Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sex, Drugs and a DoD Consulting Gig?

..the next time your kid and his band rehearse in the garage, don't yell at them to hold down the noise, or threaten to kick them out of the house. With a little luck (and a lot of talent), they can become rock stars, and after that fizzles out, transition to a new career as defense consultants.

Don't laugh--it could happen. In case you haven't heard, U2's Bono was at the Pentagon yesterday, for a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. According to DoD spokesman Geoff Morrell, the two men discussed a variety of topics during their 20-minute meeting, including U.S. plans to establish a military command for Africa:

"I think this was a chance for two people who care about the problems facing the continent of Africa to talk about their shared interest in solving those problems," Morrell said of the meeting that was not publicized in advance.

A spokeswoman for DATA, the group co-founded by Bono to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa, said the singer had been in Washington to meet members of budget committees in Congress.

"He also met with Secretary Gates to discuss global poverty and the connection between fighting poverty and peace and stability," Kathy McKiernan said.

While Bono has long been viewed as an "expert" on African affairs, it's doubtful that he had any substantive discussions with Mr. Gates during short meeting. And quite frankly, we wonder if the event wasn't a p.r. stunt (although the get-together wasn't announced in advance), or simply a chance for Pentagon swells to meet one of their favorite rockers. At the next Pentagon press brief, someone ought to ask Dr. Gates or Geoff Morrell how many U2 CDs are in their personal collections, or if Bono signed any autographs during his visit.

On the other hand, DoD may genuinely want Bono's expertise and advice on matters relating to Africa, to assist in the stand-up of that new command. Never mind that the Irish rocker's "solution" for Africa--debt forgiveness and more aid--hasn't worked very well. Putting a celebrity on a civilian advisory board is a good way to build interest for the new command. And, it couldn't hurt in the funding department, either. Various Congressmen have also expressed admiration for Bono's efforts in Africa, so if he's on board with the command, then budget dollars are likely to follow.

If the Pentagon is serious about using Bono as a consultant on African issues, then he'll need a security clearance. At one time, the notion of clearing anyone with a sex/drugs/rock-and-roll resume would have ridiculed. But in the post-modern era, that trail has already been blazed. As Gary Aldrich wrote in Unlimited Access, Top Secret clearances were granted to various Clinton staffers in the 1990s, despite personal, sexual and pharmacological practices that would disqualify mortal men and women.

And, at least one other rock star is already serving as a DoD advisor. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, a former member of the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, has worked as a consultant of missile defense issues for almost 20 years. By various accounts, Mr. Baxter was among the first to suggest that the Navy's Aegis air defense system be modified for a BMD mission. He's also been hailed as an innovative thinker who brings a "fresh perspective" to defense matters.

In fairness, Baxter's work has also been described in public relations terms. One defense contractor likened him to an "ambassador for missile defense to the Rolling Stone crowd." Having observed a few of his visits to intel organizations, the description may not be totally unfair; the events usually include an autograph session, giving Mr. Baxter a chance to sign a few album covers for appreciative fans.

But Mr. Baxter is also a serious student of missile defense, with a firm grasp of the technical details associated with that enterprise. I'm not sure he lives up to that reputation as an original thinker, but watching him in Q-and-A sessions after technical briefings, Mr. Baxter doesn't embarrass himself, either. And, he's cleared for exceptionally sensitive material, regardless of what happened during the 1970s.

Baxter has apparently earned his spurs as a defense advisor, and Bono may be given the same opportunity with Africa Command. The strange trip from rock star to military consultant may not be so strange after all. That wailing from your kid's garage band may be the first step on a journey to the E-Ring.


Mick Kraut said...

I respect Bono and unlike many other "awareness" raising celebs, he puts his money and his time where is mouth is. This guy will get dirty for what he believes in...He most certainly isnt a limosuine and benefit gala kind of guy and is pretty open with his contempt for those types.

I dont agree with his proposed solutions, but there is no denying that he is genuine and well educated regarding his beliefs and causes.

Other than his Irish citizenship and foreign national contacts (LCN need for sure), Bono wouldnt have much trouble with a background check...a rocker, yes...into Sex and Drugs? Not his thing...he likes his wine and he still smokes (like the majority of Ireland)...

halojones-fan said...

We had Jeff Baxter show up at work a few months ago. It was amusing to see how well the response tracked to the employee demographic.

Over 35: "Holy crap it's Jeff Baxter!"

Under 35: "Jeff who?"

Over 35: "You know, the guy from Steely Dan!"

Under 35: "Steely who?"

davod said...

Bono may put his money where his mouth is (what eveidence do you have of this). Mind you, at the same time he was telling countries to use their tax dollars to aid the Africans, he relocated his company out of Ireland to minimize his taxes.

Nancy Reyes said...

you should read what African entrepeneurs say about Bono...they want to build a thriving middle class and have to fight the professional do gooders who claim to speak for them.

Galrahn said...

Consider another possibility.

The Navy's Global Fleet Station off west Africa has been largely successful with one exception, they are meeting resistance attempting to bring NGOs into the process.

A high profile NGO like DATA enabled through the GFS process could encourage other NGOs to get involved.

I know specifically that while medical NGOs have been involved, there is resistance from a number of relief and education type groups, particularly in Europe.

Winston Smith said...

George Smiley:

"The Study of Revenge" blog has been deleted and I'm wondering if the Islamists had a hand in it?

I know they did get Google to label it a "hate" website.

--Your mate at the Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith

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