Students prepare for simulation


By Nathan Finney

Last week began the 50th anniversary of the fateful “13 Days of October” that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.  To commemorate the occasion, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the Center for Public Leadership, and the International Security Professional Interest Council began a series of briefings and opinion articles to set the stage for a simulation on Oct. 27.

This event, titled “Inside the Situation Room: A National Security Crisis Simulation” is designed to simulate a meeting of the U.S. National Security Council to address a modern-day security crisis.  Students selected by the sponsors to participate will be placed in teams to prioritize issues and make decisions in high-pressure situations and then clearly communicate the goals and details of those decisions to their peers.

Preparation for the simulation included a series of briefings by Professor Graham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and expert on the Cuban Missile Crisis; Professor Matthew Bunn, Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom; Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics; and Dr. Daniel Fenn, Former Staff Assistant to President John F. Kennedy and Founding Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Additionally, Professor Joseph Nye published an article on the lessons of nuclear deterrence in the Moscow Times, Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns published a piece on the political lessons of the event, and Professor Graham Allison published an article on just how close we came to World War III in the Christian Science Monitor.

Graham Allison’s briefing discussed the history, importance and implications of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This session was intended to set the stage of past national security crisis situations and how they could unfold.

The National Security Crisis Simulation will be a formative experience to a small group of students, as well as a great testament to what a small group of our nation’s most senior leaders endured 50 years ago.