USA — Face of Defense: Officer Selected as White House Fellow

WASHINGTON — An Army offi­cer emerged from a field of more than 700 appli­cants to earn a spot in a pro­gram designed to give par­tic­i­pants hands-on expe­ri­ence with the inner work­ings of the gov­ern­ment.

2010-2011 White House Fellows program
Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, right, stands with his Afghan coun­ter­part at an obser­va­tion post in Afghanistan near the Pak­istani bor­der in 2009. Dempsey was select­ed for the 2010–2011 White House Fel­lows pro­gram.
Cour­tesy pho­to
Click to enlarge

Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, a Jef­fer­son City, Mo., native and U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my grad­u­ate, was cho­sen, along with 12 doc­tors, lawyers and oth­er pro­fes­sion­als, to spend a year work­ing for senior White House staff, Cab­i­net sec­re­taries or oth­er top-rank­ing gov­ern­ment offi­cials in the White House Fel­lows pro­gram.

Dempsey, who holds a doc­tor­ate in polit­i­cal sci­ence, said it was a “tremen­dous hon­or” to be cho­sen.

“The process was much more dif­fi­cult than I thought it would be,” he said, “but also much more reward­ing.”

Dur­ing the six- to nine-month selec­tion process, Dempsey said, he was required to write five or six essays and a rec­om­men­da­tion for gov­ern­ment action, and to par­tic­i­pate in a series of inter­views.

“Had I not been includ­ed in that final 13, I would not have felt bad. … It was just a phe­nom­e­nal group of peo­ple,” he said.

Dempsey, a pub­lished author, said he wrote “Sol­diers, Pol­i­tics and Amer­i­can Civ­il-Mil­i­tary Rela­tions,” to dis­pel some com­mon stereo­types about the Army. The book is aimed at both the Amer­i­can pub­lic, who might not have a lot of con­tact with mil­i­tary mem­bers, and the Army, he said.

“There’s always ten­sion in civ­il-mil­i­tary oper­a­tions,” he added.

Two key stereo­types of the Army are that it is over­whelm­ing­ly Repub­li­can and that all sol­diers are hyper­po­lit­i­cal, Dempsey said. How­ev­er, he explained, his find­ings in a com­pre­hen­sive study dur­ing his doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion revealed that polit­i­cal per­sua­sions in the Army as a whole are not far removed from those of the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion.

“The Army mir­rors the Amer­i­can pub­lic almost exact­ly in terms of ide­o­log­i­cal self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion,” Dempsey said. “One pri­ma­ry pur­pose of the book was to show the pub­lic, ‘This is who your Army is, and they are not as divorced or dif­fer­ent from you as you may have been led to believe.’ ”

He also said he wrote the book as a touch­stone for senior offi­cers.

“It’s a call for offi­cers to bal­ance their per­son­al lives with their oblig­a­tions as com­mis­sioned offi­cers,” he explained.

Dempsey said he does­n’t yet know where he’ll be work­ing dur­ing his fel­low­ship, but that the idea is to ‘get you out of your com­fort zone.’ He said he hopes to gain knowl­edge that will help Army lead­er­ship face future deci­sions.

“The Army is faced with some tremen­dous chal­lenges. … We are going to need more than the tra­di­tion­al Army skill set to deal with them,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)