ION Government Fellow Program
Congressional Fellow Experiences: Phil Ward
Fall 2000: Freshman Orientation
Under the sponsorship of The Institute of Navigation, I attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2000-2001 Fellow Orientation Program in Washington, D.C. from Wednesday, Sept. 6 to Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2000. I stayed an extra day to distribute my curriculum vitae to 20 senators and 16 representatives for a total of 17 days. My own district representative (TX, 5th), Rep. Pete Sessions, happens to also be a personal friend. Pete had already asked me to be on his staff, so I had a "bird in the hand" before my orientation and now I have "36 birds in the bush." I took my wife, Nancy, to search out the local housing situation and to prioritize locations most suitable for our expected situation. Nancy is such a great networker that she was also of great benefit to me in establishing good relations with the other fellows who attended this orientation (more than a 5-to-1 ratio of women to men).
There were 99 fellows participating in this orientation program. Of these, there were a total of 39 congressional fellows, of which 12 are January 2001 starts. Most (60) of the fellows (executive fellows, diplomacy fellows, etc.) were already placed as a result of their selection process because their stipends are paid by their designated government organization. The normal outcome of the AAAS orientation program for congressional fellows is to begin soliciting for interviews for a legislative staff position the day following orientation.
Don't Jump the Gun
The AAAS encourages the congressional fellows not to "jump the gun" on distributing their CV to members of the House and Senate because they believe that the orientation process could provide new insights into the legislative process that could change their policy interests. In the end, we were encouraged to seek out legislative members with committee affiliations most suited to our science and technology background, but to expect to work on a diversity of tasks, including answering the mail for the member. A congressional fellow may also work on a standing committee (either in the House or Senate) or in the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that is part of the Library of Congress. The CRS is available only to members of the House or Senate and receives over 2000 research requests per day.
We were advised to seek an assignment with a legislative member and staff whose politics are largely compatible with our own, even though we are performing a non-partisan party service as science and technology "experts" on their staff. This is because there will be legislation going on that does not involve science and technology, but we will be exposed to the staff opinions, discussions and atmosphere on a daily basis in a very "tight knit," high pressure environment, and we will be expected to support the member in every aspect of his legislative activity and public opinions. Others shared that they found a satisfactory working relationship with moderate members of the opposite party and they recommended that we seriously consider aligning with the "majority party," especially in the House of Representatives. Some past congressional fellows who came on in an election year as September starts, found a wonderful assignment with a member in the House of Representatives, only to find a new job because either the member was not re-elected or the member's party became the "minority party" and their staff size was cut.
I plan to wait until after the November elections to begin serious efforts at interviewing. Even if invited to interview early, I will not make any decision until the outcome of the election because it is important to me to work with the majority party.
A Lot of Information
The AAAS orientation covered every aspect of the political environment in the legislative branch as well as the executive branch, state department, and numerous federal agencies. I was impressed with the senior level and high caliber of the speakers they invited to participate in the various sessions. It was also beneficial to visit many official buildings (Dirkson Senate office building, Rayburn House office building, Capitol Building, Library of Congress, Eisenhower, White House building, etc.) for many of the sessions. There were a lot of handout materials, too much to carry, so I shipped a large box of books and other papers.
I look forward to my year in Washington, D.C. and am excited about the prospects for participation in the science and technology aspects of the legislative process as well as the full exposure to the political atmosphere.
Winter 2000-2001: Finding a Place on the Hill
In my first report, I described my two-week Congressional Fellow orientation. In this report, I describe what has happened since. I believe my experiences will greatly benefit the next ION Congressional Fellow, and I will be here to help my fellow Fellow out in September of this year. I want to express my gratitude to Ken Holland for initiating the Congressional Fellowship program and to the ION Council for approving it. I am privileged to be the ION's first Congressional Fellow. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the legislative process in the 107th Congress and to make a contribution. I am especially pleased to be a January start fellow rather than a September start as are most of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellows.
On the afternoon of December 26, 2000, my wife, Nancy, and I drove away from our home in Dallas, Texas, where we lived since 1970. We arrived at our 2-bedroom apartment at 2:30 p.m. on December 29 braced for a Washington, D.C. snowstorm that, luckily, never materialized. We are settled into our new living quarters and we love it. Our apartment is less than two blocks from the Metro and has a lovely view of the Potomac River.
The AAAS helps you prepare a one-page curriculum vitae (CV) and a lot of previous Fellows tell you about their strategies and experiences during the interview process, but you are on your own to find your "place on the hill." I still have not found mine. My first choice is to be a special assistant in legislative areas requiring scientific and technical input for a member of Congress. This week, I also began pursuing a special assistant position on several permanent congressional committees. A third alternative is to work at the Library of Congress as a staff member of the Congressional Research Service. The interview process can take several days from the time you drop off your CV at a member's front office until the cycle plays out. Usually, you start with the Legislative Director (LD), but sometimes the Chief of Staff (CoS) handles the first visit. Your goal is to eventually get an interview and to meet the CoS, and hopefully, the member. They are all very busy.
A Lot of Competition
Based on my experience, you have about one chance in five that the scheduler (a fancy name on the Hill for receptionist) will tell you that the LD is in. You follow up with phone calls, usually leaving voice mails, and send e-mails that are not returned. Somehow you finally reach someone, or even more exhilarating, your call is returned. Usually, the member already has a full staff and there is absolutely no more room. This is a little easier on the ego since one of the first things you make clear is that you have no financial impact on the member's staffing budget! So you must proceed in parallel, not sequentially. I have kept eight CVs active at all times: four in the Senate and four in the House. I soon learned that there are numerous other organizations that sponsor Congressional Fellows. I spent a lot of time pursuing members who serve on the Senate or House Armed Services Committee only to discover that these members prefer to have high-ranking uniformed officers from the Department of Defense as Congressional Fellows on their staff. The AAAS did not cover the competition!
Fortunately, I have a strong interest in several other legislative policy areas that fit my professional and educational background. In the Senate, there is the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, especially the Aviation Subcommittee, and the Select Intelligence Committee. In the House, there is the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, particularly the Aviation Subcommittee; the Science Committee, especially the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee; and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, particularly the Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee.
Identifying the members of these committees and subcommittees through the World Wide Web is simple and more information about the members is available at their own Web sites. The LD and CoS are usually not identified on the Web. This formed the basis of my prioritized list of interview candidates. The AAAS gave all the Fellows a booklet entitled "Congress At Your Fingertips" that provides this and many other details about Congress. Unfortunately, it describes the 106th Congress, but it is an excellent starting point. I am getting to know a lot of people on the hill and have no complaints about how I am being treated.
At the ION Council meeting in January, I passed on an observation based on my interactions during the AAAS orientation meetings that included several professional engineering organizations that sponsor Congressional Fellows. These organizations maintain offices in the Washington, D.C. area to influence science and technology legislation that benefits the advancement of their own field of engineering. Like the ION, their bylaws prevent them from becoming involved "politically." However, this means that they do not participate in the election process of the members of Congress. They do not consider their nonpartisan participation in promoting the use of "good science" in our country's legislative process to benefit society as being "political." I suggest that the ION Council re-evaluate our bylaws from this same perspective and determine a course of action.
Spring 2001: A Once-in-a Lifetime Experience!
In my second report, I described my ordeal of being on this side of the interview process for the first time in over thirty years. Perhaps you sensed my anxiety: I had not found a suitable assignment on the Hill by the deadline for my article. Happily, you learned from the editor's note that I was offered a position with Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.). In case you missed the paradox in my last report, I described what seemed to me a futile effort soliciting a science congressional fellowship position with any member who sits on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) or the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), but I actually received an offer from a very high ranking senator in the SASC! It just so happens I am the first science fellow that Sen. Inhofe has asked to serve on his staff, so it was just a case of timing and good fortune for me. As I have said to many close friends in the ION "even a blind squirrel sometimes finds an acorn!"
How Does GPS Fit Into This Picture?
My original reasoning was simple: My professional expertise is in GPS. GPS is a Department of Defense (DoD) satellite navigation system and the HASC or the SASC are where legislation and hearings that relate to GPS would happen. It took me a while to learn that the DoD provides hand picked officers from the Pentagon as military congressional fellows for every member of the HASC and the SASC and there is seldom room for more than one fellow. In addition, the military legislative assistant (MLA); i.e., the permanent staff member responsible for HASC or SASC activities, is usually a retired military officer. Thus, the MLA is not inclined to either know about or look for science fellows. It turns out that my original reasoning ultimately paid off, even though I had long since given up interviewing any more members on the HASC or the SASC by the time I received the offer from Sen. Inhofe.
How Did I Get This Assignment?
Here is what was happening behind the scenes in Sen. Inhofe's office. Sen. Inhofe was among my top five members at the beginning of my interview process, so I delivered my curriculum vitae (CV) to his office in January. Unknown to me, the MLA transferred from Sen. Inhofe's office to Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) office in February. That left only the military congressional fellow, Major Dave Teal, running the SASC show for Sen. Inhofe. This difficult situation plus my CV made it desirable to the legislative director (LD) and chief of staff (CoS) to consider having a science fellow and a military fellow help with the SASC tasks while they searched for a new MLA. With persistence and luck, I managed to get an interview with Sen. Inhofe's legislative director, Chad Bradley, his chief of staff, Glenn Powell, and his military congressional fellow, Major Dave Teal, all on the same day. Even though, they spent nearly two hours with me and the interview went great, it was several weeks before a decision was made. It turned out they were trying to find an opportunity for Sen. Inhofe to meet me. Finally, Sen. Inhofe told Bradley to make me an offer based on the good reports from the three of them. Ironically, the day before that offer came, I received two offers from the House side, and the day after I started to work, I received another offer from the Senate side. These events helped my drooping morale abundantly!
Benefits of Twenty-Twenty Hindsight
Had I only known about the best timing for my office visits or calls, I think I could have cut the decision time by more than two weeks. Between Tuesdays and Thursdays, there is so much activity for every staff member, especially the LD and CoS, that they are hard pressed to even take a lunch break, much less respond to phone calls or front office requests from walk-ins to get on their interview calendar. Also, it is greatly beneficial to have some inside help. I will be in a position to help in that regard for our next ION congressional fellow.
Obstacles to Placement
You soon learn that your greatest enemy to placement as a science congressional fellow is the lack of office space (after all, you represent a zero staff budget impact to the member). So you learn to concentrate on ranking members that have more office space. New members get the smallest offices so their personal staff works in cramped quarters. Senate members have more space and larger staffs than House members. Your next worst enemy is lack of recognition of the value of science congressional fellows. Part of the reason is the youth, lack of post-graduate degrees, and lack of experience of the member's personal staff. About half the staff in the Senate and House are under ages 35 and 30, respectively. There is also a high turnover rate-about 40 percent per year. They work in an office environment characterized by long and erratic hours, cramped working conditions, conflicting job requirements and, with few exceptions, fairly low pay.
Profile of a Typical AAAS Congressional Fellow
Most of the AAAS congressional fellows come from mid-career academic backgrounds, typically post-doctoral candidates. Of the 39 AAAS congressional fellows, I count 26 who work for Democrats and seven (including myself) who work for Republicans. The remaining six have taken assignments on committees or with the Library of Congress Congressional Research Service. Even though the Democrats are presently the minority party in both Houses, they were clearly more pro-active in recruiting science congressional fellows during our orientation session in September.
"Baptism of Fire"
I received a "baptism of fire" my first week in my new position. Dave Teal, the DoD fellow, had been given a much needed week off to go on a family skiing trip to Breckenridge, Colo., with his wife and her parents. I spent the first day meeting staff, filling out paperwork, getting my badge, learning about the peculiarities of the Senate staff computer programs and visiting the offices of the other members who made me offers. I wanted to express my gratitude in person for their confidence in me and to explain my decision to go with Sen. Inhofe. The second day, I learned that Sen. Inhofe would be taking Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), Chairman of the SASC, to Oklahoma on a whirlwind tour of several military bases that Thursday. I was tasked to provide up-to-date "fact sheets" on Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Vance AFB, Altus AFB and Ft. Sill Army Base. Fortunately, Ellen Brown, our military legislative correspondent, came to my aid. She contacted the previous MLA who provided a series of web addresses and she put me in touch with the Air Force and Army military liaison offices on the first floor of Russell Senate Office Building. Those resources provided all the information I needed and I put it together. The senator liked it! Then I learned that Teal's father-in-law had a serious skiing accident and Teal would be delayed for another week. I look back on that experience now and I chuckle because it forced me to move faster and interact with the personal staff at a much faster pace than I thought was possible for me.
Off to a Good Start
My first contact with Sen. Inhofe was by phone on a Tuesday of the second week on my new job. I was expecting a return call on another task I was pursuing. I did not recognize the senator's voice and he seldom announces who it is on his end of the line. He opened with "Phil, we need to meet each other soon." When I asked if this was the person I was expecting, he then told me "No, this is Jim Inhofe. Do you have the notes you prepared for me in front of you? I have some questions." He had just stepped out from the Senate chamber into the Republican cloak-room to call me. He mistakenly thought I was the one who had prepared the talking points for two side meetings scheduled with lobbyists in two different Capitol meeting rooms later that day, the first with the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees and the second with the American Legion. Well, my initial reaction was to say how much I looked forward to meeting him in person. Then I realized that I had no idea what he was talking about, so the next thing I said was that I did not have the document in front of me but would locate it and call him right back if he would give me the number where he could be reached. Again, Ellen came to my rescue. She was the author of the material.
Less than an hour later, I met Sen. Inhofe in person in his office just a short walk down the hall from my office. He had a delegation from Oklahoma City waiting in his office, so he sent Ellen and I ahead of him to the Capitol to meet with the first group. I had my first ride on the Capitol subway and, I am ashamed to say, my first visit inside our nation's Capitol. Sen. Inhofe joined us later, then I rode back with him and we had our first opportunity to talk at length. That is when he found out I was a GPS expert. Since he has been a pilot for more than 30 years, he is a strong supporter of GPS. Our relationship was off to a good start.
What Makes This Job So Great
I have heard many congressional fellows complain that they never see their member. That has not been my experience at all. The military legislation staff supports Sen. Inhofe in every area related to his very important roles on the SASC, including chairman of the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, ranking member on the Air Land Subcommittee and member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. Until our new MLA showed up two weeks ago, Dave or I would support all SASC or subcommittee hearings. This requires that you read the written testimony of the witnesses as well as all related material you can get your hands on, then draft questions (that Sen. Inhofe may or may not ask after the oral testimony). You try to get the material to your member at least a day before the hearing. You must be prepared to brief your member before the hearing starts, escort him to the hearing room in one of the Senate office buildings (Hart, Dirksen or Russell), and sit directly behind him ready to answer any questions he might have during the hearing. You also keep notes during the hearing in case the media staff decides to issue a press release.
When Sen. Inhofe is scheduled to appear on "Crossfire" or similar news interviews related to a military topic, the "war room" (our nickname for the military legislative staff office) prepares "talking points" in support of that topic. The research is similar to that performed for SASC hearings, except that you cannot predict what questions will be asked, so you try to prepare for all relevant issues on the subject matter. You are very interactive with your member when such events are in the preparation stage!
The senator's calendar is usually full with debates and voting on the Senate floor plus outside events and speeches, either here or in Oklahoma, or both at the same time. The only real problem with Sen. Inhofe is that there is only one of him! So his staff, including his congressional fellows, fill in for him with meetings that he cannot attend or can only attend for a few minutes.
There is a computer program called Intranet Quorum that keeps us informed about his schedule and the support he will need. For example, many lobbyists visit his office looking for support for their programs. When these relate to the military and involve scientific or technical matters, I get the nod to take them. The follow-up to these briefings is extensive, but fortunately there is a system in place to rank and process them.
I have touched on only a few of the many activities that touch my life on the Hill. There are also some nice "perks" that come with the territory such as invitations to elegant receptions, exciting tours and interesting presentations by high-ranking persons. I could completely fill my calendar with these activities if there weren't so many other things to do. I carefully select only the ones that are definitely "can't miss" events and yet I still barely find the time and energy to attend.
I hope this gives you some idea of what this wonderful assignment is all about. I am grateful to the ION for this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Summer 2001: The War Room
It is hard to believe that my tenure as a congressional fellow is at the halfway point. My one sentence summary of this assignment is: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime most enjoyable learning experience!" Since the ION has extended my tenure until March 2001, I expect that my overall experience will change in substance, but my summary opinion will remain the same.
Mission Impossible… But Survivable
My day-to-day mission primarily involves the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). When a hearing is scheduled for the SASC or for any of Sen. Inhofe's three SASC subcommittees (Readiness, AirLand and Strategic), the staff in the "war room" (our office nickname) researches the subject material and prepares an opening statement and questions for Sen. Inhofe. There has been as many as four hearings a week for several weeks in a row! The hearings usually last all morning or all afternoon and are occasionally continued at a later date. We make every effort to get the prepared material ready and provide a briefing as early as possible, but it is not uncommon that this all takes place while escorting the senator to the hearing room. There, you sit directly behind your member and when that member turns toward you, you hope and pray you know the answer to the question about to be asked. Contrary to reports I have heard from some congressional fellows that they seldom see their member, I meet with Sen. Inhofe on a regular basis. James M. Inhofe is not only a great senator who happens to be a strong supporter of our military (including GPS); he is also a man of high integrity and tireless energy. The state of Oklahoma should be proud!
Let's See, What Exactly Did I Come Here to Do?
Because of the fast pace, long hours and ever changing agenda, it is difficult to remain focused on my goal to benefit the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation program in some legislative manner. GPS is my professional area of expertise (to which I will return as a Consultant when my tenure as a Science Fellow ends). I have already been involved to some extent with the Ultra Wide Band (UWB) spectrum issue by attending a couple of meetings at the invitation of the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA). Prior professional contacts at IDA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have provided me an abundance of relevant material on the UWB subject. This fits well with a forthcoming SASC Readiness Subcommittee hearing on "Spectrum Encroachment" that is in the planning stage, but not yet scheduled. Everyone in the "war room" knows that DoD spectrum issues are in my domain, so I will be in the driver's seat when it happens. Recently, I attended a 3-day CIA-sponsored seminar in Reston, Va., on the new Chinese Beidou Navigation Satellite System, which is identical to (or should I say a "Chinese Copy" of) the U.S. Geostar system that went bankrupt in the late 1980s. I have also attended a three-day top secret meeting on Electronic Support (Navwar) for GPS at the Aerospace Building in Chantilly, Va. As a follow-up to this meeting, I am coordinating a briefing to Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.) on the Navwar program. I believe this will lead to several additional meetings with interested members of both the Senate and House on the subject of Navwar. I have Sen. Inhofe's attention on the Navwar subject because GPS jamming is a very real vulnerability to this excellent DoD asset and countermeasures are not being adequately funded.
What Does a Congressional Fellow Do?
In addition to my SASC related work, there are many other tasks that cross my desk daily. When the senator is scheduled for an interview on "Crossfire" or similar TV program, if the subject is related to his SASC affiliation, then the "war room" prepares "talking points" on the subject matter. Sen. Inhofe's staff answers all correspondence including e-mail with an official signed letter from his office. This amounts to more than 400 letters a month. I have written a few responses to letters requiring a "scientific" input and some that just landed on my desk. If the chief of staff or the legislative assistant or the military legislative assistant tasks you to work a problem that requires persistence, you take it on with a smile and, most of the time, it is very enjoyable, especially the people you meet in the name of your member. Naturally, there are constituent phone calls that must be fielded and I get my fair share of these. In the course of these duties, some of which are not scientific, I have interacted with staff members of numerous senators and members of the House, the Congressional Research Service, the Justice Department, and every branch of the service in the Pentagon, with numerous high-ranking as well as ordinary citizen constituents from Oklahoma, and the list goes on. On behalf of our ION D.C. chapter, I volunteered to reserve a reception room at the Russell Senate Office Building (RSOB), where I work, for a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 15, and made arrangements with the Senate Restaurants Special Events Services to serve light refreshments. Sen. Inhofe was kind enough to make arrangements for a special after-hours tour of our nation's Capitol with the director of Capitol Guided Tours, Mr. Ted Daniel. All the attendees had the opportunity to take the short ride on the Senate subway between the RSOB and the Capitol!
All Work And No Play? No Way!
There are many enjoyable perks that come with the territory. The AAAS provided an excellent two-week orientation in September 2000, and hosts numerous seminars and social functions for the AAAS fellows. The AAAS fellows, in addition to being talented and well educated, are also a very close-knit and social group of scientists and engineers. But there is more. My wife, Nancy, and I have attended two embassy receptions, one hosted by Sweden and the other by Estonia. Very fancy! We have also been guests at social and professional (lobby) receptions and other forms of evening entertainment related to my affiliation with Sen. Inhofe's staff. General Dynamics invited me on a Gulfstream IV Executive Jet round trip flight from Washington Reagan to their manufacturing facility in Savannah, Ga. Naturally, there are special agendas for the member's staff to see and hear at these functions. If I had the stamina and time, I am sure I could find a technical seminar or reception (or both) at noon or evening nearly every workday. There is an unbelievable amount of social and professional activity in Washington, D.C.
I continue to be very grateful to the AAAS and to the ION Council for their support of the congressional fellowship program. It is truly a unique opportunity in a dimension of life and professionalism that I would not otherwise experience. With the recent change in the Senate majority from Republican to Democrat, I am now privileged to switch from offense to defense, all without changing members or without my member changing Parties. Again, a once in a lifetime experience! I am looking forward to meeting and helping other congressional fellows get well placed. I have already met with our second ION fellow, Dr. Clark Cohen, on two occasions here in DC. I am in a position to help him find a place on the Hill by opening some doors from "the inside" following the forthcoming September orientation provided by the AAAS. With special permission from the Congressional Fellow Committee, Clark will be our first "September start" fellow, so we will overlap six months on the Hill. He is an outstanding selection!
I Have Already Made a Difference
As it has turned out, Sen. Inhofe and his staff very much like the idea of always having an AAAS congressional fellow in addition to always having a military congressional fellow from the Pentagon. In fact, they have expressed their desire for a science fellow interested in supporting his environmental as well as transportation policy areas. I am pleased to say that I am not only the first congressional fellow for the ION, but I am also the first science and technology fellow to ever work for this office.
Fall 2001: An Unusual Two Months
I find myself in awe of the extreme events taking place around me in the past two months. This is a time of great tragedy and trial for our country, but also a time of renewed national strength and unification. I was running later than usual for work on Tuesday because of the Oklahoma Bankers Reception Nancy and I attended the night before. Besides, we were in the middle of mark-up on the Defense Authorization Bill and my part of that activity was already done.
Watching in Disbelief
As did millions of Americans, I watched and listened as the attacks on the World Trade Center unfolded. I was thinking that Sen. Inhofe would want to know what was going on, so I had better get as many facts as I could before I left. I dashed out the door heading for the office. Shortly after I entered the building, but before I actually reached the War Room, I was told that we had been instructed to vacate the building and return home. The Pentagon had been hit at 9:43 a.m. by another hijacked commercial jet. I could see the smoke and hear the sirens.
I walked to the Union Station Metro with two other staff members from Sen. Inhofe's office. On the Metro, I was struck by the contrast with the normal impersonal atmosphere on the train. Everyone was freely sharing the news (and rumors) that each had heard. When I changed trains at Gallery Place, the terminal was packed because most of the federal buildings had dismissed their staff, but people were far more courteous and controlled than usual.
I was back at work the next day. The change in the political atmosphere on the Hill was immediate and positive. It has been magnificent to see how well Congress can operate if there is a force greater than partisan interests to unify it!
The Anthrax Factor
As we all know, on Oct. 15, an envelope containing anthrax was sent to Sen. Daschle and opened by a staffer in the Hart Senate Office Building. As the science fellow, I was asked that day to attend a 5:30 p.m. briefing by the Capitol security and medical staff. After the briefing, I returned to my office and sent a detailed report to our chief of staff, Glenn Powell, and our office administrator, Kim Powell. The following morning, Kim asked me to send it to all of the staff, including the Oklahoma staff.
The Association of Old Crows and GPS
In the meantime, I have been working with a fellow Institute of Navigation member and good friend, Dr. Terry McGurn, to get an audience with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), chair of the Electronic Warfare (EW) Caucus in the House. Terry prepared an excellent white paper on the growing jamming threat to military use of GPS and the need for more Navwar funding to measure, locate and mitigate this threat. Terry convinced the Old Crows Association (the EW professional organization) to include GPS jamming countermeasures under its interest umbrella. Now we are setting our sights on convincing Congressman Pitts to do the same in his caucus. We have had two productive meetings with Pitts' Military Legislative Assistant (MLA), Ken Miller, who agreed that his member would be interested in this subject. A meeting scheduled for Oct. 17 was cancelled when all the congressional offices were closed to test for anthrax contamination. Our office was closed for five days from, Oct. 18-22.
We brief Sen. Inhofe regularly on the war. I have attended meetings with Aaron Amin, the D.C. representative of the Afghanistan Northern Alliance (the closest thing to an Ambassador from friendly forces in Afghanistan), and with Daoud Yaqub, executive director of the Afghanistan America Foundation, who works in the office of former King Zahir Shah. I prepared a letter signed by the Sen. Inhofe on behalf of Dr. Ahmed Nuristani to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to expedite the renewal of his U.S. Refugee Travel Document. Dr. Nuristani is an Afghan refugee residing in the United States who is with King Zahir Shah to reconstruct a broad-based representative government to succeed the Taliban.
Appreciated for a Job Well Done
On Oct. 25, the SASC hearing was to receive testimony on the role of the Department of Defense in homeland security. Witnesses included Secretary of the Army and Interim Executive Agent for Homeland Security Thomas White; Gen. Peter Pace, USMC, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. William F. Kernan, USA, Commander in Chief, U.S. Joint Forces Command; and Gen. Ralph Eberhart, USAF, Commander in Chief U.S. Space Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command. After USAF Maj. Dave Teal, the military congressional fellow, and I had finished briefing the senator before the hearing started, we stood up to escort the senator to the hearing room. Sen. Inhofe beat us to his office door and opened it for us. I stood frozen for a few eternal seconds looking first at the open doorway and second at the senator. Dave said instinctively, "Go ahead, Phil." As I walked through I said, "I'm not used to having a senator open the door for me!" Sen. Inhofe put his arm around me, gave me a big hug and laughed.
I feel very much appreciated by him. The senator used most of my questions during the hearing. You know you did well when your member uses your questions.
Winter 2001-2002: Coming to a Close
Only two months remain on my tenure as a congressional fellow for Sen. James Inhofe. This report focuses on some specific successes and challenges during 2001 and the first quarter of 2002.
I have been very much involved in supporting policy issues that benefit GPS. Sen. Inhofe is a strong supporter of the SASC policy issues that benefit our military defense and, in particular, is an advocate for military readiness. In fact, Sen. Inhofe was the chair of the SASC Readiness Subcommittee when I came on board and is currently its ranking member.
Because he is opposed to spectrum encroachment into the Department of Defense (DoD) restricted radio frequency band, Sen. Inhofe has been receptive to my technical advice related to the protection of the GPS spectrum from encroachment by the ultra wideband (UWB) industry and the seriousness of the interference issues that UWB poses. The UWB lobby in Washington, D.C., has had considerable influence on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the past three years and on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)-a body that is supposed to represent DoD's spectrum interests to the FCC. As a result, the FCC, with NTIA endorsement, announced that on Dec. 12, 2001, it planned to issue a report and order (R&O) under a modified Rule 15 to permit unlicensed UWB intentional transmitter operation. The FCC premise is that UWB is a new low-power, non-interfering technology similar to the low-power garage door openers, family radio service, etc., now unlicensed under Rule 15 for intentional transmitters. This R&O allows an unlimited number of UWB transmitters at a specified low power level to overlay the entire spectrum, including restricted government bands such as GPS and may well become the only transmitter industry that operates without tuning and without filters!
Closing Pandora's Box
I became involved when ION Washington Section Chair Jim Doherty, who works for IDA, sent me a draft letter to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, John Stenbit. I tailored the letter for Sen. Inhofe's signature. The letter expressed concern about UWB interference with the GPS signals. Stenbit, an outstanding DoD appointee by President Bush, responded, and shortly thereafter, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Donald Evans requesting a sixty-day postponement of the FCC UWB agenda item. The FCC rarely tables an announced agenda item, but FCC Chairman Michael Powell did postpone this R&O until Feb. 14, 2002. A lot has happened since that event, but "Pandora's Box" was at least temporarily closed while the DoD worked feverously with the NTIA to limit the UWB power levels in the GPS and other restricted bands.
The UWB Camel Noses In
Prior to attending the ION National Technical Meeting in San Diego, I also prepared a delegation letter (one with many senator's signatures) to FCC Chairman Powell recommending that the FCC not go forward with the R&O on Feb. 14, 2002. I took my cause to Sen. Conrad Burns' (R-Mont.)office because he is a high ranking, albeit minority member on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. A letter to the FCC chair is more effective with signatures from senators that sit on that committee in addition to those on the SASC. Sen. Burns' office agreed to take the lead for the committee. Unfortunately, the UWB lobby also received the draft letter and worked to its demise: the chair, Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC), did not agree to sign. When I returned from the ION meeting, I was disappointed to learn that the letter had been overcome by events.
Our office was also lobbied by Time Domain, Inc. (the leading UWB lobby in Washington, D.C.) who did their best to convince our staff that they had proven that there would be no harmful interference to GPS or to any other "safety of life" frequency. I quickly rewrote the letter for Sen. Inhofe's signature expressing his concerns and requesting that Chairman Powell provide an explanation to Congress prior to making a final ruling in this matter. It was signed and mailed Feb. 6, 2002, but Inhofe's request was ignored.
On Feb. 14, the FCC posted a news release on its Web site with the caption "New Public Safety Applications and Broadband Internet Access Among Uses Envisioned by FCC Authorization of Ultra-Wideband Technology." I found the following statement most alarming:
"Since there is no production UWB equipment available and there is little operational experience with the impact of UWB on other radio services, the Commission chose in this First Report and Order to err on the side of conservatism in setting emission limits when there were unresolved interference issues. The Commission intends within the next six to twelve months to review the standards for UWB devices and issue a further notice of proposed rule making to explore more flexible standards and address the operation of additional types of UWB operations and technology."
Due to the heroic work of the DoD and NTIA during the 60-day moratorium, this R&O has reduced the UWB power level in the GPS band and other restricted bands significantly compared to the Dec. 12 version, but there are numerous flaws in the new R&O. The FCC will soon learn that putting "spin" on their announcement will not alter the real world interference problems it has introduced with this new rule. Unfortunately, its announced intent means that this is just the camel's nose in the spectrum tent. The entire camel will soon follow.
When I Say Jammin' - I'm Not Talkin' Music
My other GPS cause has been to assist Dr. Terry McGurn, an ION member, retired CIA executive, and now an independent consultant, with his mission of finding support on the Hill for the GPS Navigation Warfare (NAVWAR) program. McGurn has been successful getting the Old Crows Association to recognize that GPS jamming and countermeasures issues should indeed come under their Electronic Warfare (EW) umbrella. Our next objective (which has been successful), was to get Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.), chair of the House EW Working Group, to take the same perspective. Unfortunately, there is no counterpart to this working group on the Senate side of the Hill, and I doubt there is time for me to initiate an interest. However, Congressman Pitts is enthusiastic about this issue and has invited McGurn, Joe Lorti (an ION member who works for Overlook Systems), and myself to brief the EW Working Group on this subject. Pitts recently published an issue brief on NAVWAR from this working group. He has prepared a delegation letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld requesting that he provide adequate resources to the NAVWAR program. Sen. Inhofe has agreed to co-sign this letter. McGurn and I have played a prominent role in crafting the issue brief and the DoD letter. Both are timely since the GPS Joint Program Office has recently zeroed the NAVWAR budget for FY 2003, having taken all of its money in prior years for GPS modernization. I believe that I have at least "primed the pump" on this important military GPS issue. We want to see the NAVWAR program integrated into the overall military EW community. Congressman Pitts wants to see the overall EW community have a separate command and budget authority in the DoD. I am optimistic about the outcome.
The Second Science Fellow
I have also taken the lead to help Sen. Inhofe find a science fellow to replace me. Since I was his first science fellow, it is rewarding that he and his staff are now strong supporters of the program. Dr. Donna Michalek, an American Association for the Advancement of Science January-start fellow sponsored by the American Association for Mechanical Engineers, is his second science fellow. She has an interest in both defense policy and environmental policy. Michalek will not be carrying the GPS torch, but she is up to speed on the UWB spectrum encroachment issue and will serve the senator well.
I continue to be grateful to the ION for its endorsement and support of the congressional fellowship program. It has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.
Spring 2002: Phil's Farewells
It has been an exciting 15 months serving as the ION's congressional fellow for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) as his science and technology advisor on defense policy.
My wife, Nancy, and I moved back to our home in Dallas, at the end of March where I have resumed my former professional life at my company, Navward GPS Consulting.
If you have been reading my articles, you know pretty much what my responsibilities were and the several special interest activities I pursued on the Hill. This final article will be devoted to the farewell parties … there were two.
The first was a wonderful surprise dinner planned by Sally Frodge (a good friend and ally from the Department of Transportation in the Ultra Wide Band (UWB) spectrum encroachment issue and a very active ION member) and Clark Cohen (the ION's current congressional fellow). Clark invited Nancy and I to his apartment for dinner on March 14. His place is on the House side of the Capitol and less than a mile from the Russell Senate Office Building. I arranged for Nancy to meet me at the Capitol South Metro stop. As we walked toward Clark's apartment, we were discussing what he might serve. We arrived about 15 minutes early and wondered whether Clark would be ready this early and finally decided that we could pitch in and help if he were in a bind with the cooking.
But lo and behold, not only was Clark there, but also Sally, Carl Andren (ION's technical director), and Jim Doherty (the D.C. section chair) and his wife, Patti, who all greeted us with "Surprise!" Clark then informed us that we were going to be treated to dinner at a nearby fancy French restaurant after some wine, cheese and fruit at his apartment. Later we joined Dr. Scott Pace (another UWB ally who works at the White House executive office and formerly worked at the RAND Corporation), and Dr. James Farrell (a good tennis buddy and ION member from Baltimore), and his wife, Maria. The meal was delicious and the fellowship was delightful.
Afterward, Carl presented me with a beautiful United States Senate memorial coffee cup as a remembrance from the ION. Scott then presented me with a large photograph of the International Space Station with the Earth in the background. He called this a "just-in-time" memento (meaning that they all were going to sign it on the spot). Scott then penned: "With deepest thanks for your warrior spirit!" Carl: "Thanks to you and Nancy for starting off our Congressional Fellowship Program. You will be a hard act to follow. You've pioneered the way." Clark: "It's been great being here with you in D.C. (not to mention the Senate!). Thanks for all your 'veteran advice' in helping me get my feet wet. I greatly appreciate it." Sally: "It was wonderful to have you both here. Thank you, Phil, for being the best First Fellow! (and thank you, Nancy, for being such a great First Lady of Fellow!)." Jim & Patti: "It has been an honor and a privilege to work closely with Phil for the past year-it went by too fast-and to get together socially. The wonderful thing is that we have made great friends-though you are leaving this area, our friendship remains." Jim & Maria: "It is an honor to be a friend of you. You're special. You are a true Christian gentleman and a great guy."
I will always treasure the photo and the personal messages from persons whom I have loved and appreciated during my tenure on the Hill. I was touched beyond description by this demonstration of their friendship and appreciation.
Then Breakfast at the Senate
The farewell breakfast in the Sen. Inhofe's office on the Tuesday morning before my departure was also a very memorable event. Sen. Inhofe himself scheduled it so that he would be able to attend. This was very special to me because he seldom attends farewell functions. He made a very warm speech and then gave me a big hug. My boss in the "War Room," John Bonsell, then presented me with a large replica of an oil painting, "The United States Capitol in Summer 2001." There were notes penned on the large white border from all of the Ssenator's Washington, D.C. staff and many of the Armed Services Committee staff. At the bottom center is this note from the senator: "Phil-You are truly an American hero and it has been great having this part of your life with us. Thanks so much!" John's note is to the right of the senator's: "It has been a great year. I will miss you very much. You have been so supportive and helpful. Thanks for everything. Keep in touch. Good luck and God Bless." Just to the left of the senator's note is this message from Glenn Powell, his chief of staff : "This has been a great year for us with you working here. We are going to miss you and we hope you will stay in touch." To the left of Glen's note is the following from Kim Cutter, the office manager: "It's been wonderful getting to know you and your family. You have made such a difference while you've been here. Thank you for everything." To the left of Kim's message, Chad Bradley the legislative director, said: "Thanks for all your help. It's been great having you in the office." There were many other notes but I will conclude with the one from Donna Michalek, the AAAS congressional fellow taking my place: "Thanks for all your help getting me started here. I hope that I can measure up to the standard you have set. Good luck with your future endeavors."
I am very grateful to the ION for sponsoring me as their first congressional fellow. I wanted to share these wonderful farewells with you because you made it all possible. These are treasured mementos of the most wonderful professional experience of my career!