By: Jessica Morse
We’re grateful that, with your help, we’ve built such momentum running a positive campaign focused squarely on the needs of people in the 4th District. We’ve tried to live by Michelle Obama’s advice to always go high, and to date, we have run a campaign that has stayed positive and avoided attacks on the other Democratic women in this race. But in light of recent attacks on my career in national security, I do want to share more with you about my service as a civilian to our country. It’s a story that I’m proud to tell.
My call to serve came at a young age, and in a way I didn’t expect. In 2005, when I was 23 years old and just six months into my first job, with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, DC, I was asked to go to Iraq to replace an injured colleague. I had opposed the decision to invade Iraq, but recognized that civilians were suffering on the ground and our troops would never get home unless we worked to stabilize the situation and support reconstruction.
Ultimately, I served in Iraq for a year and a half, during a period of intense political turmoil and rising insurgent violence. I worked first as an Information Officer documenting USAID’s work around the country, and then in increasingly responsible roles as Donor Coordination Advisor and later Activity Manager overseeing two USAID programs related to Iraq’s civil service, elections, and media. Throughout my deployment, I worked alongside diplomatic and military colleagues in a coordinated effort to create security, promote economic development, and support Iraqi self-government.
When I returned to Washington in 2007, still just 25, I had more first-hand experience of conditions on the ground in Iraq than most civilians in government at the time. As a result, I was appointed Iraq Country Coordinator in the office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance (under Henrietta Fore). In that role, it was my responsibility to coordinate non-military assistance to Iraq within the State Department and USAID, vetting proposals for funding, ensuring that resources went to the most effective programs, and resolving conflicts and overlaps between agencies.
After leaving State to earn my Master’s degree in Public Affairs with a focus in Nuclear Non-Proliferation and International Security from Princeton University, I was chosen for the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF), a highly selective federal government training and development program. Designed to fast-track careers in government, the PMF rotates young leaders through positions in different government agencies. During my two-year fellowship, I served rotations as a Political Officer in our embassy in India, and then as a Strategic Policy Analyst and later an advisor to the Commander of US Pacific Command (military headquarters for Asia and the Pacific). At Pacific Command, I joined the Commander’s Action Group and drafted a US-India defense strategy using renewable energy technology transfer as the foundation for defense cooperation. I later returned to USAID, where I helped develop foreign assistance programs and budgets for politically sensitive countries including Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Burma.
I have been honored to receive awards from each of the agencies for my work. These include the Superior Honor Award from the US Department of State; the Distinguished Honor Group Award from the US Agency for International Development; and the Joint Civilian Service Achievement Award from the US Department of Defense.
After Swiftboating, birtherism, and other attacks, Democrats are all too familiar with smears as a political tactic. While I never expected this in our primary, I’m glad for the chance to speak up about my career and my service to our country. I am running because I believe I am the right person to represent our community and challenge career politician Tom McClintock.
Thank you for helping me put a stop to false and negative campaigning. We are working together to change the political culture and that effort starts with us.
In their own words, hear from people who served with me:
Dirk Djikerman, former Chief Operating Officer, Office of the Director of US Foreign Assistance
“Jessica helped me at the Department of State, as the Iraq Country Coordinator. Here she successfully guided $25 billion in Federal funds through Congressional appropriations and oversight committees, and coordinated with the many different U.S. Government departments and agencies engaged in Iraq’s reconstruction and recovery. I last benefited from her expertise when she advised me on managing USAID’s multi-billion dollar budget for the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Drawing from her international experience and knowledge on navigating Washington, she advanced two high-stakes U.S. National Security priorities.”
Captain (Ret.) Dave Cutter, US Navy
“From 2011 to 2012, Jessica and I were colleagues at the US Pacific Command in Honolulu, Hawaii. At the time, I was the Director of the Commander's Action Group, commonly referred to as the CAG. We were a small team of trusted advisors and strategists to the four-star military commander whose strategic focus was concentrated on enhancing the US pol-mil relationship with three major stakeholders in the region; our existing allies and partners, China and India. Jessica’s area of expertise on the team was our relationship with India. As we developed the pol-mil element of the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy, her drive to pursue a bio-fuel initiative was an innovative path to enhance the United States’ rapidly growing relationship with a major strategic player in the region.”
Gautam Rana, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy Slovenia
“I was the Deputy Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi when we were lucky enough to get Jessica for six months as a Presidential Management Fellow. The most important event for the Embassy was our yearly Strategic Dialogue with the Indian Government. Jessica played a critical role in ensuring the 2012 Strategic Dialogue was successful, including helping to draft key papers and providing important logistical support. Jessica was a terrific colleague and her efforts helped ensure the continued development of the U.S.-India bilateral relationship.”