Incoming! Winners of the missile contest.

Al Kamen
Columnist June 18, 2012

And now, the winners of the Loop contest to help the Pentagon figure out where to put the House-passed East Coast missile defense system — should the Senate also approve it.

There have been many excellent entries from around the country on where to put the interceptors to protect us from hypothetical missiles from Iran and North Korea — although the generals say they don’t really need the system.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

The winners:

●“Locate one near Fenway Park to protect it from Iran, North Korea and the Yankees.” — John Modler, a retired federal employee and prior contest winner from Catonsville, Md. (After last weekend, it looks as though Nationals Park could also use some serious missile protection from the Yankees.)

●“Accident, Md., and Pork Barrel Pond, Mass.” — Zachary M. Hosford, a research associate at the Center for a New American Security.

●“How about building a base to protect Smithfield, Va.,” the ham capital of the world? “Call it ‘pork’ for pork’s sake.” — Harry Meem, a retired copy editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

●“The Jersey Shore to protect Snooki, the Hamptons to protect the banksters.” — Leslie Beil, a writer and hot-glass artist in Alexandria.

●“FedEx Field in Landover and another battery near Redskins Park, to protect the strategic brain trust of the organization and the talented players.” — Wesley Davis, a retired fire captain from Prince George’s County now living in Conway, S.C.

●“How about Syria, Va.? That way, if the Iranians launch a missile at us, we can say we had the good people of Syria shoot it down for us.” — Doug Williamson, an international wildlife trade consultant and prior contest winner from, naturally, Syria, Va.

●“Capitol Hill — or at least around the House side,” so when the nonexistent missiles are fired, “the interceptors that don’t work can protect” them. — Barry Blechman, who works at the Stimson Center, a foreign policy think tank.

The West Coast already has a system and is thus invulnerable to attack, so the contest asked for East Coast sites, but we’ll include this one.

●Cable TV viewers “know there is one place that is attacked over and over again by Iranians, Soviets, North Koreans and assorted aliens from outer space — Hollywood.” — James F. Schumaker, a retired Foreign Service officer and prior winner who, wouldn’t you know, lives about 30 miles away in San Clemente, Calif.

Congratulations to the winners — T-shirts headed your way — and thanks to all for entering.

Plane truth

Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, in his new book, “It Worked for Me,” devotes an entire section (Chapter 7, “Where on the Battlefield?”) to defending his travel record at the State Department.

It’s all there — the famous letter he got from George Kennan, telling him not to travel so much, and then a few stats to show that he did travel a fair amount (“in my first year I traveled to thirty-seven countries and logged 149,000 miles . . . not exactly hiding in a bunker”).

He does allow that it was “not as much as some of my predecessors and nowhere near as much as my successors. Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton set world records.” All true.

But then he writes that “the media, led by the New York Times, started clocking my frequent flier miles.” What?

Note to the publisher for future editions: We recall that The Washington Post (in a front-page story) did the tracking and revealed that Powell had traveled less than any secretary of state since William Rogers, who stepped down in 1973.

A USDA choice

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week that Pearlie Reed , a USDA veteran and one of the agency’s top officials, had retired.

The announcement’s timing was a bit curious, since it came five days after Reed actually retired, and two weeks after an inspector general’s report dinged an office under Reed’s jurisdiction for improperly handing out grants — though a department spokesman denied any connection between the IG report and Reed’s departure.

In his statement, Vilsack said that Reed, who oversaw the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, was leaving for “personal reasons” and that the secretary had urged him to stay. “He brought the wisdom of nearly four decades of distinguished public service to USDA and to the Obama Administration, and I deeply appreciate his service,” Vilsack’s statement read.

A May 18 IG report found that Reed’s office had ignored procedure in awarding grants for a program meant to assist “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers. “At least some of the 57 applicants selected . . . may not be the most meritorious and deserving applicants,” the IG wrote.

This marks the second retirement for Reed, a well-respected old hand who first came to the Agriculture Department as a college student. Reed retired in 2002 as chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service but rejoined the USDA in 2009 to focus on civil rights issues inside and outside the agency. With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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