By Debbie Gregory.

Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery was founded by former Marine Travis Barnes and his wife Hilary, with the goal of making his venue a one-of-a-kind destination in downtown Indianapolis.

The name “Hotel Tango” reflects Barnes’s military roots. Using the NATO phonetic alphabet, Hilary and Travis have their first letters of their name expressed by “Hotel” and “Tango” respectively—thus the Distillery’s name.

After serving three combat tours with 1st Battalion Recon Marines from 2003-2006, Barnes was disabled during his last deployment to Iraq.

Barnes went to law school with intentions of becoming a lawyer but, instead he met a group of fellow law students who are now a fundamental part of Hotel Tango and its existence.

Over Christmas break of his 3rd year of law school, Barnes took an interest in spirit distillation. He also took an interest in Indiana’s liquor laws and noticed an opportunity too good to pass up. He built his first still out of a turkey fryer. People enjoyed the end result, and an entrepreneur was born.

Hotel Tango opened its doors on September 15th, 2014. In addition to his tasting room and distillery, Barnes and his partners, wife Hilary, Brian Willsey, Nabeela Virjee, and Adam Willfond acquired Hotel Tango Farms, in order to grow the ingredients for their spirits. There is also the opportunity to stay at the farm’s Airbnb.

Not only is Hotel Tango the first craft distillery in Indy, it’s the first service-disabled combat-veteran owned distillery in the country.

Hotel Tango has locations in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Texas, but expansion plans are in the works.

The lessons Barnes learned in the Marine Corps have served him well in his business venture.

By Debbie Gregory.

Bethesda, Maryland based defense giant Lockheed Martin Corporation has secured a contract with the U.S. Air Force to develop a prototype of the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon. It is hoped that the hypersonic cruise missile will be able to travel at Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound. That means a hypersonic weapon can travel about one mile per second.

If the hypersonic conventional strike weapon is successful, it could result in a $928 million payday for the defense contractor over the course of the project’s lifetime. No end date has been set for the new contract.

“Both Russia and China are aggressively pursuing hypersonic capabilities,” said General John Hytens, the head of U.S. Strategic Command. “We’ve watched them test those capabilities.”

Lockheed Martin will be responsible for the design, development, engineering, systems integration, test, logistics planning, and aircraft integration support of all the elements of a hypersonic, conventional, air-launched, stand-off weapon.

The development will take place in the northern Alabama city of Huntsville, which is dubbed the “Rocket City” as it was the birthplace of America’s rocket program.

The Pentagon’s research and development chief, Michael Griffin, has called hypersonic technology the Defense Department’s first priority.

“In my opinion, today the most significant advance by our adversaries has been the Chinese development of what is now today a pretty mature system for conventional prompt strike at multi-thousand-kilometer ranges,” he said.

A second hypersonic project being pursued by the Air Force is the Tactical Boost Glide system,  which is a boost glide craft  accelerated to high speed by a rocket before gliding unpowered to its destination.

Both projects are part of a program to develop advanced prototypes that can later be fielded on U.S. jets.

By Debbie Gregory.

The VA’s $16 billion health information technology project has hit a major snag, thanks to a West Palm Beach, Florida internist who runs in Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago social circle.

Former VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, announced the VA’s intent to transition its legacy EHR, VistA, to Cerner last year.

Internist Bruce Moskowitz has been an outspoken critic of Cerner’s software, causing him to object to using the company for the massive transformation of the VA’s digital records system.

The involvement of Moskowitz and his crony, Marvel Entertainment chairman and Trump confidant Ike Perlmutter, highlights the participation of Trump’s social circle in government decisions.

Dr. Moskowitz has been weighing in on the 10-year project, much to the distain of many clinicians involved in the effort.

Despite the delays, on April 25th, a VA spokesperson said that finalizing the Cerner-VA contract was a priority for Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie.

“Under Acting Secretary Wilkie’s leadership, senior VA officials are now on the same page, speaking with one voice to veterans, employees and outside stakeholders, such as Congress and veterans service organizations, and are focused on a number of key priorities in the short term,” said Curt Cashour, VA press secretary.

Although VA Secretary David Shulkin was fired by President Trump in late March, his goal was for the VA to create a single common EHR system with the Department of Defense using a shared Cerner Millennium EHR platform.

Despite its leadership vacancies, such as acting CIO Scott Blackburn resigning and VA secretary nominee Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson withdrawing, the VA insists that finalizing a decision on the agency’s electronic health record modernization is a near-term priority.

By Debbie Gregory.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan believes that increased communication with defense contractors is a step in the right direction in order to optimize the Pentagon’s relationships with industry. The Defense Department’s No. 2 civilian, Shanahan manages the Pentagon and oversees the acquisition and budget efforts.

In a March 2 memorandum entitled “Engaging With Industry” Shanahan wrote: “Conducting effective, responsible and efficient procurement of supplies and services while properly managing the resultant contracts requires department personnel to engage in early, frequent and clear communications with suppliers.”

As the Trump administration sought to deepen relations between private industry and government, last April Defense Secretary Jim Mattis encouraged expanded Pentagon-industry relations.

The push for more Pentagon-industry communications comes after other top leaders have ordered restrictions on talking with the public and the press. Most recently, on March 1, U.S. Air Force leaders suspended all interviews, embeds, and base visits for media organizations “until further notice.”

Prior to that, in March 2017, the Chief of Naval Operations cautioned his people to be more careful in what they say in public, saying that he did not want to give adversaries useful information.

“Industry is often the best source of information concerning market conditions and technological capabilities,” Shanahan wrote. “This information is crucial to determining whether and how the industry can support the Department’s mission and goals.”

Shanahan believes that complying with ethical and legal limits “should not” cause defense and service officials to be reluctant to engage industry.

“The department’s policy continues to be that representatives at all levels of the department have frequent, fair, even and with industry on matters of mutual interest, as appropriate, in a manner that protects sensitive information, operations, sources, methods and technologies,” Shanahan wrote.

By Debbie Gregory.

Faced with criticism over how it awarded a contract to move computer systems to the Internet cloud, the Pentagon has slashed a nearly $1 billion contract down to no more than $65 million, while also scaling back the scope of the work. The revision will limit its use to only U.S. Transportation Command rather than the entire Defense Department.

The contract awarded to Herndon, Virginia-based REAN Cloud—an Amazon Web Services partner, has come under scrutiny by those who feel that the procurement wasn’t handled properly, charges that Pentagon officials strongly denied.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said that after reviewing the contract, the Defense Department decided that “the agreement should be more narrowly tailored” so that Rean would build a prototype service for a single agency, the U.S. Transportation Command, instead of many agencies within the military.

Oracle filed a bid protest with the Government Accountability Office last month that called the procurement “an egregious abuse” of the procurement process for a contract that it charged was “shrouded in secrecy.”

Additionally, the Pentagon was criticized because the original contract was awarded by the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx ) which was created to procure the technology of Silicon Valley-type companies that mostly shy away from Pentagon work. DIUx is fast-moving to provide non-dilutive capital to companies to solve national defense problems, usually in under 90 days.

The procurement, a follow-on to a smaller competed contract, was awarded under an “other transaction authority,” a way for the Pentagon to procure goods and services quickly without being subject to the bureaucratic federal acquisitions process.

Critics of the “other transaction authority” process say such arrangements are not competitive and insufficiently transparent.