By Yillah Natalie Rosenfeld
With all the various intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance teams he’s worked for in the past, Brian Mazanec’s resume reads like something out of a Tom Clancy or Ian Fleming thriller.
But now, with a 2014 PhD in biodefense from George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, Mazanec is assistant director for the Defense Capabilities and Management department at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, where he leads a portfolio of small teams that review various issues, largely at the request of Congress.
Mazanec attributes part of his success as an assistant director—and before that as a defense analyst—to his determined pursuit of scholarship. When Mazanec began his career at George Mason in 2009, he had already been working as a GAO defense analyst for some time. He had just earned a master’s degree and was looking to deepen his skill set to dissect national security issues.
“The biodefense program was a perfect fit,” he said. “It was flexible, innovative and provided great balance between the policy realm and technical issues associated with biological threats—a truly unique program.”
Mazanec emphasizes that his degree not only enriched his ability to participate in his role as an assistant director at the GAO but also helped him gauge rigorous academic discourse. He attended two international academic conferences, funded by Mason, and was co-author of an article in a peer-review journal with his professor, Gregory Koblentz.
“The biodefense program sharpened my ability to provide more meaningful recommendations to Congress and the Executive Branch,” he said.
Mazanec commends Mason for its accessibility, adjunct faculty members who have real-world experience and convenient evening classes, which suited his full-time work schedule at the GAO.
“Mason has the perfect blend of characteristics,” he said. “A program like biodefense—with its cross-cutting, interdisciplinary content—exists nowhere else. I got a robust technical grounding as well as the general skills that are needed to really think quantitatively and qualitatively. It was a fantastic experience.”