Solution Series Roundtable: The Mechanics of a Deal

On October 3, Partnership for a Secure America hosted an off-the-record Bipartisan Negotiation Panel to provide practical lessons in effective negotiation and bipartisan policy development.  The panel was led by Lara Flint, former Chief Counsel for National Security for Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Bart Forsyth, former Chief of Staff for Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

The first of the Bipartisan Negotiation Panel series, this dinner event focused on the negotiation tactics behind the creation and passage of the USA FREEDOM ACT of 2015. As key architects, Lara Flint and Bart Forsyth evaluated their own roles and strategies in the passage of the Freedom Act. This series will build off of the knowledge obtained by Congressional Partnership Program participants during their negotiation training.  Dinners will feature candid, deep-diving conversations with accomplished former and current senior Congressional Staff to explore the “mechanics of a deal” behind bipartisan legislation in national security and foreign policy arena.

Lara Flint

Lara Flint is the Associate Director for Oversight and Congressional Capacity at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Lara leads the Governance Program’s work to strengthen safeguards that ensure our government is transparent and accountable to the public.

Lara is a skilled advocate with more than 15 years of legal, public policy and government experience, including a decade on Capitol Hill. Most recently she served as chief counsel for national security to then-Chairman Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she led the committee’s work on national security, privacy, and technology, and was instrumental to enactment of the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 — the first major surveillance reform legislation in decades. Previously, Lara served as senior counsel on the Judiciary Committee to Senator Russ Feingold.

Between her Senate positions, Lara joined the State Department Office of the Legal Adviser, where she advised senior State Department officials on counterterrorism, law of war, and use of force issues. Prior to her government service, Lara worked on policy at the intersection of technology and national security at the Center for Democracy & Technology, and conducted a broad range of litigation at the law firm of Jenner & Block. Lara is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and Harvard Law School.


Bart Forsyth

Bart Forsyth currently serves as a deputy vice president with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.  He began his career in Washington as an Attorney Adviser at the Department of Labor.  He later served as legal counsel to four House congressional committees:  Foreign Affairs, Science, Judiciary, and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the latter of which he was also chief of staff.

From 2012-2017, he was the chief of staff to Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner.  In this role, he had the pleasure of staffing several major legislative efforts, including the USA FREEDOM Act—a bill to institute sweeping intelligence reforms—and the Voting Rights Amendment Act—a modernization of the historic civil rights legislation.  More recently, he helped spearhead the Judicial Redress Act, a law that facilitated the sharing of law enforcement information between countries by providing citizens of designated countries access to U.S. courts.  Bart graduated magna cum laude from Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Solutions Series Roundtable: Trade

On Monday, July 30th, Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record roundtable dinner for alumni of the Congressional Partnership Program to discuss trade, the growing use of tariffs, and the potential for a larger trade war. The conversation focused on how the U.S. and Congress can respond to help American workers without damaging relationships with allies.

Trade and Tariffs

Beginning in 2018, President Trump imposed significant tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports in addition to 25% tariffs on all imported aluminium and 10% tariffs on all imported steel. Both China and close trading partners such as the European Union and Canada responded swiftly, imposing their own retaliatory tariffs on a variety of American goods. The country is divided in regards to this shift in American trade policy. These divisions – unlike with many other issues – are not necessarily partisan but are based largely on the economic prospects for various industries in the context of a trade war.

Key Details

Trade Expansion Act of 1962

  • Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the president the unilateral authority to alter tariff levels on certain imports if an investigation by the secretary of commerce determines that these imports threaten American national security. The Trump administration cited this law as the legal authority for the imposition of new tariffs without congressional approval.

Relevant Incidents

  • March 2018
    • President Trump announces that his administration will impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminium. U.S. stock markets fell sharply in response with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 420 points on the same day and the NASDAQ and S&P each dropping 1.3%.
  • May 2018
    • President Trump applies tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. These countries had initially been exempted from these barriers.
  • June 2018
    • President Trump releases the final list of Chinese imports that will be targeted by 25% tariffs – a total value of approximately $34 billion in goods. China immediately responds with retaliatory tariffs.
  • July 25
    • President Trump meets with President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Junker to negotiate a deal to avert a trade war between the United States and the European Union. In a joint press release, the two announced they would work together to remove tariffs and other trade barriers.

Solutions Series Roundtable: The Rohingya Crisis

On Monday, January 29th, Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record roundtable dinner for alumni of the Congressional Partnership program to discuss the growing humanitarian crisis in Burma through targeted violence and rape against the Rohingya Muslim minority group. The conversation focused on how the U.S. and Congress can respond to help end the crisis without damaging recent political and economic progress in Burma.

The Rohingya Crisis

Beginning in August 2017, the Burmese government launched widespread and brutal military operations against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in the country. The operations, which Burma cited as a counter-terrorist response to attacks by Rohingya militants on military and police stations, have created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Murder, rape, and arson by Burmese military units in conjunction with nationalist Buddhist civilian mobs have forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, overwhelming refugee resources there.

Key Details

1982 Citizenship Law

  • Under this law, Burma denies citizenship to the Rohingya Muslims, making them one of the largest stateless populations worldwide. The government views them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Relevant Incidents

  • August 2017
    • Rohingya militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) target more than 30 military and police posts, prompting retaliatory operations by Burmese military units and Buddhist civilian vigilantes.
  • September 2017
    • The Burmese government claims that operations against militants ended, contrary to evidence that the military operations continued after this date.
  • November 2017
    • Sec. State Rex Tillerson labels the crisis in Burma “ethnic cleansing.”
    • Bangladesh and Burma sign a deal to return all Rohingya Muslims back to Burma.
  • December 2017
    • The US individually sanctions Burmese general Maung Maung Soe for his role in the military operations.
  • January 2018
    • Bangladesh and Burma finalize details for a repatriation plan and timeframe for the Rohingya refugees. Burma agrees to accept 1,500 Rohingya each week, for a total of 2 years to repatriate all Rohingya.
    • The repatriation of Rohingya Muslims back to Burma is postponed due to fears by refugees that they would be forced to return against their will. The process was slated to begin on January 23, 2018.
    • US diplomat Bill Richardson resigns from an international panel set up by Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi to provide advice on the Rohingya crisis, citing a lack of moral leadership by Ms. Suu Kyi.

Solutions Series Roundtable: Cybersecurity

On Thursday, November 2nd Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record roundtable dinner for alumni of the Congressional Partnership Program to discuss cybersecurity, and how America’s electric grid can be secured against cyberattacks. The conversation focused on how Congress can support private sector utility providers who are the first line of defense against cyberattacks targeting America’s electric grid.

Cybersecurity and the Electric Grid 

Cybersecurity has risen to the forefront of America’s national and homeland security concerns in the 21st century.  High profile cyberattacks have successfully penetrated networks used by government and operators of critical infrastructure. All 16 sectors of America’s critical infrastructure depend on a stable electric grid – making it a prime target for would be hackers. The Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review claims that America’s electric grid is in “imminent danger” of a cyberattack, and that a significant outage would undermine critical defense infrastructure, and endanger the health and safety of millions of Americans.

Key Details

Relevant Incidents

  • 2015
    • Russian hackers use “crash override” malware to disable Ukraine’s electric grid
  • 2016
    • Russian hackers disable Kiev’s electric grid
    • Burlington Electric detects Russian group Grizzly Steppe’s malware on network
  • 2017
    • Wolf Creek nuclear plant detects cyber-attacks mimicking Russian group Energetic Bear
    • FireEye claims DPRK hackers targeted electric power companies with spearphishing emails
    • Symantec reveals that Dragonfly hack group gained “operational access” to industrial control systems of US power providers

US Electric Grid Structure

  • 3,300 separate utility operators
  • 200,000 miles of transmission lines
  • 55,000 power substations
  • 5 million miles of distribution lines
  • Tens of thousands of large power transformers
  • LPTs cost millions of dollars each and take up to 2 years to build


Solutions Series Roundtable: Arctic Security

On Thursday, August 24th Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record roundtable dinner for alumni of the Congressional Partnership Program to discuss development of an American strategy for the Arctic. The discussion focused on strategic competition with Russia, the current state of strategic assets in the region, and the potential costs and benefits of a US pivot to the North Pole.

Arctic Security 

The Arctic has been a region fairly devoid of conflict; the small club of Arctic states has proven able to resolve differences through diplomacy. However the physical and political environment of the Arctic is shifting rapidly; increasingly aggressive melt of sea ice has created new access to natural resources and potential shipping lanes. Russia and China have moved quickly to invest in the Arctic – though China’s nearest coast is 900 miles from the Arctic Circle, over half of the total arctic coastline is sovereign Russian territory and nearly half of the region’s human population is Russian administered. Russia has launched an extensive military buildup along its Arctic coast, and has made formal claims to areas of the Arctic seabed under UNCLOS. US activity in the arctic is hampered by a lack of deployed strategic assets (icebreakers, cutters, etc.), a murky command structure, and a lack of overall strategic direction.

Key Details


  • Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, USA
    • Arctic Council (forum)
    • NATO members: US, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway


  • Ice melt is opening up new potential shipping lanes through ”Northern Sea Route”
    • Canada, Russia, US experience the most extreme Arctic changes


  • US extended continental shelf:
    • 13% of world oil reserves
    • 1/3 of gas reserves
    • $1 trillion in rare earth metals
  • Arctic at large:
    • $35 trillion in oil and gas reserves

Strategic Assets

  • US
    • 2 icebreakers (1 under repair)
      • USCG says they need 6 to fulfill current N+S pole requirements
    • 41 ice-capable attack subs
    • 3 combat brigades (airborne, mechanized, recon)
    • 3 fighter squadrons (F-16 & F-22)
  • Russian Arctic buildup
    • New Arctic command
    • 4 new Arctic brigades
    • 14 new operational airfields
    • 16 deep water ports
    • 40 icebreakers (11 in development)
    • 25 ice-capable attack subs


Solutions Series Roundtable: North Korea

On Thursday, June 22nd Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record roundtable dinner for alumni of the Congressional Partnership Program to discuss the growing North Korea crisis. The discussion focused on the current state of legislative activity seeking to address the crisis, and potential opportunities for collaboration on new approaches.

Issue Background


2017 has seen the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) test 24 individual ballistic missiles, including short range, medium range, and submarine launched varieties. This is a continuation of the pattern of aggressive missile testing commenced by Kim Jong-un in 2012. DPRK has conducted 6 nuclear test detonations since 2006; the most recent test (held in September 2017) demonstrated a yield of over 140 kilotons, and is generally agreed to confirm DPRK’s development of thermonuclear capabilities. Current projections indicate that US military assets in Guam, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are within striking distance of DPRK’s missiles, as well as Tokyo and Seoul – which together contain some 23 million citizens. In the months following this event, North Korea has performed several successful missile tests which place American cities from Los Angeles to Chicago within reach of their nuclear weapons.