As own boss, ex-Armed Services aide draws on Hill, Pentagon experience

Roxana Tiron, The Hill

Jeffery Green has covered a lot of ground in his 35 years, from a Wyoming dude ranch to Air Force officer school to the halls of the Pentagon to one of the most prestigious House committees.

Now he’s running his own defense lobby shop, J.A. Green & Company. In less than a year, he has signed up nine clients, mostly smaller companies in need of a strong voice in the Pentagon and on the Hill.

The former House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee staff director is working on some of the most complex aspects of defense lobbying — acquisition policy and industrial base protection — and those who know Green are unsurprised.
They recognize his tenacity and refusal to leave a problem unsolved.

After all, he learned how to ride a horse and rope in a single day. Soon after his college graduation, the onetime Cornell University lacrosse player packed up and went west.

With a combination of pure determination and the help of a few cowboy-teachers (spurred on with the gift of a 12-pack of beer), Green could lasso within hours.

It was one of the first of many challenges Green encountered in his varied career. Generally reserved, he speaks of all such experiences with a healthy dose of self-effacing humor.

“Right place, right time, a little bit of luck and I end up in this great spot,” he said of the path that led him to work with the likes of the current Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Michael Moseley; former head of Central Command Gen. John Abizaid; and a former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who now is a presidential candidate.

After six months on the ranch, Green entered the Air Force’s officer training school. For a good portion of his five years on active duty, Green was a missile crew commander in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Afterward, Green joined the Reserves and matriculated at the University of Miami School of Law, far from the harsh Wyoming winters. It was not long before he came to Washington to be, as he jokingly called himself, “the oldest intern on the Hill.”

He split his interning days between Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Fla.) International Relations Middle East subcommittee and the Air Force’s legislative liaison office.

Not long after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Green deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, where he was assigned as the executive officer to the Combined Force Air Component Commander, then Moseley, who was running all the major air operations in Afghanistan. While serving in Saudi Arabia, Green was studying for his law school final exams.

Once he had a law degree in hand, Green ended up in the Air Force’s legislative liaison office (Moseley formerly had been the office’s director). He soon was assigned to do legislative affairs as the special assistant to the senior counselor of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), an organization that stirred much criticism on the Hill.

“Working with the CPA, I definitely learned the value of and the challenges with the interagency process, and the lack of coordination was a real eye-opener,” Green said. Another lesson, he said, was at times, the lack of a strategic plan to engage Congress.

But in that high-pressure situation, fielding myriad questions from the Hill, Green “was the calmest guy I ever saw,” said Tom Korologos, who was senior counselor to CPA head L. Paul Bremer at the time. Korologos is one of the founders of Timmons & Co. and a former ambassador to Belgium. Green produced well-informed answers no matter how testy congressional hearings became, Korologos recalled.

“I have seen some mistakes made that I would interpret as lessons for how I am going to deal with clients on the Hill,” Green said. “To go up there and not have a message, or a theme or a bumper sticker, is a huge mistake.”

As if representing the CPA wasn’t sufficiently trying, following the detainee torture scandal at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Green was assigned to the secretary of defense’s Detainee Task Force, working with former Texas Rep. Pete Geren, now the secretary of the Army. Green prepared witnesses and testimony for hearings.

Green caught the attention of the House Armed Services staff director, Rob Rangel, currently the special assistant to the secretary of defense, and was hired on the committee to work on Iraq policy in 2004. Because Green had received his LLM in government procurement from George Washington University during his time at the Pentagon, he started to deal with defense acquisition issues.

“That was a dream job for me, because that is what I was most interested in,” Green said. About a year after joining the committee, he was promoted to staff director of the readiness subcommittee.

“He was very creative with tough problems,” said Bob Simmons, currently the committee’s minority staff director and Green’s former boss. “He would be the guy who would come up with unique solutions to our problems and would not let go of a problem until it was resolved.”

Simmons added that Green had the ability to convince others of the correctness of his approach.

Green’s main responsibilities were all Pentagon operations and maintenance activities, procurement policy, industrial base issues, defense trade policy and Buy American, one of Hunter’s core interests. Green was in the middle of last year’s legislative fray over the Berry amendment and protections of the U.S. specialty-metals industry.

“Before I went to work for Mr. Hunter I was a free-trade guy and did not understand why we needed all these protections and special treatment, but my philosophy really changed working with him,” Green said.

In January when the Republicans lost the majority, Green, still a reservist in the Air Force, decided to launch his own business, although he could have stayed on the committee. Green now represents several supply-chain companies, ranging from titanium to high-performance magnets.

“The ideal client for me is someone who has a strong case for me to protect them domestically and to encourage them to show me where they are price-competitive,” Green said. “Just because you have protection does not mean you get a free pass on price.” He stressed that he looks at the issue of protection as a market-driven process.

“I do not want to protect an item [just] to protect it,” he explained. “I want to think about the national-security reasons of why we have the policy and then see if I can find a way for the market to support where we are going.”

When he opened his shop, Green saw a need for small and mid-tier companies to be introduced in the right places in the government.

His approach to lobbying is multifaceted and includes developing businesses, introducing contractors and their products to the Pentagon and shining light on its acquisition process, as well as starting conversations with lawmakers and committees on the Hill.

Working on policy issues, rather than solely relying on earmarks and appropriations lobbying, is a positive trend for defense lobbying, according to Green. He recently signed ITT Defense as his largest client and is also working with the association representing private security companies, educating members about what the companies do and what their internal guidelines and limitations are. A lot of them do work in Iraq.

Green also opened a political action committee, aptly called American Industrial Base PAC.