To reduce wrongful shootings, police can learn from our soldiers

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on September 4, 2017. It can also be found online here.

Sometimes, police must shoot to keep the peace. When used effectively, this results in safer cities. When done wrongfully, it inflames society.

The question is how police can best wield deadly force. The 2015 Colorado state law mandating local law enforcement report and review shootings is a good start. In Minneapolis, where a police officer fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman, the acting chief has announced police must turn on body cameras for “any call.”

But this technological solution treats the symptoms of police shootings that countrywide cause roughly 1,000 civilian deaths each year.

The problem is deeper: to reduce wrongful shootings, cops should reinforce an ethical code that, like soldiers, accepts deadly risk as inherent to their professional responsibility. Continue reading “To reduce wrongful shootings, police can learn from our soldiers”

Why veterans do belong on university campuses like UCCS

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on August 30, 2017. It can also be found online here.

I’m a veteran and I belong on a university campus. Both today, as a dissertation student, and someday, as a professor.

Last week a vocal minority calling itself the “Social Justice Collective,” in an unsanctioned newsletter posted on bulletin boards at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, declared this is bad for everybody, that “in order to protect our academic institutions we must ban veterans from four-year universities.”

To be sure, like all broad-based groups, veterans aren’t perfect. And this newsletter’s particularly distasteful argument is easy enough to dismiss. But it does provide an opportunity for former soldiers and fellow citizens alike to evaluate and upend some of what this newsletter claims are fundamental incompatibilities. Continue reading “Why veterans do belong on university campuses like UCCS”

Running the Rockies for Colorado’s Riches

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on August 27, 2017. It can also be found online here.

If value is that which is unique and useful, then the Rockies are Colorado’s rarest riches.

I learned this the hard way over the past week while part of a long distance trail running event. Along with 400 other athletes from 17 countries, six Canadian provinces, and 38 U.S. states, I participated in the TransRockies Run, a six-day, 120-mile footrace that featured 20,000 feet of climbing over the Rockies, traveling alongside US. 24 from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek.

While a race like this isn’t exactly for everyone, it does provide an exceptional view into what makes Colorado such a breathtaking place. Continue reading “Running the Rockies for Colorado’s Riches”

What the eclipse reveals about us

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on August 20, 2017. It can also be found online here.

Tomorrow, just before noon, the sun will disappear.

Well, almost. Locally, the partial solar eclipse begins at 10:23 a.m.; at the 11:47 a.m. peak, the moon will cover 91 percent of the sun; and the shadowy show should end at 1:15 p.m. Unless you’re a stargazer or a scientist, you probably weren’t expecting nature’s jaw-dropping three-hour intervention on an otherwise unremarkable Monday. But watching this eclipse gives us a unique opportunity to relearn something important about ourselves. Continue reading “What the eclipse reveals about us”

Wear Pink Underwear Like Churchill, and Nine Other Principles of Defense Entrepreneurship

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

Yes, you read that right. The West’s roaring lion, the British Bulldog, he of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat”—Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill—“customarily wore underwear made of pale pink silk.” We’ll come back to that later.

I was recently asked to speak at a Defense Entrepreneurs Forum panel at the US Air Force Academy, which got me to thinking about what that actually means. Some hold the term, “defense entrepreneur,” in contempt: Why isn’t this just innovation? Why do we have to go and create a new word for the same thing?

Those folks would be wrong. Just as there’s an important distinction between a “driver” and “driving,” there is a useful difference between an entrepreneur and innovation. One is a dynamic process; the other, a human catalyst that propels, advances, and often guides this dynamic process. Related, but not the same. The military spends a lot of time and ink on innovation, but not nearly as much on the individual innovator—the defense entrepreneur. Continue reading “Wear Pink Underwear Like Churchill, and Nine Other Principles of Defense Entrepreneurship”

Keeping Manitou weird

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on August 6, 2017. It can also be found online here.

America is an angry place these days. Politics burn hot on both ends; cable news stokes the fire. Families choose sides, dividing the closest bonds. Arguments abound, and at times, that spirit of animosity can just be too much.

Which is what makes Manitou Springs so different, so distinct – so weird. While most think it’s the pot or the art, or maybe even that residents call each other “Manitoids” – what really sets Manitou apart is an uncommon neighborliness, connectedness, and kindness.

Continue reading “Keeping Manitou weird”

Abundant Vulnerability: Why Military Millennials Might Be America’s Achilles’ Heel

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

“Be strong enough to know when you are weak,” Gen. Douglas MacArthur once advised. But what matters more is to know how and where you’re vulnerable.

During the Cold War, the director of the US Office of Net Assessment, Andrew Marshall, found America had a “distinct and meaningful advantage” in that the “bulk of the Soviet forces were composed of conscripts” who were “poorly trained and lacking technical know-how.” Marshall’s insight was to use the Soviet soldiers’ relative deprivation against them. In a military based on a thoroughly mechanized, road-mobile doctrine, the fact that the average Soviet recruit didn’t grow up with cars provided a weakness to be exploited.

Today, America’s military suffers the inverse vulnerability—abundance. The average American recruit, typically of the millennial generation, has always had access to an overflow of information and resources; ubiquitous smartphones, plentiful cars and computers. In the age of information warfare, when the enemy threatens to hit the kill switch, this is America’s Achilles’ heel. Continue reading “Abundant Vulnerability: Why Military Millennials Might Be America’s Achilles’ Heel”