Tuesday, January 11, 2005


The Most Accurate Scene In Hollywood History.

Okay, there may be many scenes that deserve that title.

But to this day, I tell anyone willing to listen, "You want to know how the Pentagon works? Watch for one scene in The Hunt For Red October."

You know the scene: early in the film, Jack Ryan accompanies Admiral Greer to a White House sub-basement. Greer says they are both there for a briefing to the National Security Advisor. When Ryan asks who's giving the briefing, Greer replies "You are." The look on Ryan's (Alec Baldwin's) face is priceless.

I can't tell you how many times I've had that look on my face in my job.

This morning, I showed up to my desk early to prepare for what was supposed to be a relatively minor meeting with my boss, a 2-star General. No big deal, we joke around a lot, he says it's good, we move on.

Five minutes before the meeting, the General's deputy, a civilian SES, tells me that I have to do something completely different, and that I only have three hours to do what amounts to three week's worth of work, all because the Acting Secretary mentioned at breakfast he wanted a plan before noon.

Thankfully, I was already well along in building this plan, but it hadn't been seen by half the Building. If you know anything at all about military bureaucracy (as opposed to soldiers in combat), *everything* has to be seen by *everybody* before it can go to the top. In practice, nobody can make a decision, so nearly every major staff package ends up in a endless coordination loop that resembles the Microsoft Help Line, only with more buttons to press, and fewer Indians on the other end.

But not me, I had a straight shot to the top this morning, a "Get Out Of Pointless Coordination Free" card. It's not a bad card, if you can get it.

The result? An approved plan, several weeks before I expected it, with a helluva lot less pain and suffering.

Boy, it sure is nice to talk to people who can make a decision, ain't it?

P.S. Oh yeah, and THIS happened while I was at the Pentagon. Thankfully, it didn't snarl traffic when I was coming back to my office.

A piece of advice to any would-be carjackers out there: Pentagon cops don't take any shit before opening fire.

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