EIA), Department of Energy
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Kishore Gawande
Authors: Sarah Acuna, Christopher Akujuobi, Nicholas Brigance, Zhen Du, Brian Kasper, Trevor Nearburg

With the current public outrage at the environmental consequences of the oil spill in the Gulf, the president is likely to gain much needed support for his promotion of climate change legislation. A market driven switch to alternative and renewable energy will require a bill that puts a price on carbon and gives producers incentives to switch to and invest in cleaner, more efficient inputs and processes. Such a bill must meet two criteria. First, it must not harm the competitiveness of domestic producers relative to their foreign counterparts; and second, it must minimize emission leakage, thereby reducing global emissions levels.

In this project for the US Department of Energy, we model the impacts of future US climate legislation. Policy scenarios are drawn from the precedence set by the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA), which the US Senate did not pass in 2010 but which serves as a blueprint for the future. The goal of the ACESA is to motivate US producers to reduce emissions in five manufacturing industries: Iron and Steel, Non-ferrous Metals, Non-metallic Minerals, Pulp and Paper, and Chemicals. Collectively, these sectors make up the most energy-intensive trade-exposed (EITE) sectors in the world. While the bill did not pass in its current form, future legislation will incorporate its three main policies: instituting a cap and trade system in the US, output-based rebates on allowance purchases, and an import tax on embodied emissions.

Capstone Report

Presentation PowerPoint

Estimating the Economic Costs of Espionage

Client: CENTRA Technology
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Jeffrey Engel
Authors: Richard Bell, Jared Bennett, Jillian Boles, David Goodoien, Jeffrey Irving, Phillip Kuhlman, Amanda White

This Capstone group developed an analytical model, complete with programmed user interface, to aid intelligence analysts in estimating the expected economic impacts of economic espionage conducted by foreign corporations and countries.

Capstone Report

Lessons Learned from the 9/11 and WMD Commissions

Client: Central Intelligence Agency
Supervising Instructor: Professor Ronald Sievert
Authors: Kristin Childress, Bethany Comley, Drew Davis, Timothy Hopp, Melissa Miller, Whitney Morehead, Amy Potter, Natalie Prendergast, Pablo Rivera

At the request of the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence, a team from the Bush School conducted an inquiry to determine how the CIA responded to the investigations of the 9/11 and WMD Commissions. The goal of the project, which involved interviews with several commissioners and numerous key staff members, was to identify what actions the D/CIA must take when confronted with future commissions to ensure that the most accurate picture of the Agency is presented, while preventing the formation of inaccurate negative impressions created by the manner in which Agency personnel interact with investigators. At the conclusion of the Capstone, the students prepared a report and orally briefed Agency supervisors on their findings and recommendations.

Capstone Report

China, Nonproliferation, and Beijing’s Relations with Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan

Client: Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Andrew Scobell
Authors: Nicholas Hogan, Thomas Kearney, Tina Li, Louellen Lowe, Cristine Salo, Gregory Stevenson, Adam Trull, Abby Volk

In December 2009, the Capstone group headed by faculty advisor, Dr. Andrew Scobell, met with its client, the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).  At this meeting, the INR tasked the Capstone group to explore how China manages its relations with three key proliferators: Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan.

The eight students met weekly during the spring semester of 2010 to accomplish the goal of learning where China ranks nonproliferation in its relations with Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan.  In April 2010, the Capstone group, accompanied by Dr. Scobell, presented its findings to the INR in Washington, DC.  The students also had the opportunity to brief the National Counterterrorism Center in a separate meeting.    Thomas (Joey) Kearney was the lead presenter for the INR, while Louellen Lowe took the lead in briefing the NCTC.  The rest of the Capstone members were alongside the presenters as subject-matter experts answering questions from the audience.

Within each bilateral relationship, the students found that Beijing consistently rated other foreign policy objectives above nonproliferation; these objectives related to China’s geopolitical, diplomatic, military, and economic interests.  For example, in the case of Iran, China’s interest in maintaining access to Iranian energy resources was most important, while China’s concern for regional stability was the driver behind its bilateral policies.  Regarding Pakistan, efforts to balance against India as a rising power have played a leading role in the Sino-Pakistani relationship.
Based on these findings, the Capstone group identified these interests as the interests the US should use as leverage to gain Chinese cooperation on nonproliferation initiatives.  The students identified actions the US should take to elicit Chinese support.


Fall 2009

Pipeline Politics: Natural Gas in Eurasia

Client: US-Ukraine Business Council
Project Advisor: Dr. Gabriela Marin Thornton
Authors: William Landrum, Benjamin Lewellyn, Craig Limesand, Dante Miller, James Morris, Kathleen Nowell, Charlotte Sherman

Eurasia is a major source of oil and natural gas, and events in the region have a great potential to destabilize global security patterns. Supplies of natural gas and oil from Eurasia are vital for the functioning of European economies, and also important to US efforts to reduce its reliance on Middle Eastern energy resources. Presently, pipelines in Eurasia stretch across thousands of miles throughout unstable political regions. Disruptions in gas and oil supplies negatively affect the economies and politics of the region. Future pipeline projects – such as the Nabucco pipeline – are highly controversial, and Russia’s efforts to control oil and gas supplies in the region have recently intensified.  Russia has gained increased influence in its neighborhood by consolidating control of regional energy production and infrastructure.

This project claims that Russia is using its energy monopoly to further its geostrategic aims: ensuring political influence in nearby countries, obtaining a rise in commodity prices, and returning to multi-polarity in which Russia maintains clear regional hegemony. On the other hand, the US has four key interests in Eurasia.  These include averting tensions with Russia, stabilizing the flow of oil and natural gas to Western Europe, maintaining US regional access for counterterrorism operations, and promoting democratic regimes to reduce Russian influence.

In this light, the report argues that the US must promote development of pipelines that bypass Russian control and advance alternative domestic sources. These actions will ease European dependence on Russian energy, shield Europe from disruptions in supply, and decrease Russia’s ability to exert influence through energy policy.  Other options include promoting a common European Union energy policy to increase influence in energy markets, push for increased gas storage across Europe to provide temporary relief against gas disruptions, and explore increased US and European cooperation with Russia on energy market access.

Capstone Report

Spring 2009

Assessing Regional Border Security

Client: Centra Technology, Inc./Department of Homeland Security
Supervising Instructor: Jeffrey A. Engel

Government agencies face special problems when they seek to assess non-disaster security risks in areas where there are multiple jurisdictions and levels of governance. The client, Centra Technology, in support of the Department of Homeland Security, sought a conceptual approach or theoretical model for determining how governments should value, assess, and balance risks that arise from illegal immigration, weapons smuggling, the narcotics trade, natural disasters, and terrorism. The students compiled and evaluated the available literature on the subject and developed a structure by which policymakers should consider the difficulties of regional risk assessment.

Capstone Report

Combating Child Labor through DESTINO

Client: Creative Associates International, Inc./U.S. Department of Labor
Supervising Instructor: Kishore Gawande

This project focused on how to reduce child labor in Panama, using the DESTINO (Disminuyendo y Erradicando el Trabajo Infantil para Nuevas Oportunidades) program, a joint effort of two Panamanian organizations: Casa Esperanza and Fundación Tierra Nueva. DESTINO seeks to reduce the incidence of child labor through community workshops, income generation activities, scholarship activities, teacher training programs, and civil society programs. The study looked at child labor statistics gathered by DESTINO as well as additional work done by the Centro de Capacitación y Desarrollo Integral to improve income generating activities among indigenous women. The DESTINO project is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and is being managed by Creative Associates.

Capstone Report

Effective Intelligence Operations during Counterinsurgency Campaigns

Client: The Rand Corporation/Department of Defense
Supervising Instructor: Jasen J. Castillo

The United States Army's recently published field manual detailing an improved counterinsurgency doctrine is seen by many as a crucial step towards improving military effectiveness in counterinsurgency campaigns. This capstone project laid out a framework to help the intelligence community craft its own unique doctrine for counterinsurgencies. The project looked at intelligence operations that are crucial for defeating insurgencies, the operational factors that are most effective, and the lessons learned from past counterinsurgency successes and failures. Blending historical case studies and first-person accounts from field operatives, the project outlined the kinds of intelligence operations that should be implemented and the goals they must meet in order to run a successful counterinsurgency.

Capstone Report

Investigating the Current Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland

Client: National Counterterrorism Center
Supervising Instructor: Sara Daly

This project analyzed the current terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland both from homegrown terrorists and those who represent foreign terrorist organizations or who come to the United States to carry out an act of terrorism. Although there has been no terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, the assumption that there is little support for al-Qaeda or the jihadi worldview from U.S. citizens or others is challenged by recent cases that reveal there are still individuals in the country who may become involved in terrorist activity. The study examined recent cases of thwarted attacks and failed plots to determine current capabilities and tactics possessed by terrorist groups and individuals. The students also looked at how successful al-Qaeda and those who share its views have been at finding new recruits for U.S. operations.

Capstone Report

Presentation PowerPoint

Proliferation Security Initiative

Client: Nuclear Nonproliferation Office of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Supervising Instructor: Larry Napper

This capstone project conducted a focused examination of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and identified options for U.S. policy makers by designing a simulated interdiction operation. The simulation involved a cargo aircraft carrying sensitive nuclear components bound for Iran that stops for refueling in a Central Asian country, thus creating the opportunity for cooperative action. Capstone students joined students from Texas A&M's Department of Nuclear Engineering to construct and execute a mini-move simulation. In addition to a literature review and interviews with PSI experts, the students conducted an initial play of the simulation for the client along with an after action report.

Capstone Report

Presentation PowerPoint


Human Security and National Security Reform: New Paths for International Leadership

Client: Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations

This 2008 Capstone research continues the work of a 2007 project titled "The Interagency Process in Support & Stability Operations: Integrating and Aligning the Roles and Missions of Military and Civilian Agencies in Conflict and Post-Conflict Environments." The 2007 Capstone study included analyses of interagency efforts in the conduct of US and NATO operations in counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. This 2008 study analyzed how US national security policies, strategies, and objectives have changed since 2001. It also estimated the effectiveness of the contemporary national security system, including institutions, organizations, and leadership in addressing what international security experts call "human security," or threats to the survival of societies, groups, and individuals.

Capstone Report

"East Asian Security in 2025"

Client: Long Range Analysis Unit, National Intelligence Council (NIC)

This project supported the National Intelligence Council's production of its report Mapping the Global Future: 2025, forthcoming 2009. With China's great rise to power in the background, this capstone helped assess the most likely security outcomes for East Asia in 2025. The Capstone briefed the NIC and other analysts from the intelligence community and also briefed the China desk team under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs in the Department of Defense.

Project Presentation

"Provincial Reconstruction Teams & Counterinsurgency Training"

Client: Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Ft. Polk, Louisiana

Two separate but parallel capstones combined intensive classroom study and civilian support field exercises to US military counterinsurgency operations, focused on the model of interagency Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Students visited JRTC in Louisiana March 2008 to play a PRT role during the training of a US Army Combat brigade en route to Iraq. Upon return from Louisiana, students prepared a written After Action Report and Lessons Learned that included recommendations for future PRT role players and trainers for the JRTC.

Capstone Report

"Capacity Building in Meat Exports From Southern Africa"

Client: World Bank, Trade Division

This is the second part of a study that began by asking whether exports to developed countries are hampered by the inability of developing Southern African countries to participate fully in the meat export market. The project was broken into two segments focusing on the formal and informal sectors. After conducting in-depth research and refining the development problem, students designed a survey model and flew two group members to Southern Africa to conduct a survey. The survey was designed to help answer why Southern African countries were not participating at greater levels in the meat export market. Using supportive research, economic development theory, and the survey results, students then compiled a report which was presented to the client.

Capstone Report


"The Interagency Process in Support & Stability Operations: Integrating and Aligning the Roles and Missions of Military and Civilian Agencies in Conflict and Post-Conflict Environments"

Client: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations

This study addressed the support, stability, and reconstruction missions and tasks for the U.S. government in counterinsurgency warfare and suggests that interagency processes between civilian and military elements are in need of reform as a prerequisite for improving U.S. performance in complex counterinsurgencies. The project examined, assessed, and defined the nature of these problems in the context of historical case studies, policymaking, and current operations, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggesting several ways to improve agency and interagency structures, as well as the education and training of core interagency civilian and military professionals. The findings were presented at a conference on the topic, hosted by the Bush School and the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army.

Capstone Report

"Developed Countries' Imposed Standards on Trade of Agricultural Imports from Developing Countries"

Client: World Bank Trade Division

This capstone project deals with standards imposed on the trade of agricultural imports from developing countries by developed countries. BSE, foot and mouth disease, and avian flu are all major concerns for US and European consumers. These governments are extremely risk averse and want to reduce the risk of transmitting any kind of disease, especially those borne by agricultural products, to zero. There is no tolerance for risk. But is there a less burdensome system that also can achieve the zero-tolerance policy?

One of the requirements is that there be no contact between different animals. For example, hoofed animals, which may be possible carriers of foot and mouth disease, must be completely separated from each other. This requires building artificial barriers to separate the animals. But this has deleterious effects for tourism in African countries, where tourists from the developed world go on safaris to see animals. Building fences and artificial barriers reduces the naturalness of the habitat and reduces the attraction for tourism. In order to reduce the cost of the fences, agencies like USAID may subsidize the building of the fences, but they do not subsidize the loss in tourism. Thus there are real costs to these countries. So the main questions this project addressed were these:

  1. Are there any alternatives?
  2. Is it possible to institute policies that are less burdensome and yet achieve the desired outcome (which is to reduce the risk of spreading diseases)?

Capstone Report

"Framing a Comprehensive Approach to Climate Change"

Client: The Long Range Analysis Group, National Intelligence Council (Director of National Intelligence)

Looking ahead to 2025, what policies should future US administrations consider as appropriate responses to climate change, and what level of commitment should be devoted to addressing global climate change by the US government? To answer the key question, the project addressed the following secondary issues:

  1. Based on the best scientific evidence currently available, what will the most likely manifestations of global climate change be by 2025? This includes aggregate changes (surface temperatures, rising sea levels) as well as discrete changes (drought, flooding, disease, storms, heat waves). With respect to the latter, what are the probabilities that such events will be more (or less severe) than they are today?
  2. Based on the answers to the above, how politically salient will the issue of responding to global climate change be in 2025 (globally, by geographic region/location, by coalitions of similarly situated countries)?
  3. What low-probability, but potentially catastrophic events, may occur and how should these be taken into account by US policy?
  4. Responding to global climate change could be costly financially. However, there also could be positive spin-offs from addressing the consequences of global climate change. What may these positive spin-offs be (new technologies, energy independence, health, multilateral leadership, reputation gains)?

Capstone Report

Project Presentation

"U.S. Policy and the Future of Uzbekistan: Promoting Reform, Security, and Regional Stability"

Client: The Department of State

Students worked to develop an extensive database on contemporary Uzbekistan through library and online research and interviews with leading American and foreign experts on Uzbekistan and the region. In order to explore the challenges, opportunities, and policy options that will confront U.S. policy-makers, Bush School students constructed and executed a multi-move simulation. The simulation did not provide definitive answers, as different players in the simulation and future U.S. policy-makers may reach different conclusions on the most effective and constructive policy options.

Project Presentation

"The Peking Diary: George H.W. Bush and China: 1974-75"

Client: Princeton University Press

Students researched the diary of George Bush, 41st President of the United States, written during the time that he served as the Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing (1974-1975). Searching through archives and preparing text and footnotes, the students contributed work for an upcoming publication from Princeton University Press, expected in 2008. Students also presented their work to interested parties within the Bush School and Library.


"Command and Control in the Iraqi Insurgency"

Client: Centra Technology*

*The client for this capstone was Centra Technology, a private contracting firm specializing in technology and security services for private and government clients, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, Department of Homeland Security, our contact for this project.

The Iraqi insurgency was formed by multiple nationalities and ethnicities with disparate goals and motivations. A central question to understanding the insurgency's unity is whether there is command and control, which is defined as the sharing of tactics, information, and skills. This capstone explored this question by investigating how insurgent groups in the past have managed to communicate and disseminate tactics, even while operating in a dangerous environment controlled by their more powerful adversary. The class then applied this historical lesson to the current situation in Iraq and examined whether the history of attacks indicated command and control in the Iraqi insurgency.

Capstone Report

"Applications to Homeland Security from the Katrina and Rita Hurricanes"

Client: County Judge Randy Sims, Texas Director of Homeland Security, and the Department of Homeland Security

Gaps of understanding exist between Homeland Security Response and Recovery strategies and policies at the federal level versus understanding, authority, and capability at the state and local level. Responsibilities, authority, and expectations at every level of government (including the public) need to be clarified. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita provide an excellent case study to see what policies should be changed in the areas of response and recovery to major disasters in the future.

A variety of strategies, policies, and plans are already in place to deal with disasters and catastrophic events. Faculty members provided access to documents that describe the policies, as well as a framework to examine response and recovery "at the tip of the spear." Students selected the aspect of the framework they wished to address, fleshed it out in detail through discussions and research, identified the gaps in theory, used Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita to examine how those gaps developed in reality, and developed a set of policy recommendations to close those gaps. The final student recommendations were presented to the clients.

"Analysis of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board"

Client: Ambassador David Abshire and the Laury Foundation

The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) was established in 1956 to provide the President with a nonpartisan evaluation of the role and effectiveness of U.S. intelligence collection, counterintelligence, covert action operations, and intelligence analysis. Over the years, PFIAB has evolved to reflect the needs of the times and in response to the style of each president. In addition, the government has created new centers and other organizations leading to competing views and the bureaucratic challenge of coordination and oversight of intelligence.

No detailed analysis of PFIAB had been conducted. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy and the new intelligence reform environment, it was essential to examine the role of the PFIAB in the past to determine how it best can serve future presidents' national security decision-making responsibilities. The aim of the analysis was to determine what had been the strengths and weaknesses of the PFIAB in the past and to identify a productive role for the PFIAB in this new environment. Given the current intelligence needs of the country, such an examination was essential. It helped further define the role of PFIAB and shed light on the interrelationship of various intelligence components. Most importantly, it provided recommendations for presidential action to redefine, and possibly augment, the role of the PFIAB.

Capstone Report

"Finance for Low Income Communities: Possible Applications of US Experience for India"

Client: Grameen Bank

Much of the world's poor has difficulty in obtaining loans, especially the small loans (termed microfinance) they require. In order to improve access, Mohammed Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which uses innovative methods so the poor can obtain loans. The lessons of the Grameen Bank have been replicated worldwide, including in India in 2004 with Grameen Capital India (GCI). GCI partners with commercial banks such as the largest Indian private bank, ICICI bank, and Citigroup in order to provide funds to microfinance institutions. It structures its financial products so that low-income producers can access capital markets through various initiatives. GCI wants to expand this effort because only 5 % of Indian microfinance demand is now being met but is concerned that expanding is difficult. They believe they can learn much from an organization that has successfully increased its scale.

A parallel organization in the U.S. is the Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF, The CRF provides economic development funds and acts as a secondary market for loans for affordable housing and community facilities. Founded in 1989, with lending institutions in 22 states, the CRF has more experience than GCI in expanding operations. Students in this capstone project interacted with members from both the CRF and GCI and applied the lessons of the CRF to the GCI. They provided valuable advice to GCI on how it can enhance financial assistance for very small entrepreneurs in India, especially housing finance.

In this endeavor, students became familiar with one of the most popular of development fields. They actively engaged in current discussions on financial development in India and enhanced their own analytical skills in the fields of economics and finance.

Capstone Report