Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 2: The Reagan National Defense Forum

Loyal readers know what a travesty coffee in a glass is.

Remaining as I am, bodily attuned to East Coast time, it is 0447, and I have been awake for 17 minutes.  As my wakeup call is a scant 43 minutes from now, I thought it best to rectify my evening’s sloth by hopping to it this morning and getting a post done to cover what was a truly fantastic day.  I will not be able to post this immediately though, as the internet gods have conspired to make my room wifi sub-optimal, therefore I will have to wait until I get to the airport in a few hours to post this ditty.  Either there or the airplane itself, which is by the looks of my boarding pass, is equipped with airborne wifi.

Now, to yesterday.  I woke at the crack of dawn (natch) and spent a bit of time screwing around in my room, to include yesterday’s Day 1 post.  After showering and assuming the Republican uniform of the day (dark suit, white shirt, appropriate tie) I ambled over to one of the little establishments on resort in search of sustenance.  Finding a little bar/coffee shop open, I ordered myself some morning rocket fuel and a bit of food.  Whilst sitting there reading on my iPad, the lovely Jennifer Griffin from Fox News walked in.  Ms. Griffin is a cancer survivor, and wears her hair closely cropped ever since her chemo experience.  We exchanged pleasantries about our surroundings (“lovely, “nice room”) and our hopes for a grand day of defense policy. 

I then hopped in my rental and began the 11.8 mile trip (or so my trusty BlackBerry told me) to the Reagan Library.  It was an inconsequential drive, save for the reinforcement of my findings of yesterday (land time forgot, Brady Bunch street names). Arriving at the library, helpful staff ushered me to the plebian parking lot which was not at all inconvenient to the main venue.  A brief check in process including smiles and waves to old friends, and I was in.  In this case, “in” being a large pavilion in which an old version (707) of Air Force One hung suspended from the overhead.  There was a huge windowed wall looking out over the local mountains (the name of which is unknown to me) which served as a backdrop to a podium and numerous round tables postured for breakfast use by the defense policy elite.  I sat down with two friends from the Chief of Naval Operations staff, there as their boss was on the first panel of the day.  Soon we were joined by Secretary Lehman, who treated my friends to a few stories that were of course, roundly entertaining.

At about 0845, the program began with a welcome from the Director of the Reagan Library and a speech by the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA).  Buck is a good man—and by that, I mean “good” as in Mitt Romney, Mormon Hall of Fame Good Guy category.  He does however, slightly resemble the now deceased Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, which causes me to treat him with some circumspection.  After Buck’s chat, we split up into dueling presentations, as there were at any one time throughout the day two separate venues with completely different panels going on.  I chose one on Asia rebalancing and made my way to it.

After the panel and fueled by several quarts of coffee, I made my way to the men’s room which was a popular decision to make.  Made for such moments, I grabbed my BlackBerry and began reacquainting myself with the world.  After a bit, I turned around and noticed a man in uniform standing behind me, quietly waiting his turn.  It was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I smiled and extended my hand, saying “Good Morning, Chairman”.  As the occasion required, pleasantries were exchanged, and we traded our esteem for one of our mutual friends, Brigadier General Joe Harrington, who had been his Exec until selected for general grade.  We parted in order to execute duties assigned.

I took my seat in the very back of the room for the next panel, one devoted to the making of strategy.  After a while, a kindly looking fellow happened into my view and asked if the chair next to me were taken.  I answered, “yes, by the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee” to his warm smile.  It was Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who I have always liked.  Again, the requisite pleasantries were exchanged, to include my stock reference to friends of mine who had worked for him (Tim Long, Jeff Bennett, John Beaver).  For whatever reason, neither of us was particularly captivated by the panel, and so we sat there and chatted at a whisper throughout the next 20 or so minutes.  We talked about being a Senator vs. being in the House.  We talked about his duties on Budget vs. his duties on Armed Services.  He asked about my work, my life on the Eastern Shore, etc.  It wasn’t hard to understand why the voters of Alabama are fond of him.  It was a fantasy camp highlight, but more were coming.

This panel’s end meant the start of lunch, and I took my assigned table amongst a collection of Southern California locals, a Wall Street guy, a shipbuilding industry friend, and two friends from a DC think tank.  We had a lovely chat and lunch (a tasty chicken cacciatore) and listened to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs reprise the great theme of the day, that our military was in a readiness crisis imposed by the evils of sequester.  While I appreciate the evils of the sequester and the incredibly stupid strictures under which it is imposed, I tend to believe that it is really a sideshow compared to the bloat and inefficiency of DoD writ large, much of which is attributable to least common denominator strategic thinking that values consensus over all else, causing resources to be poorly allocated. But this isn’t a military blog, so I won’t bore you with that.  At lunch, my two think tank friends asked me to join them later in the day for a meeting with an influential member of the House Armed Services Committee to talk budgeting and planning.  Another fantasy camp highlight, I of course agreed.

After lunch, I attended another panel but was bothered by a cramp in my foot that caused me to have to walk around.  I looked at Air Force One, Marine One, and the 1984 Presidential Limo they had on the floor.  Nice care, but velour seats?  Not so Presidential.  At the appointed hour, I joined my think tank friends for our meeting in “the green room” which was a quiet, well provisioned space for the speakers/VIPs.  Comfy chairs, a large screen with football playing, and a number of computer/printer duos were there for the use of the anointed.  We took our places and were joined by the aforementioned House Member for a thoroughly great conversation.  Again, fantasy camp.

After this meeting ended, I scurried toward the door, aware of my pretender status there in the salon of the powerful and mighty—when my think tank guys ushered me back to sit in on another meeting, this time with a powerful Senator.  Again, fantasy camp.  I can’t talk about what I talked about at these meetings, but I can tell you that the things I think and write about on a daily basis were quite useful in the conversations and seemed to be appreciated by the heavy-hitters.  After this, I moved to the main pavilion for the arrival/speech of the Secretary of Defense.

Our current Secretary of Defense is a former Republican Senator, a man who got his start in government as a volunteer in the Reagan Campaign.  His wistful reminiscences of Ronald Reagan and his portrayal of the real hope that he represented stood in stark contrast to what many in the room discern as today’s atmosphere, under his present boss.  His speech was unremarkable, natch.

The conference ended, I made dinner plans with a young friend who runs a “Real Clear Defense” a DC based content aggregator and headed for my room.  After a good Mexican dinner, it was back to the hotel, stuffed and unexercised, there to head to bed.

It is now an hour after I began this post, and it is time to shower, pack and leave.  I fly from here to Colorado to participate in another conference in which I have a speaking role tomorrow morning for which I have still yet to prepare.  Fantasy camp part II. 

1 comment:

Dear Ol' Dad said...

I'm impressed with the important people my son Bryan knows and who know him.

Newer Post Older Post Home