The Pentagon, Trained Killers, and the Hush Puppy Shuffle

A true story

Adelia Ritchie, PhD
7 min readJan 3, 2020


Photo by John Torcasio on Unsplash

“Ritchie, we’ve got a hot congressional here. Get a response together, coordinate it with the OSD staff, and have it on my desk by tomorrow afternoon. Somebody on the Hill wants to kill the [XYZ] program, but you and I know how much the Air Force needs that weapon system.”

“OK, Boss, but in the DIA briefing this morning, they were rather convincing that the Soviet threat has gone away, and the entire justification for that system was based on countering a threat that no longer exists. How do you want me to handle this?”

“If you can take out that little shit in Senator Dufflebag’s office, the one who’s got the GAO crawling all over us… Well, you’ll think of something. The SecDef will have my ass on a silver platter if we don’t put up a good fight. Be convincing!”

“Aye, aye, sir!”’

It was Georgetown in the mid-1980s. We lived in a classic turn-of-the-century townhouse of Italian influence, with a round oriel, painted sky blue. On my street, one could bump into a congressman, stroll by the late John F. Kennedy’s brick mansion, break off one’s heels in the cracks between cobblestones, or, even more likely, step in a fresh mound of canine excrement. My former spouse promised to write a book someday entitled “Living in Georgetown: Looking out for Number Two.”

Commuting to the Pentagon from there was a breeze (we called it the “rush minute”), even in the horrendous traffic that plagues our nation’s capital. My home address had the most “correct” zip code, and my smugness was intensified as we drove into the Pentagon Mall Parking Lot, where only the most senior executives were permitted entry. The tough part of the commute was negotiating á pied the miles of corridors within the Pentagon to my office deep inside.

The Department of Defense was once called the War Department. However, in our culture and time, it’s considered more correct to be in a defensive mode rather than to be aggressive and acquisitive, terms generally reserved for enemies of the peace. Nevertheless, the climate inside the five-sided building was nothing if not seriously war-like.

In times of war, our soldiers, sailors, and airmen fight bravely, even to the point of…



Adelia Ritchie, PhD

Science lover, contributing editor at, veggie gardener, expat