The Latest from “Boomer” on the Banks of the Patawomeck


Our new column explores the meaning of words, language and culture Inside the Beltway in dealing with politics and defense.  The latest Boomer columns have dealt with some of today’s toughest issues.

Starting from the latest to the earliest in recent columns:

What is Probation?

Inside the Beltway is a place where even the normal word gets new meanings on a regular basis.  For most of us who have gone to high school, probation is clear.  The Principal or someone who is an adult authority figure does not see eye to eye with your behavior and you are on probation.

Or Commissioner Goodell from the NFL does not find Greg Williams pep talks to his defense amusing and gives him a life long suspension and every one else involved is on suspension and “on probation.”

Ok – clearly it is not good to be on probation.

So the Big Pentagon Chief decided to put an entire plane on Probation.

The well know advocate for airpower, then Secretary Gates, decided to put the “troubled F-35B” on PROBATION.

The F-35B Lightning II short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) version of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was placed on a two-year “probation” by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on January 6.

The decision was part of what Gates called the Efficiencies Initiative aimed at redirecting $102 billion in military spending through 2016. The plan includes purchasing 41 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters for the Navy and canceling the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, but a restructuring of the JSF program is the centerpiece of Gates’ effort. Gates expressed “serious concern” about technical issues in the F-35B program and said that planemaker Lockheed Martin may need to redesign the fighter’s airframe structure and propulsion system.

There is a lot to chew on here.  The Efficiencies Initiative is about buying more last generation aircraft and putting the centerpiece of the evolution of the USMC on probation.

Ok; how is this efficiency?

What is Sequestration?

One of the great things about life Inside the Beltway is how language is constantly re-invented…. A good example of this is the appearance of the word Sequestration.

But now this word now has a much more significant meaning along the lines that the Congress and the Administration could not agree on how to deal with spending cuts so a process was put in motion which will lead to Draconian cuts with no one in control.

Up in Smoke Inside the Beltway

The shift from President Clinton to President Obama is dramatic in many ways.  And it could not be clearer than when it comes to smoking.  The current President smokes or used to smoke or his wife says he doesn’t smoke but in any case he likes or liked to hide the fact.  President Clinton boldly smoked cigars and was very proud about it.  And during his Presidency even some of his Generals felt free to smoke Cuban cigars and this led to one famous comment: “I am destroying the enemy’s crops, one cigar at a time.”

Boomer helped us understand the nature of special interests involved in Washington.

Leading from Behind

When President Obama was dragged into supporting the NATO operation against Gaddafi in Libya, he expressed his frustration and level of support in one brilliant statement.  The United States would “lead from behind.”

Now there could be some MISunderstanding of a concept with behind as a key element of the statement, but the President was getting at an important point:  how could the United States support allies without taking the lead?

But “lead” from behind seems a bit of a stretch.

So we asked Boomer to help us through this linguistic innovation.

There is no such thing as a dumb question?

We consulted Boomer about his experience in Washington.  “What does one do, Boomer, if a policy maker asks a very stupid question?

How do you help them to learn, say during the ritual called HEARINGS on the Hill?”