Tanks and Drones and Guns Oh My

Tanks and Drones and Guns Oh My

As you’re probably aware, the United States spends a good amount of money on defense. The lobbying firm that I’m interning at specializes in defense and aerospace, so over the course of the past couple months I’ve been learning a lot about the vast industry that revolves around the Defense Department and our military. Need a couple billion for drones? You got it. Need another 10 billion for a top-secret project that no one knows about? No problem. The sheer amount of money that goes into it is unreal, and sometimes it’s almost hard for me, sitting at my little intern desk, to visualize exactly what that money is going towards. This week I finally got a chance to actually see some of the physical toys that the DoD (Department of Defense, yeah I’m basically an industry expert now) purchases with all that money, and don’t you worry, your tax dollars are being put to very good use.

The Association of the United States Army hosts an enormous convention here in D.C. each year, and all of the major defense industry contractors come to show off their fancy toys in an attempt to impress top military guys and win defense contracts. Now I haven’t exactly been to a whole lot of conventions, but this thing was the biggest singular event I’ve ever seen. The largest corporations erected two story buildings complete with balconies, fully functioning conference rooms, and espresso bars. Even the smaller ones were nothing to scoff at. Needless to say of course, the booths were chump change compared to the items they were there to show off. They had actual tanks there, helicopters, planes, and more guns than I would know what to do with. I wanted visualization, and trust me, that is exactly what I got. Plus, there was lots of free stuff that everyone was giving away (#intern), so now I’m basically set with pens for the rest of my life. The best giveaways though were the companies that produce calendars to promote their goods, which I must say is an ingenious if not shameless marketing tool. They even had the calendar girls there doing signings, which I awkwardly didn’t realize until halfway through talking to one of them. (“What’s your name sweetie?” “Uhh...it’s um Nate? Hey that’s you on the calendar! Oh you’re signing it, got it.”)


That's a whole lot of tank


Just being able to go to the AUSA convention was enough to make my week, but it was made even better by the fact that I got to trek up to the Hill to meet with my representative’s office as a part of TWC’s Public Policy Dialogues. With election day right around the corner and Congress out of session at the moment, my representative was back home, and the Hill offices were obviously quite dead compared to what they are like when I am normally there for hearings. It was still really great to meet with his Legislative Assistant and to chat with people from back home, and I got to learn a lot more about the actual day-to-day activities that go on at the Hill and specifically within each individual rep’s office. I personally have thought more and more about coming to the Hill to work for a few years after I finish school in the spring and found the discussion super insightful. My congressman is actually retiring, so there’s not a whole lot he can do after the election, but the staffer explained the different committees and kinds of legislation that my representative tended to support during his tenure, and how that affects our district back home. I personally think that the Public Policy Dialogues is one of the best TWC requirements, as it forces people who are not necessarily politically motivated to become proactive and engage in a meaningful conversation about issues that are important to their home districts.


Cannon House Building, where the bigwigs work

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