The Rapture Happened but I Wasn’t Called

Last Friday the Secretary of Defense abruptly fired half of the Defense Business Board.
For some reason, he forgot me.

He appointed former Trump campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie as chair and vice chair and nine other new members. (Update: the new chair is Chris Burnham and the new vice chair is Kiron Skinner. Both are current board members.)

The Defense Business Board is one of several advisory boards that serve as the pleasure of the Secretary of Defense. The business board is just what it sounds like – leaders from business who could offer best business practices to the department and nation.

Other defense advisory committees include Policy, Innovation, Science, Military Personnel Testing, Women in the Services, and on Sexual Assault. Each of these boards/committees is supposed to provide the Defense Department with the best nonpartisan information and advice available.

The reason I joined was to offer the Secretary of Defense insights that could transform and leapfrog the status quo, not just make us incrementally better. Not just 10% better advice but 10x advice.

After multiple board meetings I still couldn’t tell you what political party any of the board members were in, nor did any of them let their party affiliations color any of their advice. We were all volunteering our time to serving our county.

Over the last year the administration began replacing members of every defense advisory board with party loyalists.

Below is my resignation letter to the Secretary of Defense.

K&S Ranch
Pescadero, California
December 7, 2020

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller

I volunteered to serve on the Defense Business Board because our nation faces an unprecedented set of challenges. For the first time in a century, the United States is no longer guaranteed to win the next war. We face authoritarian governments in China, in Russia, in Iran and North Korea, governments that not only oppress their own people, Tibetans, Uighurs, those in Hong Kong, but that offer the world a dystopian vision of control.

The national power of a country – its influence and footprint on the world stage – is more than just its military strength. It’s the combination of a country’s diplomacy (soft power and alliances,) information/intelligence and its military and economic strength.

Nations decline when they lose allies, decline in economic power, they lose interest in global affairs, have internal/civil conflicts, or a nation’s military misses disruptive technology transitions and new operational concepts.

For the last century the U.S. was a global power that represented much more than just a strong nation. It stood for a set of values that set us apart. Freedom of speech and worship. Freedom from fear and the collective belief that we are one people with a continual aspiration to a more perfect union. To the rest of the world, we were the shining city on the hill, a beacon of justice and opportunity to emulate and aspire to.

When other nations required loyalty pledges to a party and launched ideological purges of their best and brightest, we recognized that they did so because they were weak. Their ideas and values could not withstand dissent or discussion. We celebrated what made the United States strong was that we embraced diversity of thought and acted collectively in the nation’s interest.

In exchange for ideological purity, the abrupt termination of more than half of the Defense Business Board and their replacement with political partisans has now put the nation’s safety and security at risk.

My service to the Department of Defense was a service to the country not to a party.

I hereby tender my resignation.

Steve Blank

37 Responses

  1. Bravo Steve! Hopefully this is a short term aberration in our core value structure and we will get back to valuing people for their ideas and not their ideology soon.

    • Well done Steve. I know this isn’t the end of your service to the Dept but thank for everything you’ve done to make our warfighters more effective and efficient.

  2. Thank you speaking your truth! More people should do it!

  3. Thank you for your past contributions to helping our government work better, serve the citizens and help position us to renew our historical leadership role in the world not only in defense, but also the intelligence, diplomatic and foreign aid arenas. Please standby because I suspect the next administration will be calling you shortly.

  4. Congratulations for taking a stance for justice, which has not party bias or affiliation. When integrity is lost, so goes motivation and trust.

  5. It is self-evident that 2020 is the extinction-of-he-US event, that brings the era of the US, to an end ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  6. Thank you Steve for your courage and vision at this critical time. I have followed your blog and writings to the startup community since you first started and have recommended you and your work to many of those I consult with. Your words again are very true and need to be heard by many more throughout the business world, not just startups. Keep writing and inspiring startups and and the leaders of this nation to standup for the ideals and values that have made us great and kept us free. Nick Bassill, Launch America, Reviving the American Dream.

  7. Brilliant letter, and clearly the gist decision. Hopefully when mad king Donald is finally booted out of the White House, you will be tapped again to serve intros important role.

  8. Glad to see someone with the balls to stick with their beliefs.

  9. The ‘Rapture Happened’ title of this post got my attention. It hints at something we should not have to contemplate in what should be the sunset weeks of the Trump administration. Service to country and not to party ought to become the mantra of everyone subject to what amounts to loyalty oaths. Well done.

  10. A famous Canadian journalist Graydon Carter once said: “History is nothing if not an epic tale of missed opportunities”. How true, especially when the contributions of some of the brightest minds in the nation are being marginalized and dismissed.

    It’s a miserable tragedy of epic proportions. Your comments fit the spirit of Leo Tolstoy, who starts his 1877 novel Anna Karenina, by saying: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.

    I wish you, Steve, and many other selfless volunteers, happier days ahead. There is simply no alternative to the collective wisdom of the most brilliant minds on the planet…

  11. The good thing about being a volunteer is that you can choose to say adios, whenever the spirit and usefulness of being a volunteer leaves the organization you’re offering to help. I admire your values in making the decision that you’ve done to resign, but as an American who knows the government needs “outsiders” like yourself to provide future guidance to our defense leaders, I lament that loss to our country.

  12. Well done, Steve. I did not expect less of you.

  13. Ideological purity tests are a road to ruin. Orthodoxy is the risk to effective defense policy. Well-stated and well-done.

  14. Well put, Steve. It was time to “get out of that building.” It’s sad that the guy in the White House is salting the earth in a way that continues to reduce the state of American democracy and our place in a challenging world. I think that you made the right call to depart from an untenable situation. Best wishes for the holidays and a better 2021.

  15. Bravo to you sir. Tom

  16. Thanks for standing up.

  17. Thanks Steve. I am hopeful that this position will be available to you again in six weeks and that you will be inclined to continue serving. Our Dept of Defense needs level-headed outside perspectives.

  18. Nicely done Steve, thank you for your authenticity

  19. From an uninformed outsider’s perspective, seems like having you remain would provide intellectual diversity amongst the voices in the room. Does your vacating the position on the board open it up to being filled by another partisan player? Why not stay and continue trying to help? Having no context other than what you wrote above, I don’t understand how you leaving is a benefit to the country.

    Thank you for your service thus far. My questions above are out of pure curiosity, as I find these types of decisions and situations intriguing and challenging. I appreciate you sharing your personal interactions publicly.

    • It seemed to me my choice was either hiding under my desk or being able to look at myself in the mirror every morning.

  20. Bravo Steve!

  21. Steve, thank you for taking an ethical stand against destructive partisanship when it comes to the future and safety of Our Country! I took a strong stand against the lack of leadership in the government and it was cost me family, friends and clients. WORTH IT! I’m inspired to know you. – Kimberly from our Girls Middle School volunteer times long ago

  22. I understand the urge to resign in protest, but isn’t this the time when your non-partisan dedication to the country is needed on this Board more than ever?

  23. Given Hacking4Oceans, etc., there are other opportunities to serve, if you are so inclined.–politics.html.

  24. Steve, thank you for this, as well as all the great work you’ve done over the years. I know it must have been a tough decision to step away from the potential impact you could have made on the Board. Thanks for taking the stand you did and for sharing it publicly.

  25. Steve, thank you for doing the right thing and publicizing it. The stakes are indeed high, as your excellent Technology, Innovation and Modern War course has illuminated so clearly.

  26. Steve, thank you for your service and going above and beyond. At a time when it is most needed your advice and counsel will be sorely missed. Your decision could not have been an easy one. Hopefully you will return in the next few weeks and continue to help DOD in its move to become more innovative and future forward. We will all benefit if and when they can disrupt how they do “business”. As a mentee from afar my respect for your actions and thinking continues to grow.

  27. Steve Thank you for your service and standing for principles and values that America used to stand for. That said none of this is surprising coming from someone that has shockingly called fallen US Veterans from past wars “losers.”

  28. Bravo Steve! Well stated.

  29. Steve,
    Writing from Canada, where our entire nation has watched the slow motion train-wreck of the Trump administration with both sadness and moral outrage, I commend you on taking a visible stand against partisanship and the debasing of government institutions.

    Keep the faith, and let’s hope the new adminstration can quickly right this travesty.

  30. Steve, your original intent to continue to serve our country through your volunteer work was highly admirable, but your ultimate resignation under protest due to all the insider political crap speaks even greater volumes about the depth and strength of your character.

    I suspect that your long history as a successful die-hard startup entrepreneur, coupled with this latest decision/action, also reveals the fact that you’ve never been very happy (or at your most useful) whenever having to deal with either the Corporate Military or Corporate Civilian scenarios.

    And, since you’re experience a Veteran who has proudly served effectively in the field (instead of merely manning a desk stateside), I know that you can appreciate the irony in the fact that The Pentagon is still officially the world’s largest office building; the extra room is no doubt needed, in order to contain the huge amounts of corporate politics and backdoor maneuvering by so many self-interested careerists and political appointees. It’s truly a shame, and such a dangerous waste of time, talent and valuable resources.

  31. Bravo.

  32. Well done. Thank you for putting our country over politics.

  33. I am so proud to have known you. Thank you for serving our country and knowing when to take a stand.

  34. Thank you for your service (many times, now) and for your moral courage in the face of the deliberate destruction and politicization of our treasured institutions.

  35. Moving on to other things. But the last word here. Start at 1:55 of

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