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James Hasik
Austin, Texas
Business consultant working for the success of the industrial organizations that provide the tools of international security.
Interests: Marketing, military innovation, military organization, defense administration, new technologies
Recent Activity
Little good, it would seem, could come of Friday the 13th in the year 2020. So it's unsurprising that I would find in my inbox this morning a story from Tony Bertuca of Inside Defense, on a lamentable topic: "House lawmakers ask Biden to pick SECDEF with no history as a defense contractor" (12 November). There's nothing wrong with Tony; he just has the unenviable job of occasionally needing to report on buffoonery. In this story, he fields complaints from two so-called "progressives" in the US Congress (more on that at the bottom) and at least one gadfly group decrying... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2020 at James Hasik
Our videoconference of last Thursday (5 November 2020) on "Intellectual Property in Government Procurement Competitions," hosted by our Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University, is now available on our YouTube channel. Our panelists were Shay Assad, former director of pricing for the US Defense Department; Bill Elkington, retired intellectual property (IP) expert out of Collins Aerospace, and a member of Defense Department's Section 813 panel on technical data rights; Kelly Kyes, IP expert from the Boeing Company, and a member of the 813 panel; and Richard Gray, head of the Defense Department's IP cadre, and yet another member... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2020 at James Hasik
While most analysts who cover military-industrial issues will spend the next several weeks explaining what this or that result for the American presidential election might mean for this or that procurement program, I will offer something different. That is because I am struck by two seemingly unrelated news stories this week, which both address the problems of what people like to call data, or worse, big data: Aaron Zitner, "What Went Wrong With the Polls This Year?" Wall Street Journal, 4 November 2020. Actually, he means what went wrong again. Jason Sherman, "DOD moves Google-like tool for searching U.S. military... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2020 at James Hasik
After more than a decade of talking about it, the US Army has suddenly gotten serious about putting cannons on trucks—more specifically, mortars and howitzers, of 105 mm through 155 mm in bore, on wheeled off-road vehicles. The airborne, airmobile, motorized, and armored troops all could use some new guns.* The speed with which this reequipping is coming together says something about military adaptation these days, and how its modalities can be harnessed to effect change in military organizations. 105 mm howitzer. Back in October 2018, AM General invested in the Mandus Group, a small engineering firm near the Rock... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2020 at James Hasik
In these possibly waning days of the Trump Administration, big news has been made of Defense Secretary Mark Esper's fleet plans for the US Navy. Half of the attention focuses on how many aircraft carriers the service should have—Esper's waffling of "eight to eleven" seems pretty much a way of saying eight, but I don't want to completely agitate Virginia's congressional delegation just yet. The other half of the attention focuses on the unmanned portion of that fleet, which could number nearly a hundred little ships. Reliance on many more, smaller, cheaper, and often unmanned platforms will be important because... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2020 at James Hasik
As Justin Doubleday records for Inside Defense today ("State Department approves three major weapons sales to Taiwan,"), the US State Department has cleared possible sales of three important tranches of weapons for the government in Taipei: Six MS-110 multispectral airborne reconnaissance pods from Collins Aerospace, a unit of Raytheon Technologies, for those new F-16s (that sale was finalized in July) from Lockheed Martin Eleven M142 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS, they say around here) from Lockheed Martin as well 135 Standoff Land Attack Missiles, Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) from Boeing There's a strong, multi-stage signal therein to the communist leadership in... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2020 at James Hasik
I confess that I am rather taken with the new course on military innovation at Stanford University. Joe Felter (a retired US Army officer and former deputy assistant secretary of defense) and Steven Blank (a serial entrepreneur) are offering a course on Technology, Innovation and Modern War: Keeping America’s Edge in an Era of Great Power Competition (Management Science & Engineering 296, cross-listed as International Policy 340). When I last taught Business Strategy in Government Contracting at George Mason University, I loved my guest speakers. These guys got Ash Carter, Max Boot, and Jim Mattis. So I'm at least a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2020 at James Hasik
Joe Biden's MRAP advertisement has been modified. As Politico reported on Monday, the initial version included a quick view of retired Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland of the US Army, who led the Coalition's campaign against ISIS (Daesh, those crazies, you name it) from 2015 to 2016, but with his name tag blurred. All the same, he was recognizable in the video, and some people asked him if that meant that he was endorsing Biden. MacFarland did want to be seen endorsing a candidate, and so asked the campaign to remove him from their television spots. (See Jacqueline Feldscher, "Biden campaign... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2020 at James Hasik
Last week US Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite announced the names of two new ships. DDG-137, an Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, will be known as USS John F. Lehman, after Ronald Reagan's famous navy secretary. SSN-804, a Virginia-class attack submarine, will be known as USS Barb, after a famous submarine of the Second World War, which itself was named after a fish. (See Mallory Shelbourne, "SECNAV Names Attack Boat After WWII USS Barb, DDG for Former SECNAV Lehman," USNI News, 13 October 2020.) As always, after the announcement a cavalcade of commentators, from the hoi polloi to the hoity-toity, weighed... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2020 at James Hasik
This week the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on "The Cost of the Navy’s New Frigate," which estimates that each of first ten, forthcoming Constellation-class ships will cost an average $1.2 billion. What's unclear in that number is cost to whom—the US Navy, the contractee, or Fincantieri, the contractor? This question gets what seems a simple distinction in economics, but one that is widely misperceived in government. Price is what the buyer pays. Cost is what the seller pays to produce and deliver. Profit, of course, is the difference. The contract between the Navy and Fincantieri for... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2020 at James Hasik
Former Vice President Joe Biden released a new television commercial late last month, about his role in equipping American troops in Iraq. On his YouTube channel, the video is simply entitled “MRAP”. I am not endorsing a political candidate in this particular election, but I can usefully comment on this advertisement. It’s well produced, it’s well argued, and most importantly for me, it’s actually almost completely truthful. In the advertisement, the narrator, who simply describes himself as a “former intelligence analyst,” describes Biden as "this senator… [who] was the one who was responsible for getting these MRAPs to Iraq…" In... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2020 at James Hasik
In the Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Scott McCartney chronicles the end of the jumbo-jet era, with the pending winding-down of production for both the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A380. The title of the essay is grim: "The Jumbo Jet Was the Pinnacle of Air Luxury—Now Its Days Are Numbered." As his essay lays out, however, that loss is not as dramatic as it sounds, and may provide a real opportunity for air forces to buy surplus transport aircraft. First, let's review the numbers. Over the past 50 years, Boeing has built 1,556 of its 747s. Over the past 15... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2020 at James Hasik
Update on 3 September: Marjorie Censer (@CommonCenser) interviewed me last night on Government Matters (ABC-24 in Northern Virginia) about the essay mentioned below. I offered a few more thoughts about what a lucrative target the Pentagon presents, and the penchant for excessive secrecy in the Defense Department. ————— Defense News has just published my commentary on why the US federal government should close the Pentagon. I offer two ancillary reasons, but the argument is essentially this: working from home is working well enough, and the place is a massive target. To put that in context, I will recycle a story... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2020 at James Hasik
As on any given day, in response to the latest antics on trade policy from Donald Trump, I can again quote Ronald Reagan: "there you go again." This time it's another imposition of tariffs on Canadian aluminum, under a law that is being so grossly misapplied that it really should be repealed. It has been over three years since I first wrote about the Trump Administration's opportunistic and fundamentally wrong-headed approach to Canadian aluminum. I could write a whole new essay, but there is convenience in dealing with a government that so routinely pursues the same stupid policies: I can... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2020 at James Hasik
The latest issue of the Journal of Military History (July 2020) features an article by James FitzSimonds, a retired naval captain and current professor at the US Naval War College, by the title “Aircraft Carriers versus Battleships in War and Myth.” FitzSimonds’ view is highly revisionist: that battleships were actually at least as useful as carriers in the Second World War, in fighting other ships, and that the US, Japanese, and Royal Navies just didn’t realize that. I had thought that battleship revisionism had died a few years back, and my preliminary review of the paper finds it highly problematic.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2020 at James Hasik
Jen Judson of Defense News quoted me extensively today in her article on the purchase by KPS Capital Partner of AM General, the longtime manufacturer of the Humvee—er, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). I like her article, but I have a few more things to say about that transaction, so I’ll take the space here. Without revealing too much specific, I can say that plenty of industrial companies and investment firms had considered buying AM General, and plenty of companies have considered teaming with AM General for bids on forthcoming production programs. That's to be expected. KPS just made... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2020 at James Hasik
As Reuters reported this morning, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross released a statement yesterday announcing an investigation, under Section 232 of the so-called Trade Expansion Act of 1962, into imports of vanadium. That "hard, silvery-grey, malleable transition metal” (thanks, Wikipedia) “is utilized in our national defense and critical infrastructure, and is integral to certain aerospace applications.” So, Ross continued, “we will conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation to determine whether vanadium imports threaten to impair U.S. national security.” Please do not expect any Section 232 investigation by the Trump Administration to be any of those things. We can be... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2020 at James Hasik
The US Naval Postgraduate School has published my paper on the value of IP in government procurement auctions, in the proceedings of its recent (virtual) symposium on military acquisition management. Here is the abstract: The ownership of the intellectual property (IP) underlying the design of complex weapon systems has been at issue, between governments and their contractors, for over a century. In the United States, federal policy has directed repeated cycles of attention, both positive and negative, on the relative need to acquire these IP rights. Recent (2009) evidence from the US Army’s procurement of its Family of Medium Tactical... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2020 at James Hasik
Respect. Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin sang about it. Rodney Dangerfield pleaded for it. In the United States, federal procurement officials do not always have it. I write here of prospective contractors’ intellectual property, and other confidential information. Discrete details of bids have great competitive value in procurement auctions, and this past week’s news from NASA merits some reflection on how that matters most to whom, and over what time horizon. This past Monday, Doug Lovero, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, abruptly resigned. That’s remarkable because this coming week, on NASA’s behalf, SpaceX will be undertaking the... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2020 at James Hasik
Apparently, as Voltair would say, dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres. This is effectively what Acting Navy Secretary Tom Modly has done to Captain Brett Crozier, in relieving him of his command of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt on 2 April, and then verbally abusing him in a speech to his former crew aboard the ship on the morning of 6 April. Modly offered a narrow apology that evening, but otherwise insisted that he would “stand by every word I said.” I have taken the time to read both... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2020 at James Hasik
I had planned to write my own essay about this matter, until I saw this quote by Tara Dougherty, the CEO of Govini, on Federal News Network: Classifying the FYDP [Future Years Defense Plan] numbers negates meaningful unclassified defense budget analysis, which has serious implications from congressional oversight, public transparency, and industry perspectives… What ought to be classified—the crucial context around why the Department is making the decisions and tradeoffs that are reflected in the FYDP—already is: Program Budget Review, Program Objective Memorandum, etc. That is rather what I would have said too. Please note that I am also a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2020 at James Hasik
Late last week, while fetching “essential” supplies (hear that, Governor Northam), I paid $14.95 for a bottle of hand sanitizer. That seemed a bit above the customary going rate, but I will not report where I bought it, as I do not want to set up the merchant for a possible raid by Peter Navarro’s Geheimebundeswirtschaftspolizei. As I recently heard it put by a former Trump Administration official, that man's new commission as czar for the Defense Production Act is “very frightening.” For just this past Saturday, Navarro told the Wall Street Journal that he and the Justice Department were... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2020 at James Hasik
Over the past few weeks, I have seen a legion of articles extolling the virtues of widespread invocation of the 1950 Defense Production Act (DPA). I have been quoted in a few. More than a few have shown that the journalists writing them do not actually understand what the DPA is (as amended), or frankly, how business really functions. With the past few days activity, we now have Exhibit A in why the DPA should be invoked sparingly—or by this administration, perhaps not at all. To use that sort of power for good, one should have clear goals, professional competence,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2020 at James Hasik
Aaron Gregg, Dan Lamothe, and Christian Davenport of the Washington Post have written today a very good article on the Defense Production Act, and the widespread chatter about the possibility of all manner of companies—including automakers—suddenly making ventilators. I should mention that I know personally several of the luminaries cited in the article: Bill Greenwalt, Frank Kendall, David Berteau, and Andrew Hunter. I know by reputation some of the others in this well-resourced essay. They’re all very accomplished people who understand the interface of industry and government very well. (I’ve occasionally taken them to task before in this column, but... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2020 at James Hasik
In the most recent British issue of The Spectator, Viscount Ridley has penned a somewhat alarming essay by the title "We are about to find out how robust civilization is.” I remain uncertain as to the long-term problems of the Covid-19 outbreak, but I am heartened by Ridley’s closing: We must not despair or return permanently to autarky and localism. With the right precautions, an open, free-trading, free-moving, innovating world is possible without pandemics and is essential for raising living standards. Government must both splash the cash and slash many of the things it does that are not urgent to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2020 at James Hasik