PhD Student Recognized with State Department Award

Posted: April 23, 2014 at 5:02 am, Last Updated: April 25, 2014 at 6:23 am

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By Buzz McClain

David Buffaloe

David Buffaloe

David Buffaloe is at work on a dissertation that will “conduct case study research to evaluate the effectiveness of policy tools to prevent genocides and mass atrocities,” he says.

It’s something he knows a little bit about. In fact, earlier this year the U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and PhD student at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy (SPP) received a Superior Honor Award from the U.S. State Department for various missions he’s orchestrated in hot spots around the world; his leadership has saved lives and secured national borders. Previous honorees have included General David Petraeus and special advisor to the ambassador of Iran, Brett H. McGurk.

Buffaloe, who is an active duty officer in the Army, was honored for orchestrating the recent surge of African Union troops in Somalia intended to defeat the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab. “They added 4,400 troops in February and renewed their offensive [earlier this year],” he says. “So far, they have liberated seven additional Somali towns. They’ve met some resistance from al-Shabaab, but nothing they couldn’t overcome.” Key to success, Buffaloe notes, is “synchronizing military objectives with political benchmarks to bring long-term stability to Somalia.”

He also brought the United Nations’ mission in the Golan Heights from the brink of collapse last summer by strengthening the mission with a new mandate, co-authored with Russia, and supported by new Irish, Fijian and Nepalese troops.

“For 40 years, it was a peaceful observer mission, but when the Syrian civil war entered the Golan, it threatened the safety of the largely unarmed peacekeepers and the tenuous cease-fire between Israel and Syria,” he says. “Three out of five troop contributing countries left the mission quickly, and a fourth threatened to depart after its peacekeepers were captured and detained for days by elements of the armed Syrian opposition—twice.

“Now it’s a healthy, well-equipped and well-manned mission,” he says. “For that one, in addition to the Superior Honor Award, the Israeli Embassy also presented me a bottle of Israeli wine.”

His next big project: Defending his dissertation proposal and advancing to PhD candidate at George Mason. He would be further along in his studies, but world crises beckoned. “I began at Mason in 2006 but took a leave of absence in 2008 and 2009 to deploy to Kabul, where I served as General McChrystal’s lead campaign planner,” he says.

At Mason, Buffaloe is not learning more about his area of expertise; instead, he’s learning “to become a scholar and discover something new about public policy and how to formulate, evaluate or implement it more effectively,” says University Professor James Pfiffner, one of Buffaloe’s professors at SPP.

“In our PhD program, he has been exposed to a broad range of ideas about public policy and how to make it effective. Ideally, he will use the ideas of other scholars who have thought carefully about public policy and add his own contribution to theirs.”

At Mason, where he has also studied at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Buffaloe says, “my studies and professors have influenced my current focus for both my research and for the policy work that I have done.”

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