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Student Instructor

Infectious Disease Outbreak in Colombia

Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.

3.1 Role

Welcome to your role as a participant in the National Security Council (NSC)! You should have received an email with your role assignment, but if you did not, you can view your assignment by clicking on the “My Simulations" tab on your account page. At this point, you should have reviewed essential background information about the NSC, read the case, watched the accompanying videos, and perused some of the additional reading. Whether you have been assigned a specific role as an individual or part of a group, or as a general advisor to the president, we suggest you read the case once again to identify material that is particularly relevant to your role or that requires further investigation. After that, you will conduct independent research as you write your position memo and prepare for the role-play.

There are three subsections that follow. Research and Preparation (3.2) will aid your research for the position memo and provide additional reading to guide your research; the Guide to the Memoranda (3.3) provides information about position memos and an example; and the Guide to the Role-Play (3.4) provides more information on the in-class role-play.

You can learn about your role by reading the information provided on your role sheet, which can be found below. Review this information thoroughly and often, as your objectives and strategy in the position memo and role-play will be shaped by the institutional perspective of the role you have been assigned (unless you are playing a general advisor). After you finish the role-play and subsequent debrief, you will have an opportunity to share your personal thoughts and recommendations on this case in a policy review memo (Section Four, Wrap-up).

Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.GO TO SECTION 4.1

Case Roles

Description of Role:

The president is the head of state and commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. He or she presides over National Security Council (NSC) meetings and listens to the advice and information presented by others. The president is not expected to be an expert on any single subject, but instead draws on the expertise of the NSC to analyze options and choose what he or she feels is the best policy to advance U.S. interests.

The president’s goals are to

  • select one or more policy options after considering the opinions and recommendations of NSC members; and
  • balance and promote U.S. interests, with an eye toward both immediate goals and long-term foreign policy strategy.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Colombia relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Colombia, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case, especially Venezuela? How does this affect the proposed U.S. policy options?
  • What is the best strategy to protect the health of United States Citizens in this case?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The vice president must be ready at a moment’s notice to assume the presidency if the commander in chief is unable to perform her or his duties. Vice presidents can play a relatively active role on the National Security Council (NSC), serving as a general advisor and freely advocating their own positions during meetings. In particular, the president may ask the vice president to serve as an independent voice, untethered to any of the agencies represented by other NSC participants. The president may also ask about the interaction between the issue at hand and the domestic political situation, including in Congress.

The vice president’s goals are to

  • provide advice to the president on any topic, including those overlooked by other NSC participants; and
  • understand the range of views in Congress and work to build congressional and public support for the president’s chosen approach.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • How, if at all, would the White House need to work with Congress to execute any of the proposed policy options in this case? How might varying congressional attitudes influence the U.S. response to the outbreak in Colombia?
  • What roles do the media and public opinion play in U.S. global health policy? How does public opinion affect the domestic political consequences of various responses?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The national security advisor (NSA) has a special role in crisis management, serving as the “honest broker” for the national security policy process. Although the president makes final decisions, the NSA is responsible for ensuring that he or she has all the necessary information, that a full range of viable policy options has been articulated, that the prospects for success and failure have been identified, that any legal issues have been addressed, and that all members of the National Security Council (NSC) have had the opportunity to contribute.

The national security advisor’s goals are to

  • facilitate the president’s consideration of issues by keeping the NSC discussion on track and guiding it toward concrete policy options; and
  • build trust as an honest broker among the other NSC participants.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What are the most important factors for the president to consider when making a decision? What information would be most useful for other members of the National Security Council to present?
  • What past examples, if any, exist of the U.S. policy options presented in this case? How might these examples inform the U.S. response to the outbreak?
  • What is the best strategy to protect the health of U.S. citizens in this case?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The chief of staff oversees the Executive Office of the President, which provides the president with support to govern effectively. This post has traditionally been home to many of the president’s closest advisors. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the chief of staff ensures that the president has the necessary analysis on the full range of factors relevant to the case, including the U.S. political situation. He or she also guides the process of implementing and communicating presidential decisions.

The chief of staff’s goals are to

  • highlight the domestic implications of U.S. foreign policy choices; and
  • develop strategies to carry out the president’s policy and communicate it to U.S. and international audiences.

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • How, if at all, would the White House need to work with Congress to execute any of the proposed policy options in this case? How might varying congressional attitudes influence the U.S. response to the outbreak in Colombia?
  • What roles do the media and public opinion play in U.S. global health policy? How does public opinion affect the domestic political consequences of various responses?

 

Research Leads:

 

Description of Role:

The Department of State maintains the U.S. diplomatic presence around the world, conducting foreign relations and using an on-the-ground perspective to generate country-specific knowledge. As head of the department, the secretary draws on this knowledge to present an authoritative view of the United States’ bilateral relationships, the relationships between foreign countries, and the behavior and interests of foreign governments.

The secretary of state’s goals are to

  • serve as the president’s principal foreign policy advisor; and
  • analyze how policy options will affect the interests, reputation, and relationships of the United States.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Colombia relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Colombia, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case, especially Venezuela? How does this affect the proposed U.S. policy options?
  • What past examples, if any, exist of the U.S. policy options presented in this case? How might these examples inform the U.S. response to the outbreak?

 

Research Leads:

 

Description of Role:

The secretary of defense is the principal defense policy advisor to the president, under whose direction he or she exercises authority over the Department of Defense. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the secretary analyzes the security situation in the relevant region and explains the likely implications of U.S. military involvement, both for the immediate crisis and for the United States’ overall strategic position.

The secretary of defense’s goals are to

  • understand the options for and feasibility of any military action, as well as its possible outcomes; and
  • identify ways to prevent the deterioration of a crisis to the point where it mandates U.S. military intervention.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • In what ways could the military assist in the U.S. response to the outbreak in Colombia? What role could military personnel play in each of the policy options outlined in this case? What risk does each policy option present to U.S. military personnel?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case, especially Venezuela? How might this affect potential military assistance in any U.S. response?
  • How and how effectively have U.S. armed forces responded to disease outbreaks in the past?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The Department of the Treasury carries out policy on issues related to the U.S. and global economies and financial systems. The secretary of the treasury, as head of this department, serves as one of the president’s chief economic advisors. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, he or she analyzes the economic dimensions of foreign policy issues and weighs the potential impact of policy options on U.S. economic concerns, including growth, trade and investment, and the position of the U.S. dollar.

The secretary of the treasury’s goals are to

  • serve as a senior presidential advisor on economic policy; and
  • determine how foreign policy options might affect the U.S. economy and financial system, the global economy, and economic relations between the United States and others.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What financial risks does the outbreak in Colombia pose? What are the financial costs associated with the various policy options in this case?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Colombia relationship? What are the United States’ financial ties to Colombia, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the economic relationship between the United States and other parties relevant to this case, especially Venezuela? How does this affect the proposed U.S. policy options?
  • What have been the economic consequences of past disease outbreaks? How, if at all, have U.S. responses to past outbreaks affected the domestic and global economy?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The attorney general is the head of the Department of Justice and the chief lawyer of the U.S. government. The department represents the United States in legal matters, including by prosecuting violations of federal law. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the attorney general gives the president advice and opinions on the legal aspects of policies under consideration.

The attorney general’s goals are to

  • consider the legal elements and implications of U.S. foreign policy options; and
  • ensure that any policies decided by the NSC are in compliance with domestic and international law.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What are the legal considerations of imposing travel restrictions? What, if any, are the legal considerations of sending medical aid to affected countries?
  • What kind of legitimate backing, such as domestic legislation or UN Security Council resolutions, might be useful or necessary for any U.S. intervention in the outbreak in Colombia?
  • What is the role of health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in responding to outbreaks of infectious disease? What legal authority do these organizations have and how could U.S. government agencies coordinate with them in a policy response?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The role of the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) is to advance U.S. foreign policy interests in the bodies and forums of the UN system. Reporting to the secretary of state, the permanent representative helps formulate and articulate the U.S. position on all political and security matters under discussion at the UN. At National Security Council (NSC) meetings, he or she outlines policy steps available to the United States at the UN and advises NSC participants on the positions and actions of other UN member states.

The U.S. permanent representative to the UN’s goals are to

  • advise the president and secretary of state on the diplomatic actions the United States can or should take at the UN; and
  • promote the United States’ interests and values at the UN.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What is the role of the United Nations and its agencies during outbreaks of infectious disease?
  • What position could other UN member states, particularly those on the Security Council, take on the situation in Colombia? How are these governments likely to react to various policy responses by the United States?
  • What is the role of health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in responding to outbreaks of infectious disease? What legal authority do these organizations have and how could U.S. government agencies coordinate with them in a policy response?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military and the principal military advisor to the president, the secretary of defense, the National Security Council (NSC), and the Homeland Security Council. The CJCS does not exercise command authority over U.S. troops. Instead, he or she works with the heads of the U.S. military services to provide advice to the president and other senior leaders.

The CJCS’s goals are to

  • serve as the president’s military advisor on the NSC; and
  • advise the president on specific military options and the corresponding risks, benefits, and implications.

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case, especially Venezuela? How might this affect potential military assistance in any U.S. response?
  • In what ways could the military assist in the U.S. response to the outbreak in Colombia? What role could military personnel play in each of the policy options outlined in this case? What risk does each policy option present to U.S. military personnel?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The U.S. intelligence community consists of seventeen agencies and organizations that gather and analyze intelligence to help policymakers formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy. The director of national intelligence oversees this network of agencies. He or she focuses on providing the latest relevant information to National Security Council (NSC) members and articulating the capabilities and interests of the intelligence community.

The director of national intelligence’s goals are to

  • provide complete, accurate, and up-to-date information to the NSC on the situation under discussion; and
  • serve as the principal advisor to the president and the NSC on intelligence matters.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Colombia relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Colombia, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in the outbreak in Colombia? How, if at all, might they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?
  • Where does the outbreak in Colombia fit in the broader context of national security concerns facing the United States, especially in South and Central America? How should this analysis shape your consideration of policy options in this case?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The secretary of energy leads the Department of Energy, which carries out U.S. policy on energy, environmental, and nuclear issues. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the secretary must consider the energy-related dimensions of foreign policy issues, any energy-related tools that might form part of the U.S. response, and the implications of policy decisions for the American energy supply and environment.

The secretary of energy’s goals are to 

  • formulate and evaluate energy-related measures as part of policy options; and
  • gauge the implications of foreign policy decisions on U.S. energy security and environmental concerns. 

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case, especially Venezuela? How does this affect the proposed U.S. policy options?
  • What is the importance of Venezuela for the global oil supply, and by extension, the U.S. and global economies?  If the outbreak spreads to Venezuela, how would it affect the global oil supply?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The Surgeon General operates as the U.S. Government’s spokesperson on issues relating to public health, serving to inform the public about how to reduce the risks of health threats. The Surgeon General also oversees the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, an organization of public health professionals working throughout the federal government to protect the health of U.S. citizens.

The Surgeon General’s goals are to

  • highlight the domestic and public opinion implications of U.S. foreign policy choices relating to public health; and
  • develop strategies to communicate health policies to U.S. and international audiences.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What past examples, if any, exist of the U.S. policy options presented in this case? How might these examples inform the U.S. response to the outbreak?
  • What is the best strategy to protect the health of U.S. citizens in this case?
  • What is the role of health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in responding to outbreaks of infectious disease? What legal authority do these organizations have and how could U.S. government agencies coordinate with them in a policy response?
  • What roles do the media and public opinion play in U.S. global health policy? How does public opinion affect the domestic political consequences of various responses?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense is responsible for advising the president on policies relating to global health threats, pandemic preparedness, and biodefense. In the event of a pandemic of biological attack, the Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense coordinates the responses and resources of various U.S. health agencies in order to implement a unified response.

The Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense’s goals are to

  • advise the president on issues concerning global health and biosecurity; and
  • gauge the implications of foreign policy decisions on the United States’ ability to prevent or respond to a pandemic or biological threat.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What roles do the media and public opinion play in U.S. global health policy? How does public opinion affect the domestic political consequences of various responses?
  • What is the role of health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in responding to outbreaks of infectious disease? What legal authority do these organizations have and how could U.S. government agencies coordinate with them in a policy response?
  • What is the best strategy to protect the health of U.S. citizens in this case?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

USAID was founded in 1961 to distribute assistance, or foreign aid, from the U.S. government to other countries. Today the organization administers a wide variety of assistance programs intended to help countries reduce poverty, establish and strengthen democratic institutions, improve education and health, address the effects of climate change, and promote gender equality, among many other objectives. The agency often works in postcrisis and postconflict areas to deliver emergency assistance and encourage economic opportunity and peace.

The USAID administrator’s goals are to

  • advise the president on issues involving economic, social, and political development and USAID’s efforts to advance related objectives; and
  • describe the potential role and contributions of USAID, and foreign assistance more broadly, as part of the potential U.S. policy response.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Colombia relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Colombia, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the role of health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in responding to outbreaks of infectious disease? What legal authority do these organizations have and how could U.S. government agencies coordinate with them in a policy response?
  • What kinds of obstacles and challenges might aid workers encounter in Colombia or neighboring countries? How do these considerations affect the strengths and weaknesses of each policy option?
  • What are the major components of U.S. humanitarian and development assistance to Colombia and its neighbors? What has been the effect of this assistance?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

Established in 1946 in Atlanta, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the leading health agency in the United States. Its responsibilities include monitoring health threats, controlling disease outbreaks, delivering life-saving medicine, and ensuring that food and water are safe. The agency works with local and state health officials to coordinate disease monitoring and control efforts. It also works internationally with organizations such as the World Health Organization to address global health threats and contain disease outbreaks before they can reach the United States.

The Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s goals are to

  • advise the president on issues involving public health, disease control, and the CDC’s efforts to advance related objectives; and
  • describe the potential role and contributions of the CDC, as part of the potential U.S. policy response.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What roles do the media and public opinion play in U.S. global health policy? How does public opinion affect the domestic political consequences of various responses?
  • What is the role of health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in responding to outbreaks of infectious disease? What legal authority do these organizations have and how could U.S. government agencies coordinate with them in a policy response?
  • What is the best strategy to protect the health of U.S. citizens in this case?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The general advisor offers analysis and recommendations that are unconstrained by the interests of any department or agency. He or she is tasked with providing a comprehensive assessment of the situation at hand and ideas for policy options that serve U.S. interests.

The general advisor’s goals are to

  • understand the breadth of the issue and outline its stakes for the United States; and
  • advise the president on the range of policy options proposed by all NSC members.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Colombia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the outbreak?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Colombia relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Colombia, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case, especially Venezuela? How does this affect the proposed U.S. policy options?
  • What is the best strategy to protect the health of U.S. citizens in this case?

 

Research Leads:

This is a customized role created by the instructor. Please see your instructor for your role description.

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