Source: DoD (Defense.gov)
Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, met with high school seniors from Fairport High School, Fairport, New York today to discuss his role as the Department of Defense’s policy head and to engage in national security dialogue with the students as part of a class assignment.
The questions were direct and strategic in nature. Student Abigail Schaeber asked Kahl if the U.S. could continue its nuclear modernization program, given the nation’s fiscal forecast and trajectory.
With war in Ukraine and China’s threats against Taiwan, Kahl said lawmakers have given bipartisan support to defense spending, including nuclear modernization. He added that he hopes that support will continue.
Schaeber said Kahl provided a lot of useful detail in response to the group’s questions. It was her first visit to the Pentagon, and she said the inside of the building was cooler and fancier than she ever imagined. She was also impressed by the number of security procedures such as having to leave her cellphone outside of Kahl’s cybersecure office.
Another student, William Turri, asked Kahl if it had been wise for NATO to expand its membership to former Soviet Eastern bloc nations, thereby making Russia feel threatened.
“NATO has an open-door policy. If you are a democracy, if you meet certain standards, then you can come in,” he said.
Unfortunately, Russia chose a path of aggression against neighboring countries and suppressed democracy in its own country, he said.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine this year, NATO has shown a unified response in assisting Ukraine defend itself, he said.
Turri said he appreciated Kahl’s answers. The high school senior said he had a great time at the Pentagon, adding that “the place is cool.”
Senior Anna Foe was also impressed by the rich and detailed dialogue. She described her first visit to the Pentagon as a little overwhelming,” but added “I felt it’s a privilege to be here.”
Kahl concluded the visit, telling the students: “Every time I meet with students like you, I’m reminded [that] you’re way smarter than I was when I was your age. You’re way more capable, and I am confident you can solve the biggest problem that we face. What I owe you is to build a bridge for you to save us all. I will spend all my waking hours trying to build a bridge to your future and then you’ll figure it all out.”