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South Carolina State Grad Discusses Value of Public Service Ahead of Austin's Commencement Address

A person in a business suit stands near a building, and the Washington Monument is in the background.
Brandon Brown
Brandon Brown, a South Carolina State University graduate who serves as director of transnational threats for the deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction, discusses his career and the value of service at the Pentagon, May 8, 2024. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin will address this year’s graduating class during the SCSU commencement ceremony where he will underscore the value of careers in public service.
Photo By: Joseph Clark, DOD
VIRIN: 240508-D-WM747-1005

Brandon Brown was skeptical at first when he received a phone call from an unknown number during his junior year at South Carolina State University.  

Brown had set his sights on a summer internship with the Defense Department and had worked with advisors to get his resume to the right place.  

But still, he said, it was surreal when the call from the Pentagon finally came.  

"Here I am sitting in my dorm, you know a month later, and somebody calls me and says 'Hey this is so-and-so from the Pentagon. How would you like to come intern with us,'" Brown said.  

"Part of me was like, 'Is this a joke?'" he said. "A random call on my cell phone from a number that I don't know?" 

It was that call from a random number, however, that set in motion Brown's 15-year career in public service that continues to this day.  

Brown recalled that fateful day this week on the eve of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's trip to South Carolina where he will address this year's graduating class at South Carolina State's commencement.  

Since taking office, Austin has embarked on a sustained campaign to find more people like Brown — those with a spirit of selfless service who aim to go above and beyond to make the U.S. military the world's most capable — to join DOD's civilian workforce.  

Austin's visit to South Carolina State, a historically Black university, reflects his commitment to ensure that DOD's workforce reflects the nation it protects.  

Austin's address this year will serve as another reminder of the value of public service for those entering the workforce. 

For Brown, that value was clear from a young age. His father, also a South Carolina State alum, retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army, and Brown said service to the nation was a formative part of his childhood.  

"You kind of get to be on the outskirts of it as a military family," he said, and that example stuck with him through college. 

Brown also said he knew a career in government would offer unparalleled opportunities for personal growth. 

And he has seized every one that has come his way.  

A person in a business suit holds up a jersey while standing in front of a building.
Brandon Brown
Brandon Brown, a South Carolina State University graduate who serves as director of transnational threats for the deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction, discusses his career and the value of service at the Pentagon, May 8, 2024. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin will address this year’s graduating class during the SCSU commencement ceremony where he will underscore the value of careers in public service.
Photo By: Joseph Clark, DOD
VIRIN: 240508-D-WM747-1004Y

While an intern in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel for Readiness, Brown said he did what any good South Carolina State University Bulldog would do and began to network with colleagues and plot his course for a full-time position.  

Soon after returning for his senior year, he was flown back to Washington, D.C., to interview for a full-time position within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.  

By the time he graduated with a degree in business in the spring of 2009, he had landed a full-time job that has led him to the front row of national security decision-making.  

Throughout his career, Brown has worked across the interagency as part of a defense support for a civil authorities team and with key allies and partners as a member of the DOD European affairs office. He has also had the opportunity to further his education, earning a master's degree in strategic studies from the National War College.  

Brown now serves as director of transnational threats for the deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction. 

"It's a mouthful," he said as he gave his full title. But the lengthy designation is fitting, considering the weight of the position.  

Brown's team is responsible for non-proliferation and counter-proliferation policy within the highest echelon of the department. Their job is to prevent the spread of nuclear and other highly destructive weapons through international treaties and other mechanisms.  

The team also works to prevent countries that already have those weapons from putting them in the hands of others.   

While acknowledging that a career in government may, at times, require sacrifices, Brown said the opportunities far outweigh the occasional missed birthday or long day. 

"You might give up more time," Brown said in comparing a career in public service to one in the private sector. "But at the end, it's in support of the nation. 

"I've been able to do some pretty cool things," he added. 

Brown also said experience in public service carries a certain gravitas that can be useful if someone decides to pursue a career in the private sector.  

"The validity of working for the U.S. government usually is like saying that you work for Google or Nike," he said. "It's just easier to have somebody understand that you mean business, that you mean service, that you're qualified and can do the job."

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