In-Focus Podcast

Building the Base Episode 14: Congressman Michael John Gallagher, U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District

Episode No 14

In this week’s episode of Building the Base, Hondo and Lauren talk with Michael John Gallagher, U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District to discuss the future of the defense industrial network.

Throughout the podcast, Representative Gallagher touches on the role of increased automation in cutting edge technology, investing in the workforce, and the Pentagon’s procurement efforts. Representative Gallagher highlighted the importance of streamlining how authorities work with the Pentagon and the need for presidential leadership in increasing collaboration between DoD and the Hill. In this regard, such collaborations are important for enhancing our domestic infrastructure and getting out of a dysfunctional budget cycle.

Hondo, Lauren, and Representative Gallagher go on to discuss a variety of topics, including:

  • The role of higher education in innovation 
  • Need for greater oversight in DoD operations 
  • Cyber weaknesses and CISA 
  • IP Theft 
  • Mentorship 

Podcast Transcript

BENS Intro 00:00
The business executives for national security welcomes you to building the base here thought leaders and practitioners discuss how we can ensure our shared security and prosperity. They’re shaping the future of the national security industrial base, your hosts or Silicon Valley defense expert Lauren Bedula, along with Ben’s Distinguished Fellow and former head of acquisition for the Navy, Marines and special operators, Hondo Geurts.

Lauren Bedula 00:30
Welcome back to building the base. We’re so excited to film our 14th episode today and Andrew and I are down in Naples. So we’ve taken the show on the road and are so excited to have with us today Congressman Mike Gallagher. Congressman Gallagher currently serves as the US representative for Wisconsin’s eighth congressional district. Prior to serving in office, Mike was a US Marine Corps intelligence officer for seven years serving an active duty. And Mike is a huge champion of cybersecurity in defense technology in his work on both the committee and armed services, and also as a commissioner on the cyber solarium commission, so excited to get into these issues today. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Mike Gallagher 01:12
Thanks for having me. I’m in the Naples of the Midwest, Green Bay, Wisconsin. Equally, are down there we have snowbirds that spend January through May in Naples and Fort Myers.

Hondo Geurts 01:25
Yeah, I was amazed at how many of my Green Bay friends I would run into on the beach down here. So trying to escape that out. Beautiful Wisconsin weather. So congressman, it’s great to have you here. And as as Lauren kind of talked about in the intro, you have one of the most remarkably diverse careers. I think of any of our any of our guests, both serving in uniform serving as a staffer serving on the hill, what, you know what takes a kid in Green Bay and puts them on this path to such a critical but diverse career?

Mike Gallagher 01:56
Well, it’s a nice way of describing it. Perhaps the less charitable description would be unfocused career. But you know, the more I think about it, I have this weird sort of vivid memory from third grade, if you can believe it, Miss Burke’s class. And I remember this because we were doing a trip around the world sort of she This was her way of introducing us to the world outside of America. And so she kind of had us all pretend like we were flying around the world. And where you sat on the plane, this probably wouldn’t be kosher in today’s participation, trophy culture, but where you sat on the plane, like first class first coach, depending on how you did on the test every week, so it’s sort of two things. One, it was like this introduction to the world outside of Wisconsin, and then to it was this inception of the idea that, Oh, if you work hard in school, you can see results. And so I was always a driven student. After that, I think it’s a credit to my mom and dad, who were always just super hard workers. My dad, you know, a very hardworking physician who also started a restaurant in Green Bay called Gallagher’s pizza, he kind of always had that entrepreneurial spirit. And my mom who was an artist and a TV anchor, at one point, went back to school, you know, midway through life and got a PhD in psychology. So I always remember seeing my mom up at like, you know, 430 every morning and I’d come out of the bedroom a couple hours later, my mom had been working for two hours, so credit to my parents for instilling a good work ethic in me that led me to get into a good college and I was in college where I kind of discovered a love for for the Middle East. We had invaded, I went to college 2002 we invaded Iraq, 2003. And for the first time, my life started to ask these questions about, okay, why are we at war, what’s going on in the Middle East, I was studying abroad and got assigned to this project studying terrorist groups and their targeting methods. And I just became fascinated by it, went back to Princeton changed my major to Near Eastern Studies started studying Arabic, had a bunch of great professors guy named Mike Duran, was a professor at the time. I remember this vividly, because I was so excited to be in Mike Durant’s intro to the Middle East class. And I worked really hard, which is not often something I did in my freshman and sophomore year, because I discovered the joys of a social life after being a nerd in high school. But I worked actually really hard, which makes us more embarrassing. And on the first paper, Mike Duran gave me a c minus and he said it was the worst written paper in the class. So he crushed my spirit, but that was a real wake up call for me that, you know, okay, this is the next level, I gotta learn how to write, I gotta learn how to research. If I want to hack it. I got a lot of work to do. And so from that moment, I was kind of turned my academic career around, had a blast setting Middle East and when I started to think about Alright, what do you do with this? You know, the Marine Corps jumped out of me. I mean, I didn’t know anything about the military didn’t come from a military family. But the Marine Corps, being the greatest propaganda organization in human history grabbed me, both as a practical way to use my language skills and my regional skills. And I think for the children and a way to serve my country pay back a debt I felt I owed to my family, my community and but also just a way to test myself. I tested myself academically, but I wanted the combination of the academic tests, the physical test, which was really important to me, I liked integrating that. And then a leadership test. And I just felt like, you know, were better to test yourself as a leader than when you stand in front of, you know, 45 Marines, and you’re the guy in charge as a 22 year old second lieutenant. So that really appealed to me. And if anything, I’d say before I tell stories that are useless for an hour is I was, you know, whatever, I was not a good athlete growing up, I played basketball a little bit, and I play golf. And then I went to my high school was really good at sports. And so I was a benchwarmer and everything. So for me the first time I got up and did a Marine Corps physical fitness test, I was pretty good on the run, because I kind of my older stepbrother was a runner and I started running a little bit, the situps are relatively easy, but pull up bar man, I did like three pull ups the first time and if you want to go down to Officer cannon school you got to be doing at the time, at least 16 Now you got to be maxing out when you go down there because it’s so competitive at two I think a standards are it’s was 20. Now it’s like 22 for the for the young guys. So I know it sounds stupid. But like even just getting over the fear of like, failing physically on pull ups was a big deal for me. So I took me a year to just I didn’t lift growing up. So I had to learn how to lift I had to like build muscles I didn’t know existed. And now I’m like obsessed with pull ups I have I’m looking at my glorious pull up bar in my basement, I dream about doing endless pull ups. I’ve my wife when she talks about us having a dream house if I ever make money, I’m thinking about I’m already scoping out where I’m gonna put the pull up bars, I got my daughter who’s to do on pull ups. So I was able to slay that dragon and fast forward everything else and just say how to charm career in the military led me to work on the Hill for two years for Bob Corker as a Middle East gun for relations committee. Then through that, went back home to Wisconsin to work for our governor when he ran for president. I was an app security adviser that didn’t work out a little bit in the private sector. I was back home and Green Bay Congressman retires I’m in the right place right time. And so I didn’t plan on a political career but just kind of felt like I needed to step up and put my money where my mouth was because I was criticizing the direction of foreign policy. And so was able to run and one as a as an unknown person so much more than you wanted to know what a weird story is starting in third grade.

Hondo Geurts 07:42
That’s awesome. Apparently, you were not in first class in the mike Duran airplane. But, but glad it inspired me he is inspired. He’s inspired generations. You know, being from Wisconsin, you’ve probably seen firsthand kind of the changeover from industrial, you know, losing outsourcing all that. Now, a lot of folks probably don’t know. And World War Two, you know, Wisconsin built 20 submarines, 7000 ship workers, you and I used to spend a lot of time together and at least in my past life up the Marinette shipyard, you know, as we look at this podcast of thinking about the industrial base that this country needs for the future, and how to revitalize what used to be, you know, the backbone of America’s manufacturing capability. How, how do you see that playing out? What, what do you see that’s the same, we just need to remember how to do and where do you see us having to maybe change things? And how are you looking at it from, you know, on the ground there and in Wisconsin?

Mike Gallagher 08:43
Well, I see two trends that may seemingly be intention, but I think they’re they’re sort of complementary. One is obviously increased automation, you go up to fic. And Terry Marinette Marine, which is about you know, a little bit over an hour drive from where I live here in Green Bay. And you’ll see just cutting edge technology, right, they just put in a brand new automated machine for kind of cutting the hole up. I mean, it’s it’s state of the art. When we get our sinker lift put in there, I think it’s gonna be the biggest such system. In the Western Hemisphere. Maybe there’s one other thing in Australia, I forget what Vanderhoff told me last time I was out there. But so you have this massive event in little Northeast Wisconsin, just massive investment in automated technology, cutting edge stuff, which is really promising because at the end of the day, you hope that kind of bends the cost curve for some of these big warships, down but on the other hand, and this may seem like a little bit of tension. It’s all about the workforce. I mean, it is all about the workforce, because as you know, and I mean, you you got to, you got to invest in the workforce. You got to you got to get in the classrooms early. I mean, and we have sort of shipbuilding apprenticeship programs that start at the beginning of high school. Cool now, you know, we got to effectuate this massive cultural shifts where, you know, not every kid needs to go to college and we now need to not only incentivize, but celebrate kids that are going to work and Marinette as a welder, and oh, by the way, they’re going to make a lot more money than their friends who spent four years at Madison and get a useless degree. No offense to Madison, I still probably went to Madison. But I obviously went to a four year college. So it made sense for me. But that’s where it’s at. I really think where we’ve seen success in Northeast Wisconsin is where you have a local anchor company are a set of local anchor companies, usually in the manufacturing space, it’s not just shipbuilding, you go about 45 minutes south of where I am, and Brillion Wisconsin, there’s a big manufacturer of snowblowers and lawn mowers called errands, you may own one. They’ve they’ve invested in the local high school and they view it as an investment in the workforce of the future right there. They need to figure out how do we attract people to come to stay in brilliant, or come move in brilliant Wisconsin. And the final thing I’d say on this is as difficult of a problem as that is to solve. I actually think we have a huge opportunity right now I wonder if the pandemic has accelerated this migration from our big cities, right? And people are realizing, Hey, maybe I don’t want to live in Chicago for a variety of reasons, perhaps, you know, cost of living crime is out of control. Their football team sucks big time I’d rather live up in although I don’t really have a leg to stand on right now. Live in Northeast Wisconsin, our quality of life is higher schools are a little bit better. Crimes aren’t as big of an issue and oh my gosh, I can make a lot of money if I’m welding. At at shaking Terry, right. Oh, and by the way, I get to build a freakin frigate. That’s cool. So that’s the biggest thing. It’s its workforce. I think if you’d asked the people that run the shipyard what keeps them up at night? It’s, you know, workforce, workforce. workforce.

Hondo Geurts 12:00
Yeah, I’ve seen that. Certainly. And it’s not just, you know, I think sometimes we think industrial, we think you know, brawn. And it’s, it’s, as you say, it’s as much brains as brawn. Now you need to have that, you know, need to have both. And I think technology in some way, is going to open up some of these industrial sectors, maybe in a way that folks haven’t necessarily always thought of, you know, if you’re a uniquely gifted student, you may not be able to, you know, lift 500 pounds, but you can run a robotic machine like nobody’s brother, and, and have a tremendous impact on the country’s national security.

Mike Gallagher 12:40
Johann Otto, if you ever heard this stat, but someone at one, I’m gonna, I’m gonna mangle it. But at some point, someone told me the, the number of hours you need to be a welder for, like, whatever the casing is for our nuclear subs. And it was more than you needed to like go to med school. So we’re talking highly advanced work here. And I also think we don’t want to make it a choice necessarily between college and workforce. Because the reality is, I think higher ed is going to be totally disruptive. Typically, after the pandemic, where you can go right to the workforce, you start making a lot of money, and you could chip away if you want to get your four year degree or even beyond, you can chip away at that as you’re earning a salary. So I think we’re kind of entering this, this promising hybrid universe. And you’re absolutely right, you know, this, these are these are really advanced jobs, you know, what is what is welding, but math in some regards, right? Manufacture it’s advanced math, and in some, in some cases, so I totally agree with what you said,

Lauren Bedula 13:35
well, workforce is something we’ll probably come back to, because it’s a topic that is top of mind for us. And actually, down here, we’re celebrating Ben’s 40th anniversary, and we had President Bush speak last night and education reform was really a highlight of his remarks. And we heard from folks like the former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, today talking about the same issue too. So it’s something I know Ben is eager to champion. I want to switch gears a little bit. Congressman, you talked about the increased automation you’re seeing locally. And really, it’s coming out of the private sector, but not always the traditional defense industrial base, right? You have these venture backed startups that are focused on software, or innovation across the board. And when we look at our national security threat posture, we know we need to pull these companies in to collaborate in the national security community, the Department of Defense, and there’s certainly the appetite on both sides. Now, I think you’re seeing a lot of companies step up eager to do so. But they’re very difficult processes to navigate to do business with the Department of Defense. And know this is an issue you’ve looked at and you’ve spoken about publicly and really championed with your work on the Armed Service Committee, but also the cyber solarium commission wanted to get your take, especially with the economic outlook, will some of these companies stop wasting cycles on this issue? Or what do you see as potential ways to strengthen this collaboration?

Mike Gallagher 15:03
Well, you know, I think bottom line is we, you know, if you I forget the stats, and I may be cribbing here from Chris burrows, his testimony, recent testimony, or maybes and drills analysis that they put out. But I think at the end of the Cold War, we had something like 175 are near 200 major defense companies, and now we have five or six primes, depending on how you do the math. That’s obviously not healthy, we needed a far more heterogenous and diverse industrial base. And so the question is, how do we get more? How do we take small companies, turn them into medium sized companies, and then eventually have more primes out there? A few things I think are obvious to me, we have some promising examples, or let’s say exceptions that prove the rule. Most people cite Palantir, and SpaceX and Earl is doing some cool stuff, as well. But we want more of that to happen. So to me, and here, I’m preaching from the Gospel of Hondo Gertz, the Pentagon doesn’t need to turn itself into like a venture capital. Organization, right? Pentagon needs to procure things, needs to buy things, Pentagon needs to buy certain things right now, the Pentagon needs to buy a lot of munitions. And if we can kind of get that figured out and get out of our dysfunctional budget cycle. I think that would go a long way towards incentivizing companies to get into the defense business or incentivizing, you know, capital to flow into the defense business capital will flow to where there is money to be made, and DOD makes it far too difficult duties a difficult customer. So that’s the biggest thing I think we need to fix to fix this overall problem. Congress can play a role, I think by inserting a lot of cases moving towards multi year procurement authority. We’re talking about that for munitions. Right now. I think that’s incredibly sensible. I think we have a huge opportunity. In the short term. The problem we confront when we talk about that is that no offense to my my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, but historically, the appropriators or let me more accurately say the appropriation staffers don’t like to don’t like multi year procurement authority, because it kind of diminishes their year to year power. I think that’s short sighted at best. So that’s kind of an internal divide, we’re gonna have to figure out in Congress, the other thing that comes to mind, and I think it’s something that the great Mac Thornberry may have said, on your podcast, we’ve actually because of his leadership, actually, we’ve given the Pentagon all sorts of exotic authorities OTAs, you know, this, that, and the other both for buying things and for recruiting human beings to work for the Pentagon? It seems as though we have not the Pentagon has not used those authorities aggressively. So we need to do a better job of oversight. I mean, I have in mind, like a monthly or quarterly hearing with all the service secretaries or whoever the right person in acquisition is saying, Okay, give us the stats on how many times you’ve you’ve used XYZ authorities, why aren’t you using it? Do we miss the mark and how we structured this? What’s going on here? That’s that, I guess what I’m saying is, we don’t necessarily need to pass a new piece of legislation that creates a new fund or a new OTA, we just need to like do basic oversight of the Pentagon funding, I’d say, you know, it really makes a difference. And I’m not trying to blow smoke here. But Ben’s very influential Silicon Valley Defense Group, the day to day engagement of people that can link sort of the most innovative companies, private capital, and, you know, link them into the legislative process. That’s a huge, huge deal. Because my sense is there’s a lot of younger legislators in particular, that are really eager to figure this out or recognize that the status quo is unacceptable. I mean, I would submit on these issues, you know, we’ll be a good example, Seth Moulton, my fellow Marine colleague, I mean, we don’t we agree totally on the path going forward. So those are just a few ideas. I don’t know if that answered your question, though.

Hondo Geurts 19:01
Yeah, I think, Congressman, you’ve got it right on. I mean, having been in the system, and you and I talk a lot about it, you know, I think that you know, DOD having the largest r&d budget, in its history is a fail, because there’s plenty of folks there’s buying commercial tech already developed, there’s plenty of folks to develop. So we tend to be oversubscribed and discovery and completely underperforming in deploying the technology. And then as you know, if you’re the marine out there in the field with your 45 other Marines, you know, doing a think tank doesn’t help you much or Shark Tank doesn’t help you much when you’re on the ground and haven’t seen a new piece of gear in a long time. I think an element of that, where I think again, this idea of bringing the right diverse group together is creating habits. So you may have the legislative authority, but that’s not the way we do business. That’s not the culture. That’s not how the staffers were brought up or the acquisition professionals or grand quiet frankly, the domain, the big companies want to preserve status quo because they’ve been built around status quo. And so I really do like that idea that we can bring the right folks together. And and I will I told somebody else this the other day, again, not to blow any smoke, but you get out and get involved in a lot of things that are not directly constituent related. They’re, they’re trying to change it for the good of the country. And, and I applaud you and your other fellow congressmen and women who engage in issues not just in, you know, things at the local level, could because that makes a big difference to these groups when they can get the perspective of you know, somebody outcome based discussion of these issues.

Mike Gallagher 20:44
Well, acquisition reform, very hot right now in Northeast Wisconsin, it’s on the lips of everybody. So clearly, my investment, people are really up in arms about the failed sale strategy. You know, that’s higher than education K through 12. Reform right now. So

Hondo Geurts 21:01
we may be talking about quarterback acquisition reform, or soon to be something else.

Lauren Bedula 21:08
Well, Congressman, you do a great job. You talked about linking up companies with folks like you who are energized to get them involved with legislative processes or to be informed by their perspective for your policymaking. But you also do a great job of engaging in conversations with universities and think tanks and nonprofits, such as Benz, or you mentioned the Silicon Valley Defense Group, and you crushed it up at Harvard, where they partnered for the national security and tech conference, what role do you see these institutions playing? So academia, think tanks and the like, as we think through a future industrial network?

Mike Gallagher 21:48
Well, maybe I’ll highlight one concern I have enlisted I say this as someone who’s benefited immensely from higher ed. And I used my GI Bill to get a bunch of useless graduate degrees. I am at core a failed academic at some point, I look forward to returning to obscurity and being, you know, an obscure professor of really cold war history at some Wisconsin liberal arts college. So with that caveat, you know, you look at sort of the obviously in the early parts of the Cold War, higher education and sort of the research establishment, they’re in played a really key role in helping us incubate certain ideas and technology. I mean, I think the government played a far more heavy hand in certain areas. Back then. Similarly, I think our higher ed ecosystem is a recent advantage we have relative to the Chinese Communist Party. As proof of that, look at the fact that CCP princelings tend to send their send their sons and daughters if they can to America. But here’s here’s the criticism. And I think the reform we need, we can’t have a bunch of, you know, foreign researchers stealing IP, or ideas from the higher ed ecosystem and then sucking it back through the United Front work ecosystem to the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a massive problem. It’s why the Trump administration tried to install a PLA researcher ban, all of our universities freaked out. But in my mind, we’re going to have to re install something like that it kind of presumes that we have the ability in the intelligence community to help universities understand, you know, who’s an innocuous, talented Chinese AI researcher that we should probably try and keep here and defect from the CCP, and who’s actually, you know, doing the bidding of somebody related to the party. So I’m not trying to suggest it to it’s a it’s an easy problem to solve. And then the other thing that worries me, and I’ll say, worries me, and we’ll go further than that. If, if the culture at some of these universities is hostile to collaboration with the military in particular, then we got a massive problem on our hands. And that’s where I worry that given that the culture at in higher ed is much more ideologically homogenous, that used to be in some ways, it’s a monoculture. And given that the trend within that culture is to be hostile to, you know, sort of this specific business of defending this country from our enemies. We just don’t want to allow that gap to grow wider and wider. And there we need to remember kind of the second part of of Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech speech where he didn’t just warn against the military industrial complex, he warned about a government money being filtered through sort of the scientific and higher ed enterprise and thereby corrupting future science. So not a good answer your question, but I guess the bottom line would be, I think we have a massive advantage in terms of our educational ecosystem. We need we need to continue that but we can’t allow that to drift into sort of The complacency with respect to foreign entities trying to take advantage of it. There’s a lot of foreign money that goes to these universities that can have sort of a subtle, corrupting and corrosive effect. And we also can’t allow sort of an anti American ethos to develop within our educational institute institutions in general, if that makes any sense.

Lauren Bedula 25:22
Absolutely. And not only a good answer to my question, but I think an important call to action. So that was spot on.

Hondo Geurts 25:28
So so on the topic of research, Congressman, you wrote, or I thought, a pretty thoughtful piece about the, you know, the Small Business innovative research Sciver kind of program where we’re getting it right, where we’re getting it wrong, and, and to some degree, the failing of the DOD to figure out how to deploy kind of earlier stage capital, you might say, to be more effective. What’s on your mind there? Where do you see opportunities in terms of policy, or how to shape those programs, to focus as much on scaling winners, as just kind of feeding the seed corn out there? Arguably, you have to do a little of both. But we seemed a little bit, we seem a little bit lopsided in our approach of just more small companies means we’ll do better, and not really focusing on the scaling aspect.

Mike Gallagher 26:19
The biggest thing on my mind, I guess that it isn’t explicitly in the piece, but it kind of lurking in the background of everything I do these days is the question of time. You know, I guess if you look at the the archival records on the early Cold War, late 40s, early 50s, it was the same question of whether time was on our side. Truman, initially, after green invasion, Soviet nuclear tests, 4950 concludes that it’s not so they embark on a crash program, Eisenhower kind of throttles back and says, Well, time is on our side and goes back to sort of Kevin’s original conception of containment. Today, I think if you sort of ask the same question whether time is on our side relative to the PRC, the answer is no. Or perhaps more accurately, if you conceive of our competition with China, as a long term marathon, as most people do, for good reason. It says, if you need to win a short term sprint, to qualify for that marathon, we need to survive the 20s, where a lot of bad things are converging for us in order to get to the 30s, which is far more difficult for Xi Jinping, primarily for demographic reasons. So because I think time is not on our side, I therefore think that the Pentagon is, is not moving quickly enough, particularly when it comes to adopting commercial off the shelf and off the shelf, you know, whatever. You can quibble with that phrase, commercial technology. And so I wrote that op ed, because I was I was mostly persuaded by Mike Brown, the former head of di use. testimony, I think the last testimony you gave before Congress, where he outlined his fast follower strategy, which to me was a sensible approach to how we can better leverage commercial technology and kind of your question Hondo. I just don’t think more diverse grants are going to get the job done. They’re too small. It’s like a participation trophy. You know, the DoD tries to spread it out to let 1000 Flowers bloom when DOD needs to be picking winners and losers and needed to be making much more massive bets on a smaller number of companies that have the best tech and cultures that are able to produce things rapidly there. I have to give a shout out to my colleague. And I don’t often say nice things about appropriators but Ken Calvert is a great guy. And he totally gets what’s going on here. He’s got a lot of bills that are attempting to fix this so called Valley of Death problem. Finally, I’d say and what motivated that Op Ed, I just remember sitting at the Reagan National Defense forum, I think last year or two years ago, I’m in a time warp speaking of time, and Secretary Austin gave a speech in which he talked about you know, we’re gonna we’re gonna help companies cross the valley of death. And I just thought, Okay, that’s all well and good. But Mattis said the exact same thing four years before, and we’re losing ground in some cases. I mean, we can’t figure out multicloud for for the Pentagon. I mean, my gosh, we just wasted two and a half years litigating that, so we need to move faster. And I’m, I’m at the point where let’s just throw all the good ideas against the wall. Let’s see what sticks. The hardest thing I think is something you referenced in an earlier question. It’s, it’s the cultural issue, right? If you’ve got an acquisition workforce, that’s what 175,000 people strong. How do you how do you how do you change the culture to one that prioritizes intelligent risk and original failure as opposed to constant cya status quo? You know, Thornberry, I think I also had a good idea where he said, I always want to do call people to the Hill to testify that we’re like, program managers for a program that totally failed. And just Ask him about it, not to embarrass them, but to say, Hey, okay, what did we learn? What did we learn from the failure? I love that idea. I think we should have like a national original failure day. I mean, that’s America, right? Which we are capacity for original mistakes and self correction. That’s that’s our relative advantage, right? There are risk taking.

Hondo Geurts 30:19
Yeah, I like the original failure degree. I’m not sure I like the repeated fail. Yeah,

Mike Gallagher 30:23
well, that’s insanity, right? We don’t want it we don’t want to be literally insane, which is what we are most of the time. So let’s just have original mistakes.

Hondo Geurts 30:31
You know, I think this element, the other thing I think a lot about is what’s gonna make China think differently. And I worry shiver programs, isn’t it strange, it’s not scared of our server program. Right? It’s China’s not scared of, you know, 100,000 million dollar grants, or whatever it’s so. So I think the idea of the combination of what’s going to make them think differently and make them think differently in a time that’s relevant to these danger years, I think is a truly important kind, you know, is one pretty good lens to look through. What should we scale right now that we know? Where do we have to do some long term work? But what do we what do we need to do right now and scale. And if we can marry that up with the rebuilding of the manufacturing capacity in the country, the RE establishment of more secure supply chain, you can see those things coming together in a really interesting and I think thoughtful way, the challenges, right, creating the critical mass to go make that happen at scale, and not just have a couple of heroes here and there that come and go, you know, that system right now is relying on too many heroes. And I can tell you, the acquisition professionals, don’t you know, they’re as frustrated as anybody else. They’re not trying to, you know, there’s frustrated with the system. It’s just one of these, you know, we’ve just got I like the idea of taking this munitions challenge. How do we do that fundamentally differently, so we can learn fast, and then take the lessons, the right lessons and scale them.

Mike Gallagher 32:04
I kind of come unglued. And I hate to say this as a member of Congress, where my general worldview is that article, one should be the dominant branch of government. But we’ve surrendered all our power to the executive branch in a way that the framers never would have. foreseen. In fact, they were afraid about the exact opposite happening, that we would suck everything into our impetuous vortex was the phrase they used in Federalist Papers. But I do sort of think in the short term, absent a fix to the appropriations process, absent a constitutional fix, it really is going to require presidential level leadership, you got a president who empowers the Secretary of Defense who empowers service secretaries to really move out on his top three to five priorities. And it probably can’t be more than that. Right. I mean, we talked we’ve talked before about and I don’t know if this is the best example, but it’s the one that always comes to mind because it affected me personally and saved a lot of Marines lives. But we feel the 24,000 M wraps in less than two years. And why was that? Because the two theatres of war, because Secretary Gates made it his top priority gave it his top acquisition priority, like every week had meetings about where are we on this? You know, or did not I think nine initial contracts to companies that already had stuff in production just kind of broke through the system and said, We’re gonna get this done, because it’s saving lives. And I my first deployment, we had a Humvee second deployment, we had an AMRAP. I mean, and I did back to back deployments I went home with for a month. So it was a very short period of time, we’re gonna need to run that play when it comes to long range fires in particularly that we can stockpile west of the International Dateline. That’s just my view.

Lauren Bedula 33:33
So Congressman, I want to pivot to cybersecurity. And you talked a little bit about the outlook from a threat perspective. visa vie, China, especially. And so you’ve, I think, stood out as a commissioner on the cyber solarium commission. And I believe part two of the commission is still busy and active. Could you tell our listeners a little bit about that work? And maybe some of how implementation is looking today for that first round of recommendations?

Mike Gallagher 34:05
For sure. And I call it part three, because I think there’s something important we learned and to the extent we were successful, it’s because we realized that a lot of these reports get written we have all these outside Commission’s and then outside commission on national service and outside commission on bio warfare, all good stuff, but the report gets written and then it sits on a shelf, and it collects dust and not even the people that legislated and mandated the report, read it sometimes that may shock you, members of Congress, most of them can can read I think, but they may, they may have other priorities that get in the way of their reading time. So we thought, okay, the reports important, this is phase one, we’re going to write this report. We’re proud of it. We tried to write it in prose that was understandable. We deliberately wrote an unclassified report because cyber can quickly go down the nerd rabbit hole of just jargon and highly classified but we wanted this to be on class so your average american could access it, access it So phase one, phase two was probably the most important, because we took that report in our recommendations, and we just tried to work them through the legislative process. We I was a co chair along with Angus King, who’s an independent senator from Maine. So we had house Senate, bipartisan, and we had an executive director in the form of Admiral Mark Montgomery, who really, he didn’t just know, the cyber issues, he knew the hill. Well, he had worked for Senator McCain. So he was, we wrote the legislation for the relevant committees to make it easy for them, so they can just copy and paste. And I just highlight that because my strong recommendation for anybody who’s serving on an outside commission is kind of have that bias for action approach, you could write the most brilliant report in the world, but the branch of your prose is not going to get anything done. So you got to you got to kind of feed it into the injected into the legislative bloodstream. Now we’re in phase three where it’s kind of transitioned to a nonprofit system. And so where are we at? Well, we got where our batting average is better than I think any modern commission you know, probably some of our high profile things we’ve already gotten done we created a national cyber director. It a lot of lessons learned on that good, bad and ugly that we’re working through right now. We tried to elevate Sousa, which is DHS is cyber organization, which has a super important mission to defend our domestic infrastructure and cyber, we tried to elevate them to make Sousa just as sexy as working for the NSA is. So we gave them the authority to do threat hunting on.gov networks to allow them to go faster. When it comes to military and NSA, we tried to build upon the successful model of defense forward, which we’ve promulgated in recent years. So where are we going after this? Well, I think it’s our domestic infrastructure that is really has some glaring vulnerabilities. I think our water utilities, in particular, need some more support from the federal government. As I said, we’re going to kind of I think, iterate off the National Cyber director model. But the last thing I’d say is, and I think maybe the only thing I learned as a non specialist coming into this space, is that and cyber, we can talk about all these fancy technologies and this and that it does it comes down to people at the end of the day it can we get smarter human beings to solve cyber problems, and defend our country and cyber than the Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians and the shadowy group of cyber criminals, can we need to do a better job of making it easier for people to serve their country, if let’s say they don’t want to get high and tight and do a bunch of pull ups and run around in a Marine Corps uniform, they want to keep the purple hair? How do we do that. And we discovered that we’ve already given them the authority to do this, but they don’t use it. So it’s a people business, we got to figure that out. And then if you look in the private sector, I mean, there’s a massive, you know, 10s of 1000s, if not hundreds of 1000 person shortfall and key it and cyber jobs. So hopefully some of that made sense.

Hondo Geurts 37:54
Many of our listeners probably don’t know, we share some common history, you know, you’re in a sheet the same seat my great grandfather was in and we you know, and when you and I used to laugh when we be christening chips, and Marinette of you know, if you know son of pizza owner and son of bar owners, would you know who to think it would get this way. And at least in my case, I’m sure you already mentioned a little bit in years that a lot of that was mentoring and taking, you know, taking values and figuring out how to take our unique personalities and apply them. What’s your, you know, can you recall some other mentors of yours that kind of got you moving in the right direction? Lord knows I had plenty of them. And then how do you talk to your younger staff and other about how to seek out mentors where you know, how to take advantage of them and use them to help you achieve your kind of goals?

Mike Gallagher 38:50
I shouldn’t mention your your Wisconsin heritage Honda but it’s really cool. And my great grandfather was a ship captain on the Great Lakes for the cliffs victory was described as the most colorful ship captain at the time. I don’t know what that means. I assume that means he was drinking and having fun and had used scatological language like most Gallagher’s do. But that was the closest my family ever got to anything involving naval prowess. I was part of a generation of Marines that didn’t see a ship and just fought land wars. Mentorship has been been crucial. I think it’s been the difference maker in my life. I mean, I think you obviously need to have some base level of work ethic. I actually think intelligence is less important if you if you can work hard, I don’t consider myself. I mean, nothing really comes easy for me. I don’t like work hard. My sister is the actual naturally intelligent person in our family. So I had I had the benefit of mentorship though. I remember in high school when I was deciding which college to go to. I got introduced to a guy who had gone to my high school about 10 years or maybe 15 years prior and wants karate, who’s just a guy right guy, he sort of pioneered counterterrorism financing after 911. And then went to work as a special assistant to President Bush for counterterrorism. And just not only a brilliant guy who had made it kind of in the national security world, but just a super good guy are just so nice. So high integrity. And for me, it was important to see that see that you could go from Wisconsin and serve at the highest levels of government, and also retain your dignity and integrity in the process. And at every critical point in my career. One has, as I reached out to Juan for advice, he introduced me to the second guy that stands out in terms of mentorship. When I was going to get out of the Marine Corps, I’d come back at my second deployment, I was unpacking boxes, in Encinitas. And I’m like, What should I do? I’ll just take the I’ll go to business school and make money because that’s what people did want sent my resume to HR McMaster, who portrays it just tapped to do a review of CENTCOM when he was sent calm when he was head of CENTCOM. And so McMaster reached through the Marine Corps bureaucracy, and grabbed me as a first lieutenant and pulled me on to that team. And he was a phenomenal mentor. And that’s the reason I stuck around the gun club for at least four more years. And that’s the reason I pursued my PhD because HR kind of had that model of warrior scholar where he had gotten his PhD wrote a phenomenal book, dereliction of duty, but also had the combat and tactical street cred. And then that was kind of my model. And HR has now become you know, he’s he’s right up there with one in terms of mentorship and someone I just greatly admire as someone who has the intellectual street cred, the actual military street cred, and also has a great sense of humor, and you would just enjoy having beers with which I think is just a great way to live your life. Finally, I’d say I can’t claim this someone as a mentor because I never met him in person, more as a model. But in my first campaign in 2016, before he passed away, Mel Laird, former Secretary defense from Wisconsin, the man from Marshfield, sent me too long handwritten notes. And I was a huge fan of the biography of Mel Laird with honor that Dale van atta wrote, and I’ve always found metallurgist, a fascinating human being and that sort of period in the Nixon administration, to be fascinating. So to get a letter from someone you idolized, like that was really transformative to me. And he also included a chapter from the book, where, how, how about how he saved the Packers from extinction, because he kind of brokered the, I think, like the TV rights at the time when they merged the legs. And so that was just I don’t know, I’ve always been fascinated by where Wisconsin history interacts with kind of America on the world stage. And a metal layer was a phenomenal example of that. And I ended up writing a chapter in my PhD dissertation on Mel Laird in the Nixon administration. And I’m going on here, let me just finally, six, I think this is important. I think in addition to mentors like that people that can really give you guidance, you need what I would call kind of peers that you admire, that can that that one that you’ll tell you when you screw up, and they know you well enough to do that. And to just kind of keep you motivated. I have a phenomenal group of friends that I really admire. And my best friend from college is a genius and helps me, you know, contest ideas. But Matt pottenger, I met Matt pottenger, as a second lieutenant in Iraq in 2007. I took over his team on western Iraq and Matt, Matt is the reason. I mean, my I was an Arabist, a Middle East guy. And Matt is the guy who forced me to wake up and say, hey, that’s important. But China’s the main effort now. And I kind of went to the map, pottenger school, graduate school, in my first two years in Congress, once a month, we’d have breakfast, and he would just kind of tell me things and I would take notes. So he’s had a profound impact on me and someone every day, I’m reaching out to for advice. And, and there are others. You know, around him, Astro is a great China scholar who helped me kind of figure out how to get through my PhD program. And, you know, I think at the end of the day, though, it all goes back to back to my parents who kind of kept me on the straight and narrow and taught me how to work hard. I told too many stories. I swear this last one. I always had this memory of my mom. I don’t know what grade I was in, but I must have been like in fifth grade or sixth grade. But I remember this clearly. There was some extra credit assignment that was really hard. And I was like crying as a little kid because I didn’t want to do it. Which is embarrassing to admit, I’ve since then my tear ducts removed. So I’m physically incapable of crying in the Marine Corps. I was forced to do that. My mom I remember sitting me down and she’s like, Honey, I know this is hard. But in this family, we always go the extra mile. And I’m like, Yeah, mom. I just always remember that. Whenever I encounter difficulty, I think about what my mom said whether it’s literally having to go the extra mile when you’re You know, rocking in the military and you want to give up? Or whether it’s, you know, hey, you got constituents who are having trouble with an immigration issue, and you got to call the State Department at 10pm. And it’s just, there’s no shortcuts. I don’t think maybe some other people have figured it out. I got a bus, you got to bust your butt. That’s, that’s the only secret to life. Work hard, I think and have a bunch of good friends that can keep you honest.

Hondo Geurts 45:28
Yeah, I mean, keeping that, you know, as a senior leader, keeping that drive and keeping your car I talked a lot about staying fresh, no matter where you are staying fresh, not letting the system beat you down. You know, if you’re working on important hard stuff, it’s important and hard. And so being able to keep yourself resilient, I think is, is something I’ve learned from a lot of key mentors. Speaking of mentorship, I think, if I have the stats, right, in 71 75%, of Congress had military experience, I think that number is down probably less than 20%. I was actually there. You know, I think it’s the oldest Congress in the history of the country. And so I imagine you do a lot of mentoring and trying to help communicate to members who haven’t served the importance of national security. How do you go about that? How do you explain to them kind of the impact of some of these issues? Particularly, I mean, I think they all have the country’s best heart in mind, but they may not have the experience of what what will really make an impact or not, how do you how do you mentor them and leverage this incredibly diverse experience said you have to help them understand the criticality of these major issues we’re facing as a country?

Mike Gallagher 46:45
Well, first of all, I you know, I used to be a young person in Congress, I think I was the second youngest. I was the youngest man in Congress, when I came in. At least the phonic I think, is three months younger than me. So she had the overall title. Now, I’m not I don’t think I’m top 20 at the at the age of 38. I’ve also probably aged at double that rate. In the six years I’ve been in politics. I’m a fan of term limits so that we can get rid of the the octogenarians that are running our country, I was joking with my staff that I’m going to introduce a constitutional amendment that I’m calling the old Act, which is outlawing legislative dinosaurs, and then nobody over the age of 75 can serve in Congress from the White House, I may actually do that, by the way. But beyond that, for for colleagues coming in, I the advice I got from Paul Ryan and others, which I think has served me well is focus on your committee work, right? You know, you’re not, don’t focus on being a C list celebrity on social media, right, you’re never going to have as many followers as it’s just a losing game to try and play that game. In fact, I think he told me for your first six months, don’t do national media, you can do local media, but your like your don’t get seduced by the siren song of getting invited on CNN, or Fox News. It’s fleeting, right? It’s famous, fleeting, politics is proud in all that endures is good work, particularly in your committees. That’s where the work gets done. So that’s what I try and preach to my fellow members of Congress, and you can’t do everything right. I’m interested in a lot of different things. But I feel like my highest and best use for the country, at least right now is on national security, and defense issues, and how it affects our competition with China. So I try and stay focused on that, even if it requires me to assume political work, or political risk. When I’m talking to young people, it’s a kids that are graduating high school or college, I kind of say different things. One, I feel strongly to them you want to serve in kind of the NASA treaty world, I think you’ve got this unique five year period right out of school where you can go out and just get your street cred. Have adventures, live simply, I mean, you don’t don’t own anything, you shouldn’t own anything that you can put into the back of your car in less than 30 minutes, because you want to take advantage of, oh, hey, I’m going to work for a nonprofit in Zanzibar. Oh, I’m going to deploy as much as possible. Because I’m in the Marine Corps right now, like that is a unique period of time, where you need to get out there and be at the pointy end of the spear and learn how the world works. The second thing I tell people is, I don’t care if you’re going into a highly technical field, you’re going to be a coder or whatever. I think the ability to write well and quickly is supremely important. And I worry about the effect that social media is having on our ability to communicate. I’m always in the market for people that can write. A lot of what I do is writing whether it’s writing or talking points, writing out a speech, writing an op ed writing a thoughtful letter in response to a consistent constituent question. Well, I try and emphasize the art of writing. And I really try and, you know, impart what little I’ve learned about writing to my staff after that fateful moment when Mike Duran told me, I was a terrible writer and I had to learn how to write again. The third and final thing I’d say is, you know, I don’t care if you have the best resume in the world. I don’t care if you’re like God’s gift to prose, if you are Strunk and White reborn. You still need to be a good human being, because you’re going to work in teams. You got to be humble. I like people that have high energy, low ego, and you got to be able to work well with others. And I think that’s what the military teaches you better maybe than any other organization, it’s it puts people from all different walks of life into teams. And that that ethos, I think, transcends military service and includes congressional service, really any anything private sector. So you know, in addition to a resume, when you apply for a job, you know, if you’re applying to work for me, I’m going to ask for your references. And I’m going to start calling people, as a human officer and get a sense of who you are as a human being, are you someone I’d actually like to work with? And that’s, so that’s, it’s harder to, you know, do like have a course for that. But I think that’s supremely important, if any of that makes sense.

Lauren Bedula 50:47
Absolutely. And so many important ideas there. And, Congressman, you’ve talked about the importance of people, which I think is so key here as we talk about national security technology, but this idea of fear of failing and your story about doing pull ups to trying to break through some of these cultural barriers and accepting failure as a learning opportunity, and ultimately, having a bias for action, which you absolutely put your money where your mouth is. And thank you so much, sir, for putting so much of that weigh into these issues and championing them. And thanks for joining us today.

Mike Gallagher 51:20
Well, thanks to you guys. Yeah, final thought on bias for action. There’s a great Marine Corps concept called Movement to Contact, which if I remember what I learned in the basic school is, you basically patrol looking for a fight. Sometimes you got to do that. It’s a good good mentality to have, even if you don’t have the perfect plan when you step across the line of departure. So thank you guys for being part of that cultural shift. All right, thanks

Hondo Geurts 51:41
for Congressman and go back.

Mike Gallagher 51:43
Go back go.

Outro 51:44
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