Part III – The Rexrode Less Traveled By

By Travis Brown

For a Missouri lobbyist and our media productions team, being a corporate sponsor of this weekend’s USS Missouri commissioning was a rare opportunity. For a moment, we were able to depart from the Missouri General Assembly, show-me state politics, and even the Fortune 500 arena of government affairs, to enjoy some sessions dedicated to preserving American freedom.

Yes, the ceremonies in Groton, CT still applied many of the usual special event dressings of our state & federal legislative world: two Governors shaking hands, several Members of Congress worked by Pentagon public relations brass, and many other constituencies lobbying for the new new thing.

But beyond the tweets and public speeches, you could still believe in the triumph of the American spirit coming together for a capital project on this scale. Governor Jay Nixon, fresh from his trip from Afghanistan, gave weight to the large number of Missourians sorted into the Naval Pier. Congressman Ike Skelton gave several living history examples from his family and beyond about how important such military efforts have been to the battled history of our democracy. Commander Rexrode and his dedicated team of submariner advocates gave incredible witness to the future of our global security using stealth-based technologies. All in all, watching the campaigns from various contractors, leaders, and public figures come together into one $1.8 billion vessel served as a sincere inspiration.

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For Rachel and I, there were several personal reminders from this experience worth noting:

Our American government can still lead global innovation, but it must be remain accountable to every taxpayer.

Part of what made everyone affiliated with the USS Missouri so proud was that SSN780 was delivered in 65 months, ahead of schedule, and under budget by nearly $100 million. The sense of accountability and transparency among defense initiatives is now enabling a further expansion of the Naval fleet into FY 2011.

For States fortunate to still host American military bases or strategic assets, use it or lose it as your economic hub.

We were surprised to learn from the Governor of Connecticut that $8M of state monies have been appropriated to help expand the Groton base infrastructure. It seemed as if everyone from this region was keenly-aware that economic activity from these initiatives were as important (if not more certain) as doling out state industrial incentives for Pfizer, Ford, or Bombardier. We wonder if the same understanding is true among the Show-Me State’s Ft. Leonard Wood, Whiteman Air Force Base, and Southern Illinois’ Scott Air Force Base.

For those who doubt what discipline, leadership training, and team focus can do, stare into the young eyes of our nation’s soldiers.

When you look at the front lines of what defends our freedom today, it is hard not to be amazed about how well we can serve with the right structure in place. We should always challenge our next generation in all industries to pursue excellence, apply your best work ethic, and to work for a team for which you would give your life. It was heartening to know that the Saint Louis Science Center broadcast this commissioning live to help show others how to apply science.

The positive network effects from military science and technology has helped all Americans greatly today.

What economists would hail as positive network externalities are likely nowhere more accurate than from projects like the SSN780. As a private pilot, we flew to this excursion with a retired USAF bomber & A-10 pilot, and a retired army manager. During our discussion about how planes flew a generation ago, I was reminded just how military technology has been instituted within today’s system of general aviation. Our transponder codes to avoid mid-air collisions: once used as “identify friend or foe” fighter jet communications. Our tough, sturdy landing gear: aided greatly by “controlled crash” landings on Navy aircraft carriers. I can only imagine what SSN780 will do for us in the future once declassified.

Leadership and celebrity coach Anthony Robbins has said that: “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”

Commander Rexrode, may your destiny and decisions help shape many lives through peace in our time. The roads you take may be lonely, but vital to our society.