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By Aisling Casey

On Tuesday, November 29th, 2016, Concordia had the pleasure of hosting Ms. Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, International Affairs for a Roundtable discussion at The Cornell Club in New York City. Matthew Swift, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Concordia moderated a compelling conversation on the importance of partnerships in promoting global security with Ms. Grant and Members of the Concordia community.

As international security programs are often dependent on the United States’ success and stability, Ms. Grant began the discussion by stressing the importance of the role of the United States in global partnerships, stating “the relationship is so much bigger than just defense.” She highlighted the South Pacific as a key area for developing partnerships, given the pressures and tensions imposed by China in the region. “We are the partner of choice,” Ms. Grant stated, which highlights both the opportunity and the responsibility for the U.S. to reinforce alliances and build capabilities in order to promote international security.

The conversation continued by considering the influence of media and its consequences on partnerships. Participants in the discussion commented on the “front-page” nature of news, which often tends to fixate on bad news over good. Ms. Grant noted that this has posed serious challenges for partnerships, negatively impacting potential deals as the media has released sensitive information prior to solidifying agreements with partners. In Ms. Grant’s travels, foreign nations have commented that the U.S. could benefit from being a more “silent partner” and noted that the U.S. media could be more conscious of its international audience. News is often reported with a domestic audience in mind, however, national news often has global implications and may be misinterpreted by our partner countries. For this reason, Ms. Grant has adopted a strong policy of open communication to dispel the common misconceptions portrayed in the media by being more public-facing, recently creating a Facebook page to interact more directly with citizens. In more formal conversations with international partners, Ms. Grant noted that she aims to ensure that grievances are heard, recognized and acted upon in order demonstrate an understanding of true mutual cooperation. This, she asserted, strengthens relationships to the benefit of all partners.

Ms. Grant closed the session by stating that she remains confident that the United States’ partnerships will remain strong during the transition to a new U.S. Administration, having survived many regime changes over the years, both at home and abroad. Even if new policies prevent the sale of certain equipment or increase tension with an international partner, these relationships have been built to withstand changes in policies. Throughout the conversation, Ms. Grant stressed the importance of open communication and dialogue with international partners in order to maintain strong relationships and build a solid foundation for international security.