Policy Memo Assignment
This term, you will produce a 8-10 page (double spaced, 12pt font) policy memo for
consumption by a (fictitious) client. The client might be an official in a government organization, a
superior officer, a think tank body, a decision-maker at private firms, a member or sub-unit of
Congress or another appropriate individual. This assignment is aimed at developing the ability of
students to talk about the content surveyed in this course in a critical fashion. Inevitably, this means
writing effectively about cyber security principles, theory, doctrine and law in the context of real
world threats and problems.
The final policy memo will require you to undertake the following:
1. Choose a policy challenge at the intersection of cyber/information security and homeland security issues.
Pick a topic that concerns the interaction of information technologies and national security
policymaking (broadly construed) and that affects the security of people, companies or the
government/military. You may write about an issue we address in class, but be warned –
given the survey nature of this course, your memo should naturally go beyond class content
and assigned readings for your given topic. If you are not sure whether your topic is
appropriate, feel free to run it by me via email ahead of the initial proposal.
• One Page Proposal Task: Outline your suggested policy challenge in no more than
2. Explain the policy challenge and why it is important.
Provide brief background on the policy issue to help the reader follow your argument. In
short, I should get from this section a solid idea of what your topic looks like empirically
beyond a simple label (studying “AI” or “cyberterrorism,” etc.). Include robust citations and
make the case that this issue is important enough for policymakers to care about.
• One Page Proposal Task: You are selling me on this topic. Articulate the significance
of the challenge and give examples of positive outcomes from remedying the problem in
no more than one paragraph.
3. Put the challenge in the context of the relevant academic and policy literature.
Discuss the current state of the field with regard to your issue. Describe important theories
or empirical findings from the academic literature, as well as any ongoing policy debate
around the issue. For academic research, you might consult Google Scholar (beware of
unpublished work), JSTOR, or the major academic journals that published the readings
assigned for this course. To research the policy debate, consult policy journals (see me for
specific suggestions re: these journals and your topic area) and reports from major think
tanks (Brookings, Council on Foreign Relations, IISS, etc.) or government agencies. Talk to
the staff at the library if you need help identifying appropriate sources or getting started with
• One Page Proposal Task: You don’t need to do much at this stage here. Simply
suggest what kind of sources you think you will likely be drawing on from a quick survey
of search results.
4. Provide concrete advice to a senior policymaker on how to meet this challenge.
Address your memo to a specific senior policymaker in a government agency or private
organization. Provide 2-3 detailed strategic policy options for meeting the challenge your
memo describes (including specific recommendations re: implementation) and make the case
for your one preferred option. Only propose options that are feasible or reasonable (i.e. for
the most part, you shouldn’t be suggesting that we redesign the Internet).
• One Page Proposal Task: Tell me in no more than one paragraph who your report
will be aimed at, why they are the appropriate authority to deliver such a memo to and
what the scope of your recommendations will therefore be (i.e. if your memo is for the
Secretary of DHS, then the scope would likely be for the whole department or TSA, not
the whole government).
In your full draft, you will do more than just describe the literature or summarize the arguments of
others. You are required to offer your own critical analysis of the policy issue with the arguments and
theories of others only as a starting point. As such, please take care to think about and propose a
topic that specifically interests you.
At the same time, you will have to do more than just provide your opinion! You should use facts and
findings in the literature (with emphasis on peer-reviewed publications and reports by recognizable
authorities on a given issues, such as government agencies or relevant analytic firms) to support your
analysis and conclusions. As such, it might be beneficial for you to pick a topic you are unfamiliar
with, so that your review is complete and unbiased.
Organization is key here. Give me section headers and sub-headers. Write clearly and concisely.
Proofread. You will not do well on this assignment if I am confused about your analysis or policy
Your proposal for this memo should be 1 page of single-spaced text (not including a bibliography),
using a standard 11-point font and one inch margins. Please number your pages. You can use
whatever citation style you prefer, but you must cite your sources correctly and be consistent. Ask for
help if you’re not sure how or whether to cite material.
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