Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's career as a musician is--and probably will always be--what he is most famous for in most of America, but in Washington, D.C., he's considered an expert on missile defense first, and a good guitarist second. At my last job, I had the privilege of sitting in on a closed-door briefing about missile defense with him.

Jeff Baxter wore a coat and tie, pulled his hair back into a very neat ponytail, and sat at the head of the table while my boss explained some aspects of my organization's work to him. I think we were all skeptical about how much he was really taking in, but then skepticism is a healthy trait in our field. About the time we were trying to decide whether to call him "Mr. Baxter" or just "Skunk" (I honestly forget which he asked us to call him), he started asking questions, and we smiled despite ourselves, because we pretty much had him pegged.

Is he an engineering genius? Doubtful, but history is full of famous inventors and eccentrics who weren't mainstream "engineers" and still did a lot for the field. The better question would be: does he know more about ballistic missile defense than you do? Probably. And another one: does he know the science behind ICBMs, intercept radars (which has some surprising analogues in the field of acoustics), and reentry vehicles better than you do? Absolutely.

You see, "on the side" Jeff Baxter is a private consultant for the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, and a member of their board of Regents. He's currently serving as the Chairman of the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, and has done other work with the Missile Defense Agency and the Pentagon. I've seen his name linked to the National Imagery and Mapping Agency's "InnoVision" group. His work is only vaguely referred to in most of the articles I found probably for the same reason I only vaguely discussed what we actually briefed him on when he was in my building.1 He is well-respected within the DoD community for being an "outside the box" thinker on issues like battlespace visualization and missile defense, and is also rumored to be a fierce and creative "Red Teamer" in wargames.2

Many of the articles I've read about him point out the apparent incongruity of a classic rock guitarist doing technical and policy analysis for the Pentagon, or being--gasp!--a conservative. Like Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Skunk" will probably always have a hard time being taken seriously for his work in the government, and his possible planned run for Congress will probably be stuck in the News of the Weird section until a few "real people" have met him and listened to him speak. Personally, I'm glad he's on our side.

1. Because it's, um, really boring. Yeah, that's it. Boring. Nothing to see here. Don't bother trying to reconcile his security clearance with all the drug references in his band names.

2. Yeah, I went to ROTC for four years, got my commission, worked my tail off, and played real-time strategy games out the wazoo, and what do I do for the government? I buy weather satellites. Classic-rock boy just jumps right to the front of the "cool jobs" line. He's already had a cool job--he's a rock star!! No, I'm not bitter. Not a bit.