Pentagon Bureaucracy Reform

The McKeon Group is closely tracking recently proposed legislation introduced by Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13). The bill is called the Comprehensive Pentagon Bureaucracy Reform and Reduction Act and it would cut Pentagon support agencies by up to 25 percent and shut down others entirely.

Chairman Thornberry announced the proposal on Tuesday, April 17th which aimed at eliminating “bureaucratic waste” to find more than $25 billion to divert into war fighting priorities. This proposed bill comes after Congress passed a two-year budget deal that boosts defense to $700 billion in fiscal 2018 and $716 billion in fiscal 2019.

There would be about $7 billion worth of contracts cut that would greatly affect various private sector companies.

Thornberry told reporters in Washington, “If I am not making somebody nervous, I am not doing anything.”

Chairman Thornberry introduced this bill because of what he sees as uncontrolled growth within the Defense Department’s “fourth estate” agencies, which are supported by 200,000 civilian personnel and 600,000 contractors, at a cost of more than $100 billion per year.

“All of the savings and efficiency have to stay within DoD to get more capability into the war fighter faster,” Thornberry said. “To summarize the whole thing from my perspective, it is to reduce the overhead to put more resources at the tip of the spear.”

Thornberry proposed eliminating these agencies within DoD:

  • Defense Information Systems Agency, whose information technology support mission would be folded into U.S. Cyber Command.
  • Defense Technical Information Center, which acquires, stores and disseminates scientific and technical information to aid in defense research and development.
  • Office of Economic Adjustment, which aids communities hurt by defense program changes, including base closures.
  • Defense Technology Security Administration, which guides policy on U.S. arms transfers overseas to safeguard America’s military edge and prevent the diversion of defense-related goods to terrorists.
  • Test Resource Management Center, which coordinates among DoD test and evaluation facilities.
  • Defense Human Resources Activity, which guides and implements human resource initiatives, budgets, policies and programs.
  • Washington Headquarters Services, which provides operational and administrative services to the DoD. Hiring a senior executive service employee through the agency, Thornberry argued, “is considered a success if it takes less than nine months.” [1]

If the legislation was adopted as it currently stands, the Pentagon would begin eliminating agencies by January 1, 2021. The plans for the elimination of such agencies and other parts of DoD would have to be provided to Congress by March 1, 2020.

Department of Defense combat-support and intel agencies would be exempt from the proposed legislation. Those DoD agencies include: Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Health Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

Chairman Thornberry is looking for input and comments on his proposed legislation prior to adding it to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The top House Armed Services Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09) warned that he has “serious concerns” about the draft legislation and believes, “this proposal could do serious damage to DoD’s information infrastructure, testing ranged and community support, as well as the basic DoD function in the National Capital Region by eliminating critical agencies in one stroke.” Congressman Smith finished by saying, “those are important functions that I don’t think we should discard if we haven’t done careful study and analysis.” [2]

The McKeon Group will continue to closely track this legislation as it transforms through the legislative process within the House Armed Services Committee.

  1. Gould, Joe. “Major Bill Aims to Slash Pentagon Bureaucracy.” Defense News. April 17, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2018.
  2. Kheel, Rebecca. “Top Dem Expresses ‘serious Concerns’ about Plan to Cut $25B from Pentagon Agencies.” The Hill. April 18, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2018.

President Trump’s ‘Buy America’ Pitch for Foreign Military Sales

A report released on March 8, 2018 by the Security Assistance Monitor (SAM) program of the Center for International Policy records over $80 billion in U.S. foreign arms sales notifications to Congress during Trump’s first year in office. The Trump Administration total of $82.2 billion for 2017 is slightly higher than Obama Administration’s total of $76.5 billion for 2016. [1]

The major differences in most arms sales offers in 2017 in relation to other years are the types of weapons sold. In President Obama’s last year of office, most of the sales were in the form of military aircraft. To compare, the largest type of arms sales offers under the Trump Administration has been bombs and missiles, primarily driven by major missile defense deals with Saudi Arabia, Poland, Romania, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates. [2]

The White House is using its new “Buy American” plan to require U.S. Military attaches and diplomats at U.S. embassy’s around the world to help organize weapons sales, resulting in billions of dollars for the U.S. defense industry. The President wants an entire ‘whole of government’ effort to help ease export rules on U.S. military products. The policy change requires that embassy staffers across the globe become a type of sales force for American defense contractors. Senior government officials said part of this plan will be to adjust the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

There has been a new proposal by the Administration that was first reported back in September of 2017 and portrayed that it would only affect the sale of small weapons systems and ammunition.

The new proposal would transfer oversight by the State Department to sell some weapons like rifles, shotguns and handguns as well as the ammunition for them over to the Commerce Department. Many experts on foreign military sales say, Commerce is an ill prepared bureaucracy and the State Department has the unique ability to review and vet potential foreign customers. [3]

The Trump Administration’s argument is that these changes would benefit America’s allies by allowing them to grow their security cooperation with the United States and increase their own capabilities. It is the Administration’s expectation that with less regulations regarding these sales, it will increase American jobs and provide more publicity to increase foreign allies interest in buying American weaponry.

Under current Congressional procedures any Senator can slow or stall a proposed deal for weapons on the U.S. Munitions List.

Under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), Congress must be formally notified 30 calendar days before the Administration can take the final steps to conclude a government-to-government foreign military sale of: major defense equipment valued at $14 million or more, defense articles or services valued at $50 million or more, or design and construction services valued at $200 million or more.

In general, the executive branch, after complying with the terms of applicable U.S. law, principally contained in the AECA, is free to proceed with an arms sales proposal unless Congress passes legislation prohibiting or modifying the proposed sale. Under current law Congress must overcome two fundamental obstacles to block or modify a Presidential sale of military equipment: it must pass legislation expressing its will on the sale, and it must be capable of overriding a presumptive Presidential veto of such legislation.

Congress, however, is free to pass legislation to block or modify any arms sale at any time up to the point of delivery of the items involved.

  1. HaHartung, William. “Trump Makes Over $80 Billion in Major Arms Deals in First Year.” Security Assistance Monitor. March 8, 2018. Accessed March 21, 2018.
  2. Hartung, William. “Trump Makes Over $80 Billion in Major Arms Deals in First Year.” Security Assistance Monitor. March 8, 2018. Accessed March 21, 2018.
  3. Shinkman, Paul D. “Trump to Speed Up U.S. Arms Sales by Reducing Oversight, Sources Say.” U.S. News & World Report. February 5, 2018. Accessed March 21, 2018.

Diving into the 2018 National Defense Strategy

In January of this year, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis released the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) where he openly stated: “Our competitive advantage has eroded in every domain of warfare.” Required by Congress, the NDS replaces the former document known as the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The NDS further builds upon the National Security Strategy (NSS) that was previously released in December 2017. It does differ in one important way though, the NDS is classified and therefore, Secretary Mattis could only release the unclassified 11-page summary.

The U.S. military has concentrated on 5 main security challenges in the last decade including; China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and Islamic terror groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. This document moves the U.S. away from terrorism as the top mission and more closely focuses on near-peer adversaries like Russia and China, which the document labels as “revisionist powers”.

According to the strategy, the American military will be organized in such a way to credibly confront and defeat near-peer challengers across the spectrum of warfare and its multiple domains. The document primarily focuses on the Asia-Pacific and Europe as the two highest priority threats while at the same time, maintaining forces and controlling the constant upheaval in the Middle East.[1] According to the NDS, the U.S. Department of Defense is choosing to prioritize preparation for future conflicts which could ultimately come at the expense of fighting present day wars against groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Secretary Mattis is putting more concentration on developing new “capabilities” rather than on expanding “capacity”. In other words, the Department of Defense will emphasize innovation, modernization, and acquisition more than it will prioritize the expansion of the size of the military by adding more man power. [2]

The new strategy changes some force planning structures from its last unclassified version which emphasized the military would be designed in such a way to fight and win two major wars simultaneously. The new NDS sets up its structure in such a way that it prioritizes defeating a single major power in addition to being able to maintain a small number of other efforts in various regions against an array of enemies.

Relevance vs. Performance

In a separate section of the NDS, the document states the importance of the ability to “deliver performance at the speed of relevance,” and further states that “the Department is over-optimized for exceptional performance at the expense of providing timely decisions, policies, and capabilities to the warfighter. Our response will be to prioritize speed of delivery, continuous adaptation, and frequent modular upgrades.” If the Pentagon does choose to further focus its efforts on speed over quality or performance, it could cause major disruptions for the defense industry and its current business models. If the Pentagon chooses a new approach that seeks to acquire weapons systems faster, emphasizing less testing, risk minimization and lead-ahead capabilities, the ripple effects on the defense industry would be profound. [3]

Cost of Strategy

Although the NDS does summarize many investment areas, including cyber, space, nuclear, long range fires and missile defense, it does not say how or where the Department of Defense will cut costs to help forge ahead with these new efforts. This will be better understood and explained through the release of the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and the Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) that are to be finished and published in the coming weeks. These studies should include the estimate costs of maintaining a credible nuclear force and a homeland missile defense system.

The NDS does include a short and succinct risk section primarily for a message to Congress on the detriment that constant Continuing Resolutions (CRs) have on our military force. “Without sustained and predictable investment to restore readiness and modernize our military to make it fit for or time, we will rapidly lose our military advantage resulting in a Joint Force that has legacy systems irrelevant to the defense of our people.”

Next Steps

The Pentagon expects to deliver its fiscal year 2019 (FY19) budget request to Congress in the next couple of weeks, but a much-awaited defense buildup may not happen until fiscal year 2020 (FY2020), according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. He did state that while FY19 will include a “step up” in the defense budget, FY20 will be the “masterpiece”. Because the NDS, NPR, BMDR and the previously released National Security Strategy (NSS) were being organized at the same time as the FY19 budget, there simply is not enough time to include all of these reviews and studies in the upcoming budget, Shanahan said. “A big portion of my time in the next twelve months will be to make sure (the FY20 budget) is the masterpiece. It is probably the next biggest step we can take to make sure we can unwind the strategy,” he said. [4]

  1. Karlin, Mara. “How to read the 2018 National Defense Strategy.” Brookings. January 21, 2018. Accessed January 23, 2018.
  2. Karlin, Mara. “How to read the 2018 National Defense Strategy.” Brookings. January 21, 2018. Accessed January 23, 2018.
  3. Levinson, Robert. “What the New National Defense Strategy Means for Contractors.” Bloomberg. January 25, 2018. Accessed January 26, 2018.
  4. Mehta, Aaron. “Pentagon expects on-time budget for 2019 but Trump’s ‘masterpiece’ will be in 2020.” Defense News. December 22, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.


The Defense Industry Is Opposed to Tax Cuts That Could Add to The Deficit

The American defense industry is requesting that Congress avoid adding to the deficit with its new proposed tax reform measures. The defense industry is worried that increasing deficits will result in cuts to defense spending in the future.

The recently passed House budget allows for a tax bill that could add as much as $1.5 trillion to federal deficits over a decade. Following the recently passed budget, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady (R-TX), released his long anticipated proposed tax reform agenda.

In a quick response from one of the defense industry’s leading voices, The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), is requesting that lawmakers “get as close to a revenue-neutral tax plan as possible, given the political environment,” said Doc Syers, vice president for legislative affairs. AIA represents most of the major American defense contractors including: Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and others. Its member companies make up 13 percent of the entire U.S. manufacturing base.”[1]

Many Republican lawmakers are not publicly acknowledging the difficulty of reducing the national debt, passing tax reform that includes major cuts to federal revenue while simultaneously attempting to increase the defense budget by passing a GOP-led House defense appropriation bill that breaks the self-imposed statutory budget caps (Budget Control Act) by $91 billion.

Todd Harrison, the Director of the Defense Budget Analysis and Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says it’s about simple math and complicated politics.

“There is a natural tension between tax cuts and defense budget increases because both drive up the deficit,” Harrison said. “There are limits to how much Republicans, particularly the more fiscally conservative wing of the party, are willing to increase the overall deficit. And making offsetting cuts in other parts of the budget to balance out tax cuts and higher defense spending is politically difficult because most of the remainder of the federal budget goes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits and other services.”[2]

Though there have historically been disagreements between the Republican’s defense hawks and the more fiscally conservative wing of the party, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus pushed back against the idea that tax cuts put an additional squeeze on discretionary defense spending.

Historically, the annual defense budget has made up half of federal discretionary spending and as a response, Republicans have usually called for cuts on the non-defense side of domestic spending. As a boost of confidence for the increased defense spending desires, Congressman Meadows suggested that he predicts a “very robust” defense budget for 2018.

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), was a holdout on the Senate budget over increased defense spending, but ultimately voted for it. McCain, a known defense hawk insisted tax reform and defense spending must be addressed as separate issues.

“We have a military where we’re losing men and women’s lives because we haven’t funded them for training and equipment,” McCain said. “That has nothing to do with tax cuts.”

  1. Gould, Joe. “US defense industry to Congress: Don’t let tax cuts add to the deficit.” Defense News. October 28, 2017. Accessed November 06, 2017.
  2. Todd Harrison, Director, Defense Budget Analysis, Director, Aerospace Security Project and Senior Fellow, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies. 


Next Steps for U.S. Cyber Warriors

Last month, President Trump announced U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) would be elevated to a “Unified Combatant Command,” allowing it to be of equal stature as other Unified Commands that oversee all military operations in various regions of the world, such as Pacific Command (PACOM). The President’s decision makes Cyber Command, formerly a subordinate unit under U.S. Strategic Command, the 10th unified command in the U.S. Department of Defense. This command was first opened in 2009 as a result of an order by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. [1]

Trump’s desire to stand up this command was known since before his inauguration when he vowed to do so and mentioned his desire to increase its capacity and lethality. In his statement, the President said this unification of Cyber Command “will strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our Nation’s defense.”

The President did make a significant increase in his 2018 Fiscal Year request for a total of $647 million for Cyber Command, which was a 16 percent increase from the previous year.

Currently the NSA (National Security Agency) and U.S. Cyber Command are overseen by Admiral Mike Rogers in a dual-responsibility post. A portion of Trump’s recent announcement was also an order to Secretary Mattis to conduct a review of whether Cyber Command should be split from NSA or not. There was little opposition to unifying Cyber Command but there appears to be much more disagreement over whether Cyber Command should be a complete separate entity from the NSA. Many believe that both CYBERCOM and the NSA should be able to operate independently from one another, but it is important that the Executive Branch work with Congress to carefully craft and take the proper steps to separate these two organizations in a careful and intentional manner.

NSA is responsible for picking up signals intelligence; like phone calls, emails, web traffic etc. Cyber Command is the military’s offensive and defensive cyber operations organization that protects all Department of Defense networks and conducts foreign operations in the cyberspace against other nation-states and non-state actors alike.

With this announcement, President Trump has fulfilled a requirement by law declared in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2017 to elevate Cyber Command.

  1. “Trump Administration Elevates Cyber Command, Eyes Split From NSA.” Morning Consult. August 21, 2017. Accessed September 01, 2017.

BRAC, Dead on Arrival?

Each year when Congress begins its budget discussions, the idea of closing bases and downsizing the Department of Defense’s (DoD) domestic infrastructure footprint seems to always resurface. This year is no different, the President’s 2018 Fiscal Year (FY) budget request asked for another round of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closures) beginning in 2021. This Administration like the one before sees BRAC as a necessary step in freeing up billions of dollars to be used in other ways for the U.S. Military.

On June 12th, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis testified before Congress that it should allow another round of domestic military base closings beginning in 2021. These types of proposals to close unnecessary bases have been offered by previous administrations of both parties and continue to be rejected by Members of Congress who have mobilized to save bases in their districts that pour large amounts of money into the local economies. To put into perspective the cost of this excess space, Secretary Mattis said that up to $2 billion could be saved annually with another round of BRAC to close the extra infrastructure space DoD claims to have that it does not need. The Department says it has more than 20% base capacity above its current needs. Secretary Mattis tried to get his point across to the House Armed Services Committee with various statistics of what could be bought with that $2 billion. “We forecast that a properly focused base closure effort will generate $2 billion or more annually – enough to buy 300 Apache attack helicopters, 120 F/A-1Ee/F Super Hornets, or four Virginia-class submarines.”

Once again, another President’s request for a BRAC round was quickly shot down by lawmakers from both parties. With few exceptions, the Department of Defense cannot close installations in the United States without permission from Congress. Since the end of the Cold War, the only way the Congress has allowed these closures to happen is through an independent commission.

As there seems to be very little appetite within Congress for another round of BRAC, there does remain influential Members of Congress who do support the closures, like Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA).

In the House Armed Services Committee’s “Chairman Mark”, Chairman Thornberry blocked the President’s request for another round of BRAC but did say that he was not opposed to another round if there is enough data provided to justify it.

The Senate Armed Services Committee also refuted the Trump Administration by adding Section 2702 to their version (S. 1519) of the NDAA that states: “SEC. 2702. PROHIBITION ON CONDUCTING ADDITIONAL BASE REALIGNMENT AND CLOSURE (BRAC) ROUND. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.”

At this point in time, there are two amendments that have been filed to be offered to the 2018 House NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) when it goes to the House floor that address BRAC. One by a strong proponent of another BRAC round, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), which would strike the provision in the bill prohibiting BRAC and establish a new process. The second was offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), which would remove the provision barring a new BRAC round entirely.

A BRAC round beginning in 2021 is Dead on Arrival in this year’s NDAA, but we know that each year that passes without closures or downsizing means that the Department of Defense will be that much adamant for it this time next year. The McKeon Group will maintain continuous tracking of this important issue if further developments occur through the floor amendment process in either the House or Senate.

Congressional Advancement of Directed Energy Technology

In early January of this year, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) along with Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) wrote a letter on behalf of the Congressional Directed Energy Caucus (CDEC) to Secretary of Defense James Mattis outlining the necessity of prioritizing directed energy with the growing global threats in recent years. Heinrich emphasized that next generation systems, like directed energy technology, will allow the United States to remain technologically superior to potential adversaries.

Since the 1960’s, billions of dollars have been allocated to the advancement of directed energy technology with the approval of Congress. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) notably established a $300 million initiative in the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to maintain and enhance military technology. [1] Of this $300 million, $150 million was authorized specifically for directed energy weapons. There have been quite a few setbacks over the years for these types of energy systems to be implemented into the field. The requirements process has been the most talked about setback for the Department, in which, Heinrich suggests that this could possibly be that the belief is that sufficient kinetic capabilities exist, so an alternative is therefore not required. But this ignores the potential value of directed energy systems in terms of precise targeting and cost effectiveness.

Each branch of the US military is developing programs demonstrating successful advancements in directed energy technology. The Air Force developed the High-Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), the Army developed the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HELMD) and the Navy developed the Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which is currently deployed abroad on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. [2] These systems continue to be researched and developed to incinerate enemy drones and launch offensive attacks using directed energy technologies.

Congress, the Directed Energy Caucus and the Armed Services Committees, have urged the Department of Defense to dedicate sufficient resources and funding to implement the much-needed physical prototypes of directed energy weaponry. With sufficient resources, the military will be able to continue to design and implement the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to further integrate matured directed energy systems into the field.

The Directed Energy Caucus has asked the Department of Defense to implement Section 219 of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Public Law No: 114-328. This would designate a senior official to have the principal responsibility for the development and demonstration of directed energy weapons. If implemented, it is the belief that the development and demonstration process would be accelerated and therefore able to reach the goal of fielding an adequate system.

With congressional encouragement, many departments are actively seeking to raise the standard of directed energy technologies. For example, the U.S. Army recently received a 60-kilowatt laser from technology partner Lockheed Martin. This new laser is based on a design developed within the Robust Electric Laser Initiative Program through the Department of Defense.

In the FY2017 budget request, $674.3 million was allocated specifically for directed energy weapons by the Department of Defense. During the next five years, the Department says it will allocate $3.4 billion to directed energy systems and weapons according to Lieutenant General Bradley Heithold. He also notes that there is no solidified Department of Defense plan regarding direct energy systems, but there will be soon. The plan will be developed by Congress based on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Heithhold additionally added, “that is what I’m beginning to see out of our Congress — interest in rapidly prototyping current technologies rather than waiting for the perfect solution somewhere in the distant future.” [3]

The Pentagon has additionally made directed energy technologies a priority for the FY2018 budget. Officials in the Pentagon believe that the use of these lasers will dramatically decrease costs in the Department due to the option of either firing the laser or a million-dollar missile. The drawback is finding the proper power source for the laser. If found, the laser would not need a “refuel” for ammunition. Rather, it would need a “recharge” of the power source. By developing these directed energy technologies, the military believes it will be able to use the laser weaponry on several platforms to increase military readiness in the coming years.

[1] Jen Judson. “US Army gets world record-setting 60-kW laser.” Defense News. Accessed June 05, 2017.

[2] Jen Judson. “US Army gets world record-setting 60-kW laser.” Defense News. Accessed June 05, 2017.

[3] Yasmin Tadjdeh. “Special Operations Command Prepares to Test Airborne Directed Energy Weapon.” National Defense Magazine. Accessed June 05, 2017.

The Future of Warfare – Directed Energy

The McKeon Group continues its success by using its unmatched national security experts to proactively review and forecast forthcoming and emerging technologies that will forever change how the Department of Defense fights wars.

As former Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon, and the national security staff at McKeon Group are proud to assist our clients in understanding the changing landscape of how wars are fought and what the battlefields of the future will look like. It is why the McKeon Group continues to help create strategies and continue our longstanding relationships with the Department of Defense leadership and the congressional committees of jurisdiction on behalf of our clients.

At a recent conference – Booz Allen Hamilton Directed Energy Summit 2017 – leadership from each of the military branches explained their positive outlook on directed energy and how it will further assist their various mission set requirements. Directed energy is seen to have an extremely bright future as it is quite different than traditional weapons like missiles, rockets, artillery, and mortars because it never runs out of ammunition and only costs whatever it takes to create that energy.

Recent Breakthroughs

There has been great progress made in the various types of lasers including, electric solid-state and fiber designs. Achievements have been made to create electrical power in a small enough system to be deployed on various platforms, including ships and planes. “The Navy, by virtue of its Laser Weapons System dubbed LaWS, has fielded the DoD’s first operational tactical laser on a ship, overcoming many of the policy and legal issues hindering deployment and utilization. Today, laser weapons have finally demonstrated sufficient technical maturity to allow for integration onto air platforms for potential self-defense and offensive missions in the next decade.”[1]

The U.S. Army is currently taking delivery of a 60-kilowatt laser from Lockheed Martin representing a world record for a laser of this type. This new system is being tested on the Army’s largest vehicle known as the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT). Lockheed is preparing to ship the new 60-kw laser to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command in Huntsville, Alabama. This type of directed energy system would be used as a mobile air defense system against threats like unmanned aircraft or traditional munitions like rockets, artillery and mortars.

Types of Directed Energy

When people think of directed energy, they often only think of lasers, but there are much broader uses of the technology other than simply burning a hole in something.

As an example, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has created the Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), which is an unmanned system capable of flying into a contested area and disabling an adversary’s electronic systems. CHAMP offers a proven capability that allows the Air Force to defeat electronic systems in an enemy’s area without using kinetic weapons like missiles, bombs or explosives.

Another use of directed energy is for space situational awareness, which allows the ability to maneuver in space, which is a critical capability of the United States Air Force’s mission to fly, fight, and win in air, space and cyberspace. “The ability to exploit the characteristics of space gives the warfighter a competitive edge in virtually all engagements. As satellites get smaller and the number of space objects increases dramatically, research in imaging and identification of space objects is paramount to meeting the Air Force’s mission. To provide leadership in the area of space situational awareness, the Air Force conducts research in laser guide star adaptive optics, beam control, and space object identification.”[2]

At the Booz Allen Hamilton Directed Energy Summit 2017, Lt. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command, explained a theoretical operation and how a laser mounted on an orbiting AC-130J gunship may be used to disable an enemy truck and drone. He stated that he wants a test laser aboard such an aircraft within the next year.

The biggest issues facing the technical development of the lasers are the ability to control the beam, which is quite difficult as a result of jitter on an aircraft or ship and how it can be precisely controlled to hit its targets in these environments. The Department of Defense does maintain a policy called the Predictive Avoidance Doctrine, which does not allow the shooting of lasers at things unless the trigger-puller knows exactly where the beam will end. This is still a difficult challenge both legally, ethically and technically to overcome.

The McKeon Group will continue to track and follow developments in the directed energy space as it inches closer to being forward deployed in the coming years. As a firm, we look forward to working with our current and prospective clients to design comprehensive strategies to work with the United States Congress and the Department of Defense to ensure our warfighters have the most advanced technologies wherever they may be operating.

[1] Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate. Kirtland Air Force Base. Accessed April 03, 2017.

[2] Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate Starfire Optical Range (SOR).” Kirtland Air Force Base. Accessed April 03, 2017.

The Importance of a Data-driven Legislative Strategy

The McKeon Group has the unique ability to support our client’s needs through our data-driven legislative strategies built and implemented by our government affairs team.

The payoff you get from using data and analytics is that you always have statistical support to reaffirm your strategy. Successful case studies continue to support and reassure research suggesting that when companies use data and analytics in their strategy planning, they can deliver productivity and successful gains that are 5 to 6 percent higher than those of the competition.

Data-driven businesses are not only going to exist in the future but rather are benefiting organizations planning processes today. Better predictions and clearer understanding of which Members of Congress are champions of a specific issue have shown continuous value time and time again for the McKeon Group. The answer is to develop a plan not only engaging Members of a certain committee, but rather champions of the issue that may exist outside of the relevant committees and leveraging that knowledge to broaden the support for a specific issue.

It may sound obvious, but in our experience the missing step for most other government affairs shops is spending the time required to create a simple plan for how data, analytics and people can come together to create quantitative value with qualitative support. The power of a plan is that it provides a common understanding between the McKeon Group and its clients where the greatest returns will come from and, more important, to select the two or three approaches to get started on such a strategy.

A plan implementing and integrating data is essential for success on Capitol Hill. Congressional offices are buried in information that’s constantly provided to them by constituents and various interest groups. Therefore, it is critical to put information in front of the Members of Congress that consider a specific issue a priority of their own.

As an example, since the previous Congress we have been tracking a bill known as the Hearing Protection Act of 2017. It has been reintroduced in this new Congress and can carry much more weight with the current environment on Capitol Hill and with the Trump Administration. With our unique data-driven strategic planning we have been able to follow each detail of the bill’s movement but most specifically could uniquely identify the key champions of this specific issue. While many firms may simply go to the committees of jurisdiction and conduct a basic blanket strategy to approach all Members on those committees, the McKeon Group has the unique ability to put together a detailed strategy that identifies certain Members not only on those committees, but others that have shown interest in the specific issue. Making these identifications is crucial to ensure that the issue has broad support within all the various factions of Congress. Once champions are identified we take a holistic approach to build support for the issue from a grassroots level and engage decision makers and advocates from the federal level down to state legislatures and localities when necessary.

In addition to having the resources and data operation to gain a full understanding of all Member’s stances on each specific issue, we are also able to track and follow relative conversations to any specific issue for our clients. As an example, it is important to see what Members of Congress are saying outside of certain bills and legislation being proposed, to give a full depth understanding of their position on the issue. That is why the McKeon Group has enabled itself to track all lawmaker’s conversations whether it be a speech on the floor of the United States Senate or House of Representatives, press releases, or on all their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. McKeon Group tracks each client’s specific issue to maintain a reliable and up to date understanding of where Congress stands on the specific subject. This allows McKeon Group to provide a detailed understanding of every Member’s views on every specific issue we are working on.

America’s Most Important Infrastructure Project – Water


At the McKeon Group, we recognize infrastructure as a high priority for the Trump Administration, but most specifically the importance of water in the 21st century. As you will see below, water will continue to become an ever more important commodity to humanity. McKeon Group is well placed to be a thought leader in this space and to help guide private sector firms to better engage public entities at the local, state, and federal levels on all things related to water policy and infrastructure.

“The U.S. government predicts that forty of our fifty states – and 60 percent of the earth’s land surface – will soon face alarming gaps between levels of water and the growing demand for it. Without action, food prices will rise, economic growth will slow, and political instability is likely to follow.”

The Trump Administration has said little on the issue of water policy and although it was not a main component of the presidential campaign, Trump did drop a few suggestions on the topic. His campaign released a document before the election describing plans for the first 100 days of his presidency and fortunately, water policy was mentioned as a priority in that document.

The plan said it will “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.” In addition, on multiple campaign trips to California, Trump vowed to “solve” the state’s water problem and criticized environmental regulations protecting fish in a show of solidarity with California farmers.

“If I win, believe me, we’re going to start opening up the water so that you can have your farmers survive, so that your job market will get better,” Trump said to the Los Angeles Times.

Water in the 21st Century

The technology of modern water management was one of the most important public health achievements of the 20th century. Modern water treatment allowed for systems to exterminate deadly diseases such as cholera and typhoid and helped extend life expectancy in the U.S. by up to 30 years. But most of these systems were built almost a century ago, today’s cities look much different than they did in the early 1900’s.

America’s water infrastructure systems are facing serious issues as you can see from the 650 water main breaks that occur every day in the United States. This leads to 7 billion gallons of water and $2.6 billion lost through leaky pipes annually.

To fix and update many of these systems, it will require reinvestment and new financing mechanisms which are often hard to find for localities, municipalities and water districts around the nation.

“The American Water Works Association estimates it will cost more than $1 trillion to replace aging water pipes in the ground, and that figure doesn’t account for necessary upgrades to drinking water or wastewater treatment plants. For decades, 98% of water infrastructure projects have been financed by local communities and ratepayers. Utilities can’t afford to address infrastructure alone. We need to find a balance between local investments, affordable rates that reflect the true cost of delivering these essential services, and access to low-cost federal loans and grant programs.”

The difficulties of financing certain water projects require us to think about different ways of finding streams of capital. Private sector groups we have spoken to said it would be extremely helpful for the future of modern water infrastructure projects if there were more access and mechanisms to use for financing large capital projects. The private sector has identified the major importance and need for more public-private-partnerships.

It is important to work on water issues in an integrated way rather than addressing each individually. Drinking water, wastewater and storm water have often been viewed and managed separately, but it is very important to think about these projects as coordinated functions. As water districts look to the future, they are planning capital programs in a way that combines infrastructure solutions across the water cycle in an interconnected way for resilience and resource management. For example, water districts are investing in water reuse and recycling that requires integration between water and wastewater infrastructure and operations.

Example to Follow – Israel

It is vitally important that lessons are learned from the water pioneer nation of Israel.

“Israel should have been a water basket case, says Siegel, listing its problems: 60% of the land is desert and the rest is arid. Rainfall has fallen to half its 1948 average, apparently thanks to climate change, and as global warming progresses, Israel and the whole Levant are expected to become even drier – and from 1948, Israel’s population has grown 10-fold. During that time, the country’s economy grew 70-fold.”

The key to Israel’s water security are efforts such as drilling deep wells, massive desalination projects, reusing treated sewage for agricultural uses, finding and fixing leaks early, and consciously choosing which crops to cultivate.

The most well-known contribution Israel has made to the water technology market is drip irrigation technology. Instead of flooding the fields with large amounts of water and fertilizer, much of which gets wasted, small amounts of both are dripped directly onto the plant’s roots rather than circular overhead irrigation or general flooding of fields.

It is said drip irrigation technology saves 25%-75% pumped water compared to flood, on average. The aquifers suffer less chemical pollution because of such practices. The crops yield more (about 15%, say experts across the field) and food prices drop, which is good for all.

The American west has a “horrible water governance problem”, as Siegel puts it: Israel has one central water authority, which has been huge for its success. Texas alone has 4,600 public water systems, each with its own interests. This is a difference that will be hard to overcome with 21st century water policies in the United States.

Another key to water conservation is to exploit the use of wastewater. Israel treats almost all its sewage and reuses the water in agriculture. This is a vitally important endeavor that could be extremely useful throughout America’s farmlands. As we continue to recognize California as the most water strained state, this kind of reconsideration of water management could be groundbreaking for areas like the Central Valley in California.

Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants. It is important to note that Israel reuses 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation — exponentially more than the second most water efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent. It would be both economically and environmentally beneficial for the United States to implement such practices in its 21st century water management policies.

  1. Siegel, Seth M. Let there be water: Israel’s solution for a water-starved world. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin’s Press, 2015.
  2. “Here Is What Donald Trump Wants To Do In His First 100 Days.” NPR. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  3. Los Angeles Times. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  4. Fox, Radhika . “Building 21st Century Infrastructure for 21st Century Cities.” US Water Alliance. May 16, 2016. Accessed January 10, 2017.
  5. Schuster, Ruth. “The Secret of Israel’s Water Miracle and How It Can Help a Thirsty World.”. January 25, 2016. Accessed January 10, 2.