2002 Call to Service Recipient: Rachel Billingslea

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Often, young employees are seen and not heard. Not so with twenty-seven year old Department of Defense employee Rachel Billingslea. In just three years, she has played a leading role in opening a new front in better relations with the world’s largest democracy—India—and the formulation of America’s post-Cold War national security policy. Billingslea entered federal service with the belief that she could—indeed, she should—make a difference by offering her talents through public service. A graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government and a former Presidential Management Intern (PMI), she joined the Defense Department as one of only four policy staff working on ballistic missile defense, a central defense initiative of the Bush administration. As part of the missile defense team, Billingslea pursued her vision of employing missile defense as a tool in the effort to build a more robust defense relationship between the United States and India—a relationship that could have a tremendous impact on geopolitics. She independently conceived ideas for missile defense engagements with India, championed and shepherded them through the complex interagency clearance process, and ultimately received approval by various department and agency leaders. She personally accompanied the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to India to deliver these new policy ideas to the Indian government, where they were enthusiastically received. “It is incredibly rare that a relatively junior federal employee is able to have such a tangible impact on the development of high-level U.S. foreign policy, and this accomplishment is testament to Rachel’s vision and tenacity,” said a U.S. Senate aide. With the withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty completed, Billingslea left the missile defense policy office to accept a position as the Department’s Country Director for Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon—where she pursued efforts to devalue ballistic missiles and the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. It was in this position that Billingslea caught the attention of the Secretary of Defense. She now serves him as an assistant for managing the interagency process. Taking on critical issues of national and international impact, Billingslea personifies the type of keen yet diplomatic public servant whose groundbreaking work strengthens the nation immeasurably.