Let’s All Get the Brief

Let’s All Get the Brief

The Security Bills and Learning on the Job

The Security Bills were finally passed by the House, not because Iran launched an unprecedented volley at Israel, but because Speaker Johnson got the brief. The recognition of the interrelationships among the myriad conflicts in which the United States has a stake was finally understood by the man now standing second in line to the Presidency.

Speaker Johnson came to office in an unprecedented manner that did not offer significant prior direct exposure to the national security decision-making apparatus, including defense, intelligence, and foreign relations exposure. He is demonstrating his capacity to learn on the job. This is a good thing and a learning point that we can also apply within our business settings. People can learn if provided with the correct opportunities to learn.

The Cost of Inaction

The false bravado of political stalemate, holding up critical support affecting US interests in three major theaters (Europe, the Middle East, and Indo-Pacific), inhibited supportive funding action and brought the US closer to a less safe world. As the consequences of his inaction were better understood, Speaker Johnson was wise to take counsel from intelligence and national security professionals. In doing so he recognizes he would be the one shouldering the eventual blame for a world order in descent.

This may seem a harsh opening to what is often a lighter newsletter. My vacation in Hawaii afforded me an opportunity to re-visit The Punchbowl, otherwise known as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. I have a cousin buried there, Major Barry Kerr, USMA Class of 1969. Barry was significantly older than me and served in Vietnam. As a child of the 60s and 70s myself, I saw Barry as our family’s connection to that war. Being in his presence, graveside, brought back fun memories of an older cousin who had all the cool factors one could ever hope for.

The Significance of Military Cemeteries

The time at the Punchbowl also offered me a chance to reflect on the several military cemeteries I have had the good fortune to visit. I once led a congressional delegation of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and coordinated with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) on field visits to several AMBC cemeteries associated with World War II battles and American war dead. Each site is particularly stunning in the perfect manner in which they are maintained. Any American would be proud to walk the hallowed grounds where those who fought for something so much bigger gave their final measure.

At one cemetery, I watched as a Senator spoke by phone with a family member of a fallen American soldier from the gravesite in France. The connection was profound, and the family members appreciated the gesture. I knew of a relative of a long-time friend whose grandfather died in the battle of Anzio. I was able to send a digital picture from that gravesite on a Memorial Day weekend during a similar congressional visit, again making a special connection for someone generations removed from the final resting place.

Insights from Congressional Delegations

Multiple visits with congressional delegations to Iraq and Afghanistan, assisting senior members with their oversight roles and being briefed by high commanders, provided me with uncommon insights into the complexities of war. 

During a final military tour running the Navy’s Senate liaison office on Capitol Hill, I saw yet another side of these complexities. I had the occasion to escort the family of fallen Navy Lieutenant and Medal of Honor awardee Michael Murphy on the day of the award presentation to the family. Michael Murphy now has a destroyer named for him. His family personified the salt of the earth. Their sacrifice of their son for the greater good was incalculable. 

The Human Cost of War

I assisted with the facilitation of burials, family logistics, and cemetery requirements when families from out of town were in need of support for the final point of rest for their loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery. Too many are now aware of the size of Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, where American war dead from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are laid to rest. 

As we squabble over political ideology during these times of fast-moving and often incorrect or incomplete information, I hope we can all get the brief. 

Striving for Better in Honor of Those Who Came Before Us

There is so much at stake in a much bigger world than just within the boundaries of our great country. This Memorial Day, I will reflect on those whose actions and sacrifices paved the way for the tremendous good fortune I enjoy today. 

Our world is imperfect. Our leaders are imperfect. We are all imperfect.

But we can strive to be better. Let’s honor those who have gone before us by striving to reach our potential as opposed to simply winning the near-term political argument of the day.

Wishing you a thoughtful Memorial Day in advance.

For a copy of my book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring® Circus of Federal Sales, and more information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.

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