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Research spotlight: Meet Doctoral Candidate Frank J. Kuzminski

December 21, 2022

In autumn 2022 we caught up with Jackson School Doctoral Candidate in International Studies Lieutenant-Colonel Frank J. Kuzminski about his research on NATO and critical infrastructure. LTC Kuzminski is an active-duty army officer with the army-sponsored program, Advanced Strategic Planning and Policy Program.

LTC Frank J. Kuzminski portrait

LTC Frank J. Kuzminski

Through a class in Spring 2021 titled, “NATO, Energy, and Cybersecurity in Europe,” with, and under the continuing guidance of, Sarah Lohmann, Jackson School Acting Assistant Professor and Visiting Professor at the U.S. Army War College, LTC Kuzminski is now a contributing author on two NATO-focused books: “What Ukraine Taught NATO about Hybrid Warfare” (USAWC Press, November 2022) and “Countering Terrorism on Tomorrow’s Battlefield: Critical Infrastructure, Security and Resiliency NATO COE-DAT Handbook 2” (USAWC Press, December 2022).

His research that made it into the books? A case study on Poland’s energy security in cyber-age and the other is on NATO and space critical infrastructure to understand threats and vulnerabilities to space systems that NATO relies on.

Jackson School: What is your biggest takeaway about the topics you researched?
LTC Frank J. Kuzminski: In particular, the handbook is a great example of how academia can interact with relevant policy problems to benefit decision makers. It brings together the academic world of scholars, the U.S. Army via Jackson School faculty Sarah Lohmann who is also a Visiting Professor, U.S. Army War College, and me as an active duty army officer, as well as NATO policymakers. It’s been an opportunity to bring in outside perspectives and different thinking that benefits everyone – it benefits scholars to gain exposure to work on relevant policy problems, not just theoretically, and it’s good for military and U.S. Army War College to gain exposure to academics who are working on innovative topics that NATO or the Army might be concerned about.

There was also a big revelation on Europe and NATO’s exposure and vulnerability to Russia. Doing the research, you see the actual data on how much Europe relies on Russia for energy needs, and how NATO indirectly depends on Russian energy. With the 2022 conflict in Ukraine, European capitals and NATO are wrestling with dependence on Russian energy. That’s always been below the surface, so the work on it now is very timely. Here are all these hybrid actions, such as hacking and disinformation in pursuit of military gains, and cyber vulnerabilities easily exploited by Russia below the threshold of armed conflict. The work we did on the energy and cybersecurity project is very timely.

Jackson School: Most impactful experience of the cybersecurity class and research?
LTC Kuzminski: While I was familiar with NATO from my military missions, and cybersecurity from my master’s thesis, the NATO context to the issue was relatively new to me. Both the Jackson School class in Spring 2021 on NATO, Energy and Cybersecurity and subsequent cybersecurity critical infrastructure research under the guidance of faculty Sarah Lohmann and resulting book chapters have been a good way to integrate these different areas.

The most recent project on the NATO handbook on Ukraine and hybrid warfare has been the most rewarding as it allowed me to use the research and knowledge that I’ve gained from my own dissertation research and apply it to a relevant policy problem. It’s really great as an active-duty army officer and as part of the Jackson School community to contribute to a project that the U.S. Army is running that both supports further cybersecurity research and supports my professional organization. For me, it’s a realization of the broader purpose of the program and why the Army sends people like me to do PhDs in places like the Jackson School at the University of Washington. Blending academic and policy research under the tutelage of faculty Sarah Lohmann has been a rewarding experience.

Jackson School: What key skills you have learned that will add to your career?
LTC Kuzminski:
Being at the Jackson School and as a Ph.D. student I’ve benefited so much from the training to be a scholar and researcher. Working on two NATO books I’ve really benefited gaining exposure to an international cohort of scholars and experts and military professionals across the NATO allies. That’s been great on a personal and professional level – the U.S. is a committed partner to the NATO alliance, working together to solve a problem, such as on the Ukraine crisis.

Jackson School: What part of presenting to high-level officials did you find rewarding?
LTC Kuzminski: Although all the NATO and U.S. Army War College conferences were on Zoom, the opportunity to present to senior level policymakers and military professionals in advancing my own career and write my doctoral dissertation on military space systems in Europe has been valuable. But for all of us participating it’s been great to present our work and tailor those presentations to be accessible but informative and helpful to people who are in positions to use the information. It’s a great benefit to be bridging academia and policy worlds together. The presentations offered another way to transform information in a clear and accessible language that senior officials can digest and understand quickly and easily. This is great training for those of us from a scholarly perspective to bring that to a different audience.

Jackson School: What career are you interested in pursuing after graduation?
LTC Kuzminski: My preference is to return to the Pentagon next year and work in a senior policy type position in defense. That would allow me to bring my research and international perspective to frame problems and discussions from different perspectives other than the U.S. Army view.

Jackson School: Anything else you would like to add?
LTC Kuzminski: I’m very grateful as a student and army officer to see the Jackson School is reaching out and working with the U.S. Army and NATO to bring the policy and academic worlds together to work on problems. Otherwise, why are we here? It’s one thing to do a paper, but if there’s an actual policy impact I think that’s hugely beneficial. It’s been rewarding that the two worlds I’ve been straddling have come together. I’m very grateful to Jackson School faculty and Visiting Professor at the U.S. Army War College Sarah Lohmann.

LTC Frank Kuzminski’s doctoral dissertation will focus on military space systems in Europe. Learn more about the Jackson School Ph.D. in International program.