Fall 2021 - 60868 - PA 682GA - Policy Research Project on Global Policy Issues

Foreign Election Interference



Countering Foreign Election Interference and Influence

Instructor: Stephen Slick

Client: Relevant Federal Agency and/or Policy Center (TBD)

MGPS Seats: 15

Ideal for: Students interested in national security, intelligence, covert action (active measures), foreign security services and government reform

Travel: Travel is likely to Washington, DC for research interviews and to present the final report with recommendations

Meets: Tuesday 2-5 p.m. (pending confirmation)

Skills: No special skills required


This Policy Research Project (PRP) is sponsored by UT's Intelligence Studies Project (ISP) which is, in turn, funded by the Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the Clements Center for National Security. The instructor and students will collaborate closely in all aspects of this project with Nicholas Rasmussen, an ISP Senior Fellow who currently directs the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.

Students participating in this PRP will investigate the threat posed to the integrity of U.S. elections by foreign states, steps taken by the federal government to counter that threat and develop recommendations aimed at improving our ability to safeguard these core democratic processes.

The 2016 U.S. presidential election was conducted in an environment shaped to an unknown degree by covert operations mounted by the Russian security services. Intelligence on election interference and influence by Russia and other foreign states was not shared with the American public before the election, and the topic emerged as a point of bitter and destructive partisan, intergovernmental and societal disagreement. A number of federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies acted — both alone and together — to counter similar attempts by Russia to influence the 2018 and 2020 elections. An unclassified assessment recently released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence catalogued foreign government operations to influence America's most recent election, and warned that such efforts were likely to persist in the future.

Through selected readings, class discussions and interactions with expert guests, students will build a foundational understanding of our national security structures, intelligence community, covert influence operations and adversary security services as well as past government reforms in the national security area. Students will review journalistic accounts, official investigative reports, policy papers and also interview current and former officeholders regarding the government's response to foreign attempts to influence our elections. The final phases of the PRP will involve personal interviews, deliberation on the adequacy of existing countermeasures and drafting/editing of a report that includes recommendations for improvements in how we safeguard future elections. The final report will be published and presented to audiences in the executive and legislative branches.


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