Celebrating 65 years of Academy Assembly
Panelists speak at the 65th Academy Assembly Nov. 7, 2023 at Polaris Hall, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado. This year’s Assembly theme was “The Dragon Roars Back: China’s Return to the World Stage.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Rayna Grace)
By Katherine Spessa
U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communication
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – The U.S. Air Force Academy celebrated its 65th year of the Academy Assembly and addressed China’s growing presence in the Indo-Pacific region and international spheres during a three-day event held at Polaris Hall here, Nov. 6-8.
As a top priority of the National Defense Strategy, the conference examined the need to sustain and strengthen U.S. deterrence against China from various diplomatic, technological and defense angles. Expert professionals, academics and students from around the country gathered for the conference, comprised of panel discussions and subject-matter-expert-led workshops.
Academicians gather for long-standing conference
The Academy Assembly has convened annually since 1959 and is the longest-running undergraduate national security conference in the United States. The Academy’s political science department organizes the cadet-led conference, inviting panelists from a variety of disciplines to discuss a holistic approach to the topic of the day. This year’s panelists discussed alliances; China’s history and culture; technologies; and paths to peace.
“China’s rise has and will impact the global political environment,” said Cadet 1st Class Ryan Hermes, one of the event’s organizers. “This year’s assembly focuses on those changing dynamics and discusses the potential outcome, be it cooperation, competition or conflict.”
Political science, international studies and national security students from more than 20 universities were also invited to attend the conference, broadening the knowledge and experience of participants.
Expanding perspectives, gaining insight
“I was notified by one of my professors about the amazing program here because one of my focuses is learning more about China,” said Allen Zhang, an international studies undergraduate student attending the conference from Texas A&M University. “My parents are Chinese, so I can see both Chinese and U.S. perspectives.”
As a contributor in the Chinese Foreign Policy working group, Zhang, along with his fellow students, examined national security from a Chinese standpoint.
“We have to make plans, not through U.S. agency alone, but thinking through the Chinese lens,” Zhang said. “China has a 5,000-year history which shapes what they do and the decisions they make. Their foreign policy isn’t just shaped by national security but also by their culture.”
A path forward
An external subject matter expert guided each working group to allow students to interact with the material they were learning in each panel discussion and gain a deeper understanding based on their area of study. Workshop topics included: emerging technologies; the possibility of an alliance; Chinese foreign policy; a crisis simulation; the impact of international organizations; partners and allies; and Chinese culture and ideology.
The Assembly aimed to inform and prepare future military, political and diplomatic leaders to best handle Sino-American relations.
“I think countries and great powers are destined for war only if they allow it to be so,” said Dr. See Seng Tan, International Students Incorporated president and CEO and panelist speaker. “It is incumbent upon leaders to continue to seek ways to engage with one another to find those sweet spots where cooperation could be had.”
Alan Estevez, U.S. Department of Commerce Industry and Security undersecretary, U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 1st Class Mary Henderson, and Vice Admiral Frank Whitworth, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director, speak during a Fireside Chat at the 65th Academy Assembly Nov. 6, 2023, at Polaris Hall, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado. As a top priority of the National Defense Strategy, the conference examined the need to sustain and strengthen U.S. deterrence against China from various aspects of national power, diplomatic, informational, military, and economic angles. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Justin R. Pacheco)
Students participate in a workshop discussion during the 65th Academy Assembly Nov. 7, 2023 at Polaris Hall, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado. The Assembly aimed to inform and prepare future military, political and diplomatic leaders to best handle Sino-American relations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rayna Grace)