Skunk Baxter, Dan Aykroyd to headline CIA charity benefit

Skunk Baxter in his pre-Pentagon days. Photo by Carl Lender.

Skunk Baxter in his pre-Pentagon days. Photo from Carl Lender via Wikipedia.

The most unlikely defense consultant ever will perform in Arlington, Va., next Thursday at a benefit for families of fallen CIA officers.

Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter will appear July 8 at a charity dinner for the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance announced yesterday. All proceeds from the dinner will help support the families of CIA officers who die on active duty, such as paying for college tuition for their children. “Blues Brothers” and “Ghostbusters” star Dan Aykroyd will deliver the keynote and perform with Skunk and his band.

It isn’t surprising to see Skunk Baxter help raise money for CIA families. He’s a unique guy, to say the least, and his acceptance into national security circles over the last quarter-century is an interesting story. In the mid-80s, Skunk became fascinated with defense weaponry and technology, and educated himself by reading journals on the subject. He wrote a prescient five-page paper on how Aegis cruisers could be converted into theater missile defense systems, and sent it to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., which launched his defense consulting career. He’s probably the only man in history to hold both eight platinum records and the chairmanship of a civilian advisory panel on ballistic missile defense.

Baxter has participated in numerous war game exercises at the Pentagon and, believe it or not, is respected for his creativity and unconventional thinking by military leaders. (He apparently makes a good bad guy, and the Wall Street Journal said he is frequently called in to help the Pentagon anticipate terrorist tactics and strategies.) NASA in 2005 named him to its Exploration Systems Advisory Committee, and he has also worked with the Missile Defense Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

After the jump, read about my brief encounter with Skunk back in 2001.

At the time, my father was a contractor working for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, MDA’s predecessor, in the Navy Annex building, which overlooks the Pentagon. BMDO held a cookout on the Fourth of July that year in the Navy Annex parking lot, complete with a pickup rock band made up of engineers and other staffers. (I can’t remember the band’s name, but it was something cheerful and missile defense-related, like The Multiple Kill Vehicles.) And they brought in two ringers: Local Washington singer Mary Ann Redmond and Skunk Baxter. I normally would have skipped my dad’s office party, but this, I had to see.

The band played a set of classic rock songs like “Crossroads.” They weren’t bad, but even with Skunk on their side, the rhythm section wasn’t exactly blowing me away. It sounded more or less like any other band of 50-something suburban dads, just with a better lead guitarist.

But when they reached the end of the set, Skunk ripped into the opening guitar solo for “Reelin’ In The Years,” and the rest of the band suddenly snapped to. They stepped up their game to keep up with Skunk’s intensity, and nailed the riffs in the bridge.

The crowd cheered, and I marveled at the sheer weirdness of the situation. I had just seen a bona fide rock star (from a hippie band named after pot) play his biggest hit, with a three-star Air Force general standing just offstage, practically in the shadow of the Pentagon. Only in America.


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