Len Hause arrived in Washington, D.C. in September 2013 to begin his IEEE-USA Engineering and Diplomacy Fellowship at the United States State Department and anticipated a year of contributing his rich technical expertise while learning first-hand how government works.
His expectations were fulfilled, but what the longtime IEEE Member and Austin, Texas, resident describes as “The Four S’s” made his fellowship an especially memorable, if occasionally frustrating, experience.
“Snowden, sequester, shutdown and snow-pocalypse all combined to produce an ongoing series of challenges,” Hause recalls. “The first few months, just getting the office equipment set up was rough, but by December I felt I was starting to contribute in the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues.”
Michael McQuade and Anne Marie Lewis, the two 2013-14 IEEE-USA Congressional Fellows, trim Hause’s “Four S’s” by at least one. “Congress remained in operation during the 16-day shutdown,” notes McQuade, “so we weren’t affected.” Washington’s snowy winter didn’t bother Lewis; she had become accustomed to it while pursuing her graduate studies at the University of Michigan.
But both McQuade and Lewis wholeheartedly agree on one point: The U.S. Congress is ” in their words ” “totally dysfunctional.”
Lewis, whose professional focus is energy and environmental issues, served in the office of Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), a first-term lawmaker keenly interested in clean-coal legislation. “When a bill promoting energy efficiency (The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act) was introduced, it died not because of the legislation,” says Lewis, “but because the two sides couldn’t agree on the amendments.”
McQuade, who is an IEEE Senior Member, served his fellowship with the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, headed by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX). Although McQuade describes it as the most bipartisan committee in the House, he remembers the political hostilities during the hearings about personal information security concerns for users of Healthcare.gov, the health insurance exchange web site operated under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
But despite the difficulties ” political and otherwise ” that accompanied their IEEE-USA Fellowships, McQuade, Lewis and Hause believe they contributed their technical knowledge and expertise in several key areas.
With over 35 years professional experience ” almost all of it at Motorola ” and now heading MashBrain LLC, a consultancy on using Internet protocols to promote collaboration and learning, Len Hause was scooped up by the State Department’s fledgling organization created to coordinate foreign policy regarding cyber issues.
Most of his work is classified, but one memorable early highlight he discusses is his participation in late 2013 in the State Department’s first bilateral talks with Russia about cyberspace. “The discussions were the direct result of an earlier meeting President Obama had conducted with President Putin,” Hause explains, “and the linkage ” that I was part of the group that got to make their discussions a reality ” still amazes me!”
He also was closely involved with a Cybersecurity and Cybercrime workshop co-hosted by the State Department with the government of Botswana. The meeting in Gabarone, that nation’s capital, included representatives from 15 sub-Saharan nations and several related groups. In another assignment, Hause traveled to Estonia for a similar workshop.
What mattered most to IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow Mike McQuade was contributing to his country by sharing his wide-ranging technical expertise. His fellowship would mark the end of his 34-year career with the DuPont Company; he had begun it helping to build high-speed digital circuitry for inspecting emulsion coatings on medical x-ray film, and his last project as a senior research associate was increasing dryer capacity for producing hybrid corn seed.
Early in the interviewing process with Senate and House offices, McQuade had his eye on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology ” and his instincts proved spot-on. As the oversight group for all federal government programs concerned with science and technology, the 40-member committee regularly sponsors hearings on a wide range of topics and requires technical expertise to both understand and analyze many of them. McQuade’s responsibilities included attending virtually all Committee-sponsored hearings. He also worked closely with federal agencies ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency to the National Science Foundation.
“Besides the need to review their regular reports, the Committee is also integral to evaluating each agency’s annual re-appropriations bill,” he explains. “When I started the fellowship, I’d thought I would be answering the technical and scientific questions, but I found myself asking them instead.”
McQuade dealt with issues ranging from Lithium-7 shortages and nuclear waste disposal to planning issues concerning a new, polar-orbiting weather satellite.
For Anne Marie Lewis, who earned her Ph.D. in 2013, the IEEE-USA Congressional Fellowship was a triple opportunity: She could contribute a scientific perspective to policy issues, learn more about the role of science in government, and make new connections to help lead toward an eventual job in Washington.
Lewis, who was in a joint doctoral degree program that combined her work in mechanical engineering with broader energy issues, was a perfect fit for the office of Senator Heitkamp. The North Dakota legislator represents a state enjoying an energy boom thanks to rich coal and shale oil deposits, and she is a major Senate voice for energy policies that include clean coal technologies. Lewis worked with Heitkamp to draft S. 2152 on funding technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of both new and existing coal-fired power plants. She also significantly contributed to organizing a Coal Technology Symposium on Capitol Hill that explored advanced coal technologies, including carbon capture and sequestration.
While in graduate school, Lewis interned in Washington and now hopes to remain there in a job that combines her interests in technology and public policy.
“Even if you’re not happy with what’s going on in Congress, it’s important to understand how it works,” Lewis says. “An IEEE-USA Fellowship offers many special opportunities and opens many doors.”
Len Hause advises anyone thinking about applying for an IEEE-USA Fellowship to be prepared for a “huge” learning experience ” and also, to be flexible. “Coming from the private sector, and very close to the “bleeding edge’ of technology, I initially felt like I’d entered a technology time warp,” he says. “Washington is a company town with a big job to do, and what you go there to accomplish is simply going to take a while. As a Fellow, you have to re-examine how you’ll adapt, and contribute at the same time.”
Finally, Mike McQuade suggests that service to one’s country is the most important reason for an IEEE member to consider becoming a Fellow. “Coming at the end of my working career, my Fellowship has been a “give back,'” he says. “I simply remembered John F. Kennedy’s words about what each of us can do for our country. The decision to apply was easy.”
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991-2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991-2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.
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