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Michael Bill (’21): Helping the Defense Department operate effectively

Michael Bill headshotA military history buff ever since childhood, Michael Bill (’21) found IWP through an event on maritime strategy. After building his expertise on space issues through his IWP classes and working with IWP career services to hone his resume and navigate USA Jobs, Michael began serving with the Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General’s Office as a program evaluator for DOD space, nuclear, and missile defense programs. On the job, he uses lessons learned at IWP on a daily basis.

Michael Bill (’21) grew up watching the John Wayne movies of the fifties and sixties and now serves in the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office as a program evaluator on the cutting edge of missile defense, nuclear, and space programs. Born in Indianapolis and raised in Phoenix, Michael developed at an early age a strong interest in military history, politics, and law enforcement, thanks to role models in his family.

Michael first served as a police cadet in the Phoenix Police Department in high school, and he later worked for two years and studied at San Diego Mesa College before transferring to the University of California San Diego to major in International Relations. During this time, he spent six years volunteering as a docent at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and he also interned with the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, where he cataloged donations and conducted research.

During his second year of college, Michael interned with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and discovered on Eventbrite a lecture about 21st-century maritime strategy hosted by IWP. He attended it, talked to Danielle Shover, IWP’s Director of Graduate Recruitment, and toured IWP’s campus two weeks later. He fell in love with the school and kept in touch with Danielle as he finished his undergraduate studies.

Pursuing graduate studies in national security

After graduating college, he applied and received acceptance letters from top international affairs programs in D.C., and he ultimately chose IWP.

Several factors distinguished IWP from other programs, said Michael. First, he felt that IWP had an exceptional curriculum that included the founding principles of America and Western moral philosophy. “If you are going to protect and defend this country, what is the point of defending it if you don’t know the foundations?” said Michael. The curriculum also offered an overview of all the tools of statecraft instead of a laser focus on a particular specialty area. “My focus was on defense policy and budgeting, but I found it helpful studying topics like political warfare, intelligence and policy, and economics.”

Michael also appreciated that IWP professors had robust working experience in their fields. Finally, he was intrigued by IWP’s admissions essay, which required an analysis of the difference between liberal internationalism and realism.

Enrolling in the Master of Arts in Statecraft and National Security Affairs at IWP, Michael’s interdisciplinary coursework concentrating on defense policy proved advantageous to his first remote research internship at the Hudson Institute. In his words, IWP gave him a comprehensive overview of the tools of statecraft, which he could apply to that internship, and a brief stint with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

Landing a job with the DOD Inspector General

While searching for the next opportunity, Michael worked with Derrick Dortch, Director of Career Services at IWP, and Kelly Zug in the Career Office to craft a cohesive resume, including listing a paper for Dr. John Tsagronis’ emerging threats class in the fall of 2019 on orbital space debris and how it jeopardizes U.S. space operations. Then, after Derrick and Kelly’s help navigating the USAJOBS portal, his resume landed on the desk of his current supervisor at the DOD Inspector General’s Office (DOD IG), who saw it and selected Michael as a Pathways Intern for the auditing team because of his familiarity with space issues.

Starting his new position amidst the onset of the Covid pandemic and five months after the creation of the United States Space Force, Michael soon became the lead space expert for his auditing team. After about two months on the job, he received the DOD IG’s Fiscal Year 2021 Intern of the Year Award. He received his master’s degree from IWP shortly thereafter and became a full-time employee. This full-time status allowed Michael to obtain a Top-Secret Security clearance, allowing him to work on more significant projects.

Auditing DOD space, nuclear, and missile defense programs

While most Inspector General’s Offices focus on financial reports and related requirements to discover inefficiencies, the DOD Inspector General’s Office completes more program-centric evaluations. They look at programs and try to determine how DOD can do something better. Instead of beginning audits after allegations of wrongdoing, Michael’s office usually begins a project after research that has uncovered an inefficiency or an opportunity to do something in a better way.

Oversight reports from Michael and his team are sent to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, as well as the House Armed Services Committee.

Michael’s team, which handles space, nuclear, and missile defense programs, primarily had experts with backgrounds in nuclear and missile defense issues. He is glad to have brought an understanding of space and the importance it plays in national security to the team. “Whenever there is a space-related issue coming up, or a member of my team is doing a space-related project, I’m the first person they come to for information,” said Michael. Michael’s supervisor has also asked him to develop space-related oversight project proposals.

Michael uses the knowledge gained in his IWP classes regularly at work. “In addition to Dr. Tsagronis’ class, which got me more exposure to space national security issues, the class I use on a daily basis is Dr. Schroeder’s course on Defense Strategy, Planning, and Budgeting. I read budget documents all the time, especially when I am looking at a program. It would be a lot more difficult for me to find the information I need if I hadn’t taken his course. He does an excellent job explaining how the DOD is set up, its operations with the various instruments of military power, and how these operations integrate with the State Department. I recommend his course to anyone working or desiring to work in the DOD.”

Michael recently passed the three-year mark as a program evaluator and, in the future, plans to continue developing his expertise as a space and nuclear guru in the policy field.

News from IWP Students and Alumni

M.A. in Statecraft and National Security Affairs

Michal Bill at IWP Commencement
Michael at Commencement in 2021