Saturday, February 28, 2009

UK's Patterson School Debriefs Simulation: Somali Pirate/Yellowcake Crisis Exercise

Thirty-eight student diplomats, nineteen grueling hours, and one super-heated international crisis: what might seem unsettling at first glance is nothing out of the ordinary on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington.

The Patterson School of Diplomacy’s annual Policy Simulation started at about noon Friday, February 27 with a report of a Russian destroyer witnessing a pirate takeover and lasted until about noon Saturday, when the final debriefing wrapped.

Here's a video featuring some of the principals in the simulation.

During the 19-hour simulation, students, who were divided into teams representative of governmental organizations and international actors, grappled with the situation, deploying military, intelligence, diplomatic and nongovernmental assets into a sphere that included the Middle East, Africa, the United States and Russia.

In the face of a planned fictional crisis, students were instructed to handle the situation accordingly. A debriefing session, following the end of the crisis, gave students a chance to discuss and get feedback from professors.

As constructed by the Patterson School’s faculty, including “leading scholars and former senior officials from the worlds of diplomacy, commerce, and intelligence”, students were faced with a pirated Panamanian vessel that was, unbeknownst to several parties, carrying radioactive material to Iran.

Teams included United States government organizations, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Puntland, and the United Nations. With different interests and consequences at stake, each organization independently made its way toward a solution by means of meetings, press releases, and planning exercises.

About 20 journalism and integrated strategic communication students from the university’s School of Journalism and Telecommunications acted as the press, creating multimedia reports in real time. Students actively reported and posted their findings, including video and audio clips, on the "INN" blog that served as a fictional competitor to CNN, FNC, and BBC. Further press involvement included reporting for and posting to an Arab-oriented blog known as "Gulf News Service."

Dr. Rob Farley of the Patterson School arranged the exercise and, with the school’s director, retired Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, and other Patterson School faculty members, ran the simulation.

Students from JOU 330 (Web Publishing and Design), JOU 499 (Media Convergence) and JOU 304 (Broadcast News Decisionmaking) provided the media coverage, coordinated by Journalism Profs. Kakie Urch and Scoobie Ryan.

Patterson School students discussed the high points and flaws of their implementations under the guidance of Patterson School professors, some of whom served as team leaders, on Saturday morning after the event.


This is part of a foreign policy simulation for the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. The events depicted are not actually happening.