Road Trip: Chasing Leon Panetta to New York … Literally

Defense News' Zach Fryer-Biggs multitasking -- writing a story and fact-checking as he goes -- as I multitask driving down 86th Street in Manhattan following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's cyber policy speech.

At 3:15 p.m. Thursday, it became clear someone from our news organization should be aboard the USS Intrepid in New York City for U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s major cyber policy speech. But there was one problem: the Amtrak trains north were sold out, or would not get us there in time, and the flights, let’s just say they were a bit pricey.

Then an idea popped into my head: Two of us drive up. We had five-and-a-half hours to get there for the 9 p.m. start. One of us could work, while the other drove. So that’s what Zach Fryer-Biggs and I did. The IT guys hooked us up with a laptop and air card and the fun times began.  Below is the blow-by-blow of the road trip. 

3:30 p.m. Location: The company parking lot, Springfield, Va.:  I have a power inverter for the laptop and XM radio so we can listen to playoff baseball; we’ll take my car.

3:33 p.m. Location: Entrance ramp to I-95 North: Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgets during the Clinton administration, calls to chat about some current defense budget issues. He’s a little skeptical about my ability to drive and take notes, but thanks to Bluetooth technology, he’s coming in loud and clear on the car speakers. Tape recorder is rolling, and we’re off.

5:00 p.m. Location: I-95 North near the Maryland/Delaware border: We call in to a DoD backgrounder with two senior defense officials to get a preview of Secretary Panetta’s speech. Zach, an avid San Francisco Giants fan is less than thrilled since the game 5 of the Giants-Reds division series playoff game is in the bottom of the 9th with two outs. Giants are clinging to a two-run lead.

5:03 p.m. Location: Still on I-95 While we’re waiting for the call to begin, San Francisco’s Sergio Romo strikes out the Red’s Scott Roland to end the game. Giants advance. Zach is happy.

5:45 p.m. Location: John Fenwick Service Plaza, New Jersey Turnpike: Gas up, grab two hot dogs and we’re off again. Zach behind the wheel.

6:00 p.m. Location: New Jersey Turnpike North: I begin transcribing an interview and writing a story about … well it hasn’t run yet, so read Defense News on Monday. UPDATE (Oct. 15: Here is the story about DoD and industry talking about managing in a downturn.

7:02 p.m. Location: Still on the New Jersey Turnpike: Jayson Werth homers for the Washington Nationals, to force a decisive game 5 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

8:00 p.m. Location: 12th Ave. Manhattan: After securing parking, we walk onto Pier 86 and board the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier/museum.

Vago is excited that we're aboard the USS Intrepid.

8:12 p.m. Location: USS Intrepid, Hudson River: Our editor Vago Muradian, who at one time volunteered at the Intrepid, is clearly very excited were on board the ship.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta takes a sample of cheese at Eataly in New York City prior to the Business Executives for National Security dinner aboard the USS Intrepid. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

9:45 p.m. Location: USS Intrepid, Panetta takes the stage and gives the speech we’re been waiting for. Clearly one of  the, if not the, most powerful speech given by a defense secretary about the cyber threat and what’s being done to secure networks. He details a number of attacks, which until now, had been classified. For more read Zach’s story here and his more detailed story in Monday’s Defense News.

Some late-night snacks.

10:43 p.m. Location: Manhattan: I drop Zach at his folks place in Yorkville and head down to my sister’s place in Gramercy Park. Long night of work still ahead. Luckily my sister DVRed the vice presidential debate AND picked up a nice assortment of Italian pastries! She’s the best!

1:45 a.m. I head to sleep. Zach is burning the midnight oil … at least that’s what he told me.


6:45 a.m. Location: Gramercy Park: Seamless Web delivers a dozen bagels and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Why can’t we get sandwiches like these in Washington???

7:45 a.m. Location: Fryer-Biggs residence: Zach gets lecture from mother about working too hard.

7:53 a .m. Location: Uptown Manhattan: Zach boards the subway downtown.

"Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York!"

8:17 a.m. Location: 27th St. & Madison Ave.: Zach jumps in and we head toward the Lincoln Tunnel. Beautiful morning in New  York with the temperature in the low 60s. Not a cloud in sight.

12:30 p.m. Location: Springfield, Va.: Arrive back at work. Time to file my last story and this blog.

12:35 p.m. Location: Defense News newsroom: Co-workers devour bagels.

Marcus Weisgerber
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Marcus Weisgerber

Senior Pentagon Correspondent at Defense News
I write about broad-ranging policy, acquisition and budget issues affecting the US military.
Marcus Weisgerber
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