Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, left, speaks with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein about multidomain warfare at the Defense One Summit in Washington D.C., Nov. 17, 2016.

Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, left, speaks with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein about multidomain warfare at the Defense One Summit in Washington D.C., Nov. 17, 2016. U.S. Air Force

I'm terrible at goodbyes

Your humble Defense Business Brief scribe is moving on.

I'm terrible at goodbyes. If I say I'm leaving a party, add 30 minutes to my departure time—at least, according to my wife. That's just the way I am, and I'm not going to change now.

Without further burying the lead, this is my last week at Defense One, where I've spent just shy of 10 years as your trusty correspondent on anything and everything related to how the Pentagon spends its money. After 20-plus years as a reporter and editor, I've decided to pursue an exciting opportunity outside of journalism, which I'll be able to talk more about soon.

So, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to spend my last Defense Business Brief reminiscing, giving some observations, and talking about what I'm most proud of in my nearly 18 years covering the military.

When I first showed up in Washington in the winter of 2006, my military reporting experience was brief. I spent a week with the New Hampshire National Guard during a deployment to New Orleans mere weeks after Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed entire sections of the city. The images of destroyed homes where people perished are forever etched in my mind. But that's very different from the reporting I did later.

I learned early on from seasoned defense reporters that building trust with sources is key to success on this beat. It's something I still find myself telling young reporters. Getting the facts right, presenting multiple viewpoints, eliminating bias, and explaining the nuance in a highly nuanced sector are important to whomever you're talking to, whether that's a young captain or a seasoned general. I've always played the long game, sticking around as captains became colonels, who became generals. The same is true in the defense industry. 

Now a few things about Defense One. It's not often that a reporter has the opportunity to work for a publication that essentially gives them free rein to write about almost anything they want. It's been amazing. I've often told people that what makes Defense One unique is how we're basically a hybrid of a general-interest and trade publication. It's allowed me to dive deep into certain issues while staying high-level on others.

Some two years into my tenure, its leaders entrusted me with a weekly newsletter about the defense business world. Since then, I've written more than 350 Defense Business Brief and Global Business Brief newsletters. A few are memorable, at least to me. There's episode 1, of course. This one, written during the first week of work from home in the early days of the pandemic, probably generated the most reader emails of any story I've written. I also foreshadowed getting a puppy. Perhaps my all-time favorite, though, is this April Fools edition of the D Brief newsletter that was overwhelmingly well received, with the exception of a few readers.

My first D1 story appeared on Sept. 23, 2014: F-22 Finally Makes Its Combat Debut Against Syria. My last will arrive this week, something I've been working on for a long time.

There are a lot of stories that I'm proud of, too many to list. But I've always been happy with my coverage of Air Force One and the effort to replace the aircraft that fly the president around the world. I am grateful to have received a Neal Award for my coverage, and for the opportunity to be featured in a History Channel documentary

There was the interview with an accused war criminal at an arms show in the Middle East, the amazing/terrifying ride in the back of an F-15, and the time I did a BBC TV hit from a baseball game in Miami. 

There are a lot of people to thank, and a number that I especially want to highlight. Up first: Thomas Duffy, Dan Dupont, and John Liang at Inside Defense, who not only took a chance hiring a 23-year-old kid who knew nothing about the military, but taught me the inner workings of the Pentagon's budget and acquisition process. And then they eventually put me in charge of a small team of reporters.

Next: Tobias Naegele, Vago Muradian, and Dave Brown, who were my editors back at Defense News. They let me broaden my coverage and travel around the world with the SecDef and other senior officials. It was on one of those trips that I met now-colleague Jennifer Hlad, who edited this newsletter. Jen and I got to see a lot on those trips, including Leon Panetta becoming the first SecDef to visit Vietnam since the war and also attending a mass with Pope Benedict at the Vatican.

Also, a special shoutout to the Gannett Government Media softball team—looking at you, Dan Lamothe and Chuck Vinch—and that obnoxious freight train that always blocked the road to the office.

And, finally, Defense One. This publication showed up in mid-2013 and immediately became a must-read among national security professionals. I recall being on a flight to the Dubai Air Show the day of the first Defense One Summit, which featured just about every senior leader in the Pentagon. The following year, I was there, on stage at that summit, having a discussion with then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work.

I want to thank Defense One's founding executive editor, Kevin Baron, for hiring me and pushing me to think of the big picture in every story I wrote. Also, Stephanie Gaskell, Tom Shoop, Heather Kuldell, Brad Peniston, and Katherine Peters, for counsel and always making my stories better. You too, Jen! And those behind the scenes, the executives whom readers often don't know: specifically, Tim Hartman, Connie Sayers, Daniela Fayer, and Troy Schneider. They are the ones who were instrumental in creating this newsletter, and they've constantly supported me over almost a decade.

And finally, the reporters. There are the countless members of the Pentagon press corps who continue to do an amazing job with professionalism and collegiality not seen on any other beat in Washington. And, of course, there are the reporters who have become great friends: Marjorie Censer, Aaron Mehta, Kate Brannen, Katie Bo Lillis, Gordon Lubold, Jacqueline Feldscher, and Tara Copp, and the dozens of others I worked with or alongside in the Pentagon.

You're in good hands here at Defense One. Patrick Tucker, Ben Watson, Audrey Decker, Lauren Williams, and Sam Skove are all fantastic journalists and Brad and Jen are top-notch editors.

So, now it's time to go do something new. Thanks for reading; there's really no greater compliment for a journalist.