By Debbie Gregory.

If California was an independent country, it would have the fifth largest economy in the world.

The tech sector in Silicon Valley, combined with the entertainment industry and agricultural are the main contributors to the state’s economy of $2.7 trillion, just behind the United States, China, Japan and Germany.

California has 12% of the U.S. population, but has contributed 16% of total job growth between 2012 and 2017. California’s gross domestic product also went up by $127 billion from 2016 to 2017, helping to push the state into the fifth spot.

Of course, California’s economic success comes at a price. Paralyzing gridlocked traffic is one symptom; the increasingly absurd price of housing is another. Partially due to the unaffordability of housing in the state, California saw the fastest growth in its homeless population of any state (14 percent), and also had the highest proportion of them unsheltered: 68 percent of the state’s 134,000 homeless people sleep outdoors.

California also has strict environmental protections, but the state has a progressive tax system and an ascendant minimum wage (now $10.50 an hour) that is set to rise in stages to $15 in 2023.

The state also welcomes immigrants, celebrates ethnic and linguistic diversity, and actively tries to combat climate change.

And with all that, its economy continues to soar.

When current Governor Jerry Brown returned to office in 2011, he faced a budget deficit of $27 billion. Now, after eight years of economic expansion, the state has a surplus of $6 billion, and its tax revenues are running well ahead of projections

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.