Doobie Brother Fights Terrorism

With the U.S. keeping an eye out for terrorist threats, counterterrorism specialists have garnered extra media attention – but none more than former The Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.

The Wall Street Journal devoted a front page story to Baxter’s 20-year evolution from his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as both a Doobie and an original member of Steely Dan to one of the U.S. government’s best-known counterterrorism experts. The 56-year-old Baxter has a dizzying schedule as a consultant to the Department of Defense and as chair to a congressional advisory board on missile defense, among many duties.

He told the WSJ he made more money last year as a defense consultant than he did through music. In fact, Baxter has been asked regularly by the Pentagon to lead enemy forces in its war games, using terrorism tactics against the U.S. troops.

“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter told the paper.

During one game, Baxter – through covert ops – introduced oil-eating bacteria into the Saudi Arabian oil supply. The Navy had to pull out of the game because American allies, dependent on oil, threatened to pull their financial interests stateside.

“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” Baxter told the paper. “My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”

The guitarist began his transformation in the ’80s when his next-door neighbor, a retired engineer who worked on the Sidewinder missile program, bought Baxter a subscription to an aviation magazine. That led to an interest in military systems, which led to a five-page paper typed out on a Tandy computer that suggested a ship-based antiplane system called Aegis could be used as a missile defense system.

Baxter would eventually be shown to be on target; the Navy is expecting to use Aegis as an antimissile system on at least one ship by the end of the year.

Soon after the report was printed off of the Tandy computer, it found its way to congressman Dana Rohrabacher. The proposal was years before that, and Rohrabacher recognized that this college dropout had found a niche.

“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told the WSJ. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”

The paper was presented to Rep. Curt Weldon, who saw Baxter as a public representative for missile defense. Weldon – who, like Rohrabacher and Baxter, is Republican – said the guitarist blew away the Hollywood liberals in public debates because “he actually knows the facts and details” of missile defense.

Backed by several lawmakers, the former Doobie Brother reportedly got a series of classified security clearances. He said he told investigators during one background interview to not worry about him getting bribed with drugs or money because he had already been there and done that.

Baxter is still rocking and recently contributed to tribute albums to Pink Floyd and Aerosmith, but he spends most of his time consulting the likes of General Atomics, Science Applications International Corp., and Northrop Gruman Corp.

Baxter considered a run for the House of Representatives in 2000 as a moderate Republican (pro-choice, pro-National Rifle Association) from Southern California, using his Spanish-speaking skills to attract the Hispanic vote.

He got into some hot water, as did Weldon, because Baxter admitted that his advisory work included a resume that falsely included NASA and the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory as clients, the Los Angeles Times said.