9 months ago

Alabama Innovation Commission formed to help foster the jobs of tomorrow, ‘create a pipeline for success in all corners of the state’

Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced the formation of Alabama’s first statewide commission on entrepreneurship and innovation.

A release from the governor’s office outlined that the Alabama Innovation Commission, known as Innovate Alabama, was officially created by her Executive Order 720 and will serve as a platform for innovators to engage policymakers, exchange ideas and identify policies that promote innovation in the state.

“Through the establishment of the Alabama Innovation Commission, I look forward to collaborating with our state’s leading innovators to develop a long-term strategy to create a more resilient, inclusive and robust economy,” Ivey said in a statement.

“Alabama has always had a rich tradition of developing technologies to move our state forward. Now more than ever, we must capitalize on future opportunities by engaging our state’s trailblazers to discuss new ideas and policies that support entrepreneurship, economic development and jobs,” she added.

State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) will serve as chair of the newly formed commission and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) will serve as vice chair. The two legislators sponsored the Alabama Incentives Modernization (AIM) Act, which was signed into law last year.

RELATED: Rep. Bill Poole on technology sector, startups: ‘We have a lot of growth potential in this area’

In a statement, Poole said, “I’m inspired by the potential for future growth in our state’s innovation community and look forward to continued momentum and growth in this sector. The Alabama Incentives Modernization Act set into motion a new set of incentives that will help grow, attract and retain startups and technology companies in the state.”

“Forming the Alabama Innovation Commission is a critical step to further create policies that will ensure Alabama’s competitiveness in the technology and startup sector,” he continued.

Reed, who has also been a champion of expanding high-speed broadband service to all Alabamians, lauded the public-private partnerships making the new commission possible.

“Through this commission, we hope to tap into the potential for the state to become a hub for startups and technology-based companies,” Reed remarked. “I look forward to working with the Alabama Innovation Commission to encourage collaboration, public-private partnerships and smart policies that promote access to opportunity and create a pipeline for success in all corners of the state.”

The bipartisan commission will examine policies to increase entrepreneurship, spur innovation and enhance technology accelerators, in addition to addressing the challenges and red tape that startup companies often face. They also will produce and present a comprehensive innovation policy agenda to the Office of the Governor and the Alabama legislature.

Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, is among the commission’s membership, which is diverse demographically and geographically.

“The Alabama Innovation Commission will provide a tremendous opportunity to partner with leaders from the public and private sectors to grow our great state,” Barker commented. “The focus on innovation to deliver sustainable growth will benefit our entire state through new solutions and more job opportunities. I am excited to play an important role in building Alabama’s future.”

Commission members are as follows:

• Rep. Bill Poole – State Representative (Chair) Representative Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) serves in the Alabama House of Representatives. A native of Marengo County, Poole was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 and serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Budget Committee and the Tuscaloosa County Legislation Committee. Poole was the sponsor of the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act, a critical law focused upon making the state more attractive to tech-based companies and entrepreneurs.

• Sen. Greg Reed – State Senator (Vice Chair) Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was first elected to the Alabama State Senate in 2010 and serves as the Senate Majority Leader. Reed is a native of Jasper and is a member of the Rules, Jefferson County Legislation, Confirmations, Transportation and Energy, Healthcare and Local Legislation committees. Reed served as the senate sponsor of the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act.

• Scott Adams – Executive Vice President and Chief Digital & Innovation Officer, Protective Life Corporation Scott Adams leads Protective’s community engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility activities as well as oversees several corporate functions, including the Protective Life Foundation, brand and social engagement and corporate communications. In addition, he works with executive leadership on the development of strategy and innovation in support of our growth initiatives.

• Greg Barker – President, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama In his role at EDPA, Barker supports business recruitment and expansion efforts in Alabama and promotes innovative and emerging startup companies through its Alabama Launchpad program. A veteran in economic development, he has more than 35 years of experience leading recruitment, expansion and innovation efforts in the Southeast. Prior to joining EDPA, served in various leadership roles at Alabama Power in economic development, most recently serving as executive vice president of customer services. Barker serves on the board of directors for numerous business and economic development organizations, including the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Opportunity Alabama and Innovation Depot.

• Lindsay Rane Carter – Associate General Counsel, Great Southern Wood Preserving Lindsay Rane Carter is an associate general counsel at Great Southern Wood Preserving, makers of YellaWood®. An alumna of Auburn University and Jones School of Law, Carter now represents one of the most profitable businesses to come out of Alabama.

• Rick Clementz – General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Mercedes-Benz US International, Inc. Trained as an engineer, Clementz manages employment, liability defense, patent defense, all contracts and international law for Mercedes-Benz International in Vance, Alabama. MBUSI exports more than $1 billion in finished product. Located in Tuscaloosa County, MBUSI employees 3,800 Alabamians and is the sole distribution site for the GLE, GLS, GLE Coupe models, sold in 135 countries.

• Rep. Jeremy Gray – State Representative Jeremy Gray has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2018 representing District 83. A native of Opelika, Ala., Gray serves on the Commerce and Small Business, Health, Lee County, and Public Safety and Homeland Security committees.

• Miller Girvin – CEO, Alabama Capital Network Miller Girvin is the CEO of the Alabama Capital Network (ACN), a community economic development organization whose mission is to facilitate the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Alabama. Girvin connects Alabama-based companies with valuable resources and connections and facilitates relationships with venture capital to continue upward trajectory.

• Abe Harper – CEO, Harper Technologies Abe Harper is the president and CEO of Harper Technologies, a comprehensive IT support and consulting firm based in Mobile. Harper has been working in the IT industry since he was a teenager and has expanded his business from serving residential clients to now serving small-to medium-sized businesses, nonprofits and local government entities throughout Mobile and Baldwin counties, as well as surrounding counties in neighboring states.

• Shegun Otulana – Founder, TheraNest Shegun Otulana is the Founder of TheraNest and its parent company Therapy Brands, the leading provider of software technology solutions for mental, behavioral, and rehab health providers and organizations. In 2020, he stepped down as CEO and currently serves as vice chairman of the board. Prior to Therapy Brands, Shegun founded Zertis Technologies, a computer software consultancy company. He currently serves as founder/CEO of HVL, an idea and growth studio that owns and operates a family of technology companies.

• Peggy Sammon – CEO, GeneCapture, Inc. Peggy Sammon is an experienced entrepreneur with a background in multiple high-tech start-ups in environmental monitoring, wireless, and biotech. Sammon serves as CEO of GeneCapture, a start-up medical device company at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

• Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier – State Senator Sanders-Fortier is a Selma, Ala. native and has served in the Alabama State Senate since 2018. She is a member of the Finance and Taxation Education, Judiciary, Governmental Affairs, Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development, Children Youth and Human Services and Veterans and Military Affairs committees.

• Arndt Siepmann – Deputy Director of Economic Development, City of Auburn Arndt Siepmann is the deputy director of Economic Development at the City of Auburn. In his career, has worked in various economic development corporations, including on a regional and state level. He started the Entrepreneurship and Technology Program for the City of Auburn and leads the Auburn Regional Launchpad competition. Siepmmann also works with the Auburn University Harbert College of Business to support student entrepreneurship efforts.

• Charisse Stokes – Executive Director, TechMGM Charisse Stokes serves as executive director of TechMGM, the collaboration of local, industry, educational and governmental entities working to leverage Montgomery’s technology assets to focus on economic, workforce and community development. Over the past 20 years, Stokes has held numerous IT and programming positions across the Department of Defense, industry and nonprofit organizations.

• Neill Wright – President, Bronze Valley Neill Wright is a co-founder and executive director of Bronze Valley, a non-profit, early stage venture investment platform that supports high growth, innovation and technology-enabled companies created by diverse, underrepresented and underestimated founders. He has more than 25 years of experience as an investor, entrepreneur and operating executive.

The commission’s unique model will also include a world-class, six-member advisory council of innovation leaders with Alabama ties. The commission will be able to leverage the talent of these true national experts who want to see their home state flourish now and in the future.

Alabama Power Company executive vice president Zeke Smith will serve as president of the advisory council. The company has been at the forefront of various, comprehensive efforts to position the state for success in the 21st century economy.

“It is an honor to serve on the Alabama Innovation Commission – alongside diverse leadership from the public and private sector – to help foster growth in technology and entrepreneurship with the ultimate goal of elevating Alabama,” Smith said in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is another of the six impressive advisory council members; Dr. Rice is the incoming director of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

“Alabama is home to me, and I am honored to serve on the advisory council for the Alabama Innovation Commission,” Rice stated. “While our country currently faces many challenges, this is an opportunity to create forward-thinking ideas and policies that will inspire the next generation of innovators. By focusing on knowledge-based skills and education, technology growth and entrepreneurship, we unlock the potential for future success across the state.

Advisory council members are as follows:

• Zeke Smith – Executive Vice President, Alabama Power (President) With more than 35 years of service with the utility, Zeke Smith is responsible for the company’s Environmental Affairs, Charitable Giving, Corporate Affairs, Governmental Relations, Public Relations and Regulatory Affairs functions. Smith also serves as chairman of the Alabama Power Foundation’s Board of Directors, in addition to serving on the boards of numerous external organizations.

• Greg Canfield – Secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce As secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, Greg Canfield works closely with the governor’s office to organize economic development efforts that shape sustainable growth strategies and drive dynamic job creation across the state. His primary responsibilities include increasing business recruitment and expansion activity, expanding export opportunities for Alabama companies, improving workforce development initiatives, enhancing small business growth, and providing avenues for job creation in the film and entertainment industry.

• Chris Moody – Partner, Foundry Group Chris Moody is a partner at the venture capital firm, Foundry Group, focusing on investments in technology companies. He has worked closely with some of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing technology companies to help them formulate and execute their platform strategies. Prior to joining Foundry Group, Moody was GM & VP of Twitter’s Data & Enterprise Solutions business.

• Dr. Condoleezza Rice – Incoming Director of the Hoover Institution Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has vast experience in the technology sector and is the incoming Tad and Dianne Taube director of the Hoover Institution. The Hoover Institution at Stanford University is the nation’s preeminent research center dedicated to generating policy ideas that promote economic prosperity, national security and democratic governance. Dr. Rice is also a founding partner at Rice|Hadley|Gates, LLC, an international strategic consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.

• Bill Smith – Founder, Smith Ventures Bill Smith is CEO of Smith Ventures and the founder and former CEO of Shipt, a membership-based marketplace, enabling same-day delivery of fresh foods and household essentials across the U.S. Shipt was acquired by Target in December 2017 for $550 million and operates as an independent subsidiary serving multiple retailers. He recently launched Landing, a startup offering flexible leasing memberships for long-term living.

• Jared Weinstein – General Partner, Thrive Capital Jared Weinstein is a native of Birmingham and is currently a partner at Thrive Capital, a New Yorkbased venture capital firm. In 2013, he founded the Overton Project, a social investment platform that has focused on scaling national best-in-class impact organizations to Birmingham – specifically Breakthrough Collaborative, Venture for America, and Microsoft’s TEALS computer science program. Prior to Thrive, Weinstein spent seven years at the White House in various roles.

The Alabama Innovation Commission will first convene virtually on August 13.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Boeing expects to be mission-ready in May for second uncrewed Starliner test flight

NASA and Boeing are now targeting August or September for the launch of Starliner’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. A press release noted they will also evaluate options if an earlier launch opportunity becomes available, starting in the next few weeks.

OFT-2 is a critical developmental milestone on Boeing’s path to fly crew missions for NASA.

This will be the company’s second try at delivering its Starliner vehicle to the ISS in preparation for shuttling commercial crew to and from the space station.

The first Starliner mission ended prematurely as a result of a timing malfunction which led to the spacecraft missing the opportunity to set the proper course for connecting with the ISS.

However, the mission was still historic and marked significant progress in the Commercial Crew Program.

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Returning early to White Sands, New Mexico, the Starliner spacecraft during OFT-1 became the first-ever American orbital space capsule to land on U.S. soil. This came after the mission was launched perfectly by a Decatur-built, specially configured United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Boeing’s design center in Huntsville provided all of the structural design for the Starliner capsule. Additionally, Boeing’s Phantom Works division, which has an operation in the Rocket City, provided the power systems for the capsule.

Overall, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is designed, built, tested and flown by a team committed to safely, reliably and sustainably transporting astronauts to and from the ISS.

A release over the weekend detailed that the target launch timeframe for OFT-2 is supported by a space station docking opportunity and the availability of ULA’s Atlas V rocket and the Eastern Range.

However, Boeing said it will be mission-ready in May should a launch opportunity arise before the target. The Starliner team has reportedly completed all work on the OFT-2 vehicle except for activity to be conducted closer to launch, such as loading cargo and fueling the spacecraft. The team also has submitted all verification and validation paperwork to NASA and is completing all Independent Review Team recommended actions including those that were not mandatory ahead of OFT-2.

Software and Mission Operations teammates in Houston have been hard at work conducting flight software simulations, including end-to-end confidence and integration testing that will serve as a mission dress rehearsal before every future Starliner flight. The company expects to conclude all software testing this month and will support NASA’s post-test reviews as needed.

Additionally, the Starliner team is now preparing for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) to enable the shortest turnaround time possible between flights while maintaining its focus on crew safety. NASA’s CFT astronauts recently suited up and climbed aboard Starliner to perform a fully integrated and powered checkout of the OFT-2 vehicle supported by life support and communications systems. The OFT-2 spacecraft and all systems are nearly identical to those that will fly during Starliner’s first crewed mission, which will be the second flight of that spacecraft.

Safely and sustainably transporting crew and cargo to and from low Earth orbit destinations for NASA and other future customers is the ultimate goal. Boeing is confident in the Starliner vehicle, the team and the missions ahead as the program nears the completion of its development phase.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Workforce development is giving Alabama a competitive edge

Recruiting, training and empowering a highly skilled workforce driven by business and industry needs is giving Alabama a competitive edge for economic growth.

We see the results of this sound strategy throughout the state. As Governor Kay Ivey recently announced, Alabama’s economic development activity in 2020 generated approximately $5 billion in new investments and nearly 10,000 job commitments. This level of job recruitment is astounding, especially considering the challenges the coronavirus posed to economic developers in 2020. These new jobs will help to lower or keep low our unemployment rate, which is already the lowest in the Southeast.

In economic development, some analysts focus on incentive packages that states offer to attract new businesses. But good business leaders know the most important resource a state can offer is a pool of talented, well-trained and ready workers.

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There is no doubt that Alabamians are hard workers. This is no secret among America’s leading industries, who have seen for themselves that Alabama brings to the table dedicated workers and a workforce development strategy that are second to none.

Under Governor Ivey’s leadership, workforce development in Alabama is a collaborative effort. Shortly after assuming office, Governor Ivey launched Strong Start, Strong Finish to integrate Alabama’s early childhood education, K-12, and workforce development programs. Through the Success Plus initiative, a component of Strong Start, Strong Finish, Governor Ivey established a structured path for our state to add an additional 500,000 credentialed workers to the workforce by 2025. In addition, it equips our citizens to work the jobs that are in greatest demand. As Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said, Success Plus gives prospective employers “yet another reason” to locate in Alabama.

These efforts to improve and coordinate our education and workforce training programs have received national acclaim from organizations like the National Governors Association, Credential Engine, the Lumina Foundation, Site Selection magazine and more.

But to keep moving forward, we cannot rest on our laurels. While all Alabamians can be pleased our economy is growing and unemployment is low, our labor force participation rate must improve. Defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population age between 16 and 64 who are either working or actively looking for work. Alabama’s most recent labor force participation rate is 57.8 percent, compared to the national rate of about 62 percent.

We know a significant number of Alabamians do not work or actively look for work because they fear they will lose benefits or services quicker than they can make up for them through paid employment. A recent survey of unemployed and underemployed Alabamians revealed that more than 37 percent declined or delayed taking a new job or promotion because they were afraid they would lose a government benefit and end up being worse off financially.

Known as benefit cliffs, these situations have long been recognized to create financial disincentives for some individuals to earn more income or train for higher paying occupations. Because many do not know whether a benefit cliff actually exists for their particular situation, low-income workers may decline to take on more hours at work or accept promotions simply out of fear they will lose benefits. This lack of transparency can drive poor decision making and hold these workers back.

To provide this needed transparency, Alabama offers DAVID, the Dashboard for Alabamians to Visualize Income Determinations. Created through a unique partnership between the state and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, DAVID helps individuals understand how much money they will gain through paid employment in various careers. Alabama is the first state in the nation to create such an innovative tool – a benefits cliff calculator combined with a career planner.

Raphael Bostic, the president and CEO of the Atlanta Fed, said this will help ensure the economy “works for everyone.”

Connecting education and workforce development has proven to be not only a sound strategy for helping unemployed and underemployed Alabamians, it also strengthens our ability to recruit new jobs and economic opportunities. By continuing to provide innovative tools, educational opportunities and world-class workforce training, we can ensure our economy does indeed work for everyone and that Alabama’s best days are yet to come.

Tim McCartney, formerly of McCartney Construction in Gadsden, is the Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council. To learn more about the Council, visit www.alabamaworks.com.

8 hours ago

Alabama ranked No. 8 in nation for economic momentum — ‘On the right path for the future’

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that Alabama ranks among the top states for economic momentum in a new analysis that evaluates key measurements of economic performance in 2021.

The Washington, D.C.-based publication State Policy Reports ranked Alabama No. 8 in its Index of State Economic Momentum for the first quarter. The state’s score was 1.31, compared to a national average of zero.

The index ranks states based on their most recent performance in three important measures of economic vitality: personal income growth, employment growth and population growth.

In a release, Ivey said the Yellowhammer State’s ranking in the report shows that the state is fully on the road to recovery after nationwide economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We’ve worked very hard over the past few years to strengthen the foundations of Alabama’s economy by encouraging business growth and equipping our workers with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century workplace,” Ivey stated. “I believe this ranking shows that Alabama is on the right path for the future.”

Alabama’s ranking was notably higher than its surrounding states of Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi, as well as the comparable South Carolina.

When it came to personal income growth, Alabama ranked No. 13 nationally, with a 4.8% gain during 2020, higher than the national average of 4%. For employment growth, the state scored No. 7 year-over-year. However, when looking at population growth, Alabama ranked in the middle of the pack for the one-year period ending July 1, 2020, with a gain of 0.3%, just below the national average.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, advised the state is poised for additional economic vitality, with nearly $5 billion in new capital investment tied to business growth projects announced last year.

“The robust level of economic development activity recorded in spite of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic gives me optimism for the future,” Canfield said in a statement. “I’m confident that Alabama’s economy is being re-energized for growth.”

Leaders in the Alabama Legislature said the report findings underscore the state’s strong economic prospects as the pandemic loosens its grip on the country.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R–Jasper) and Rep. Bill Poole (R–Tuscaloosa) earlier this year helped reauthorize two state economic development laws, the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama Act; they are also spearheading efforts when it comes to enacting policy recommendations proposed by the Alabama Innovation Commission.

“These strong economic numbers, recorded in the midst of a pandemic, emphasize the resilience of Alabama’s economy. Our state has provided the tools needed to make Alabama a competitive place to invest and do business,” Reed remarked. “Bringing good-paying, high-quality jobs and economic opportunity to our state is the number one way we can increase quality of life for Alabamians. For that reason, economic development will continue to be a top priority of our state’s leadership in the future.”

Poole commented, “Alabama’s performance related to these key economic indexes demonstrates the resiliency of the citizens of our state in the face of the pandemic and validates the hard work that has been undertaken during recent years to grow and diversify Alabama’s economy.”

“These efforts have been collaborative across all branches of government, have been bipartisan, have involved public-private cooperation and have focused on strengthening Alabama’s ability to compete in a 21st century economy,” he continued. “These rankings should reinforce Alabama’s commitment to education and workforce development, to supporting the growth of our current businesses, and to strategically recruiting new businesses. It is also critical that we work together to strengthen Alabama’s competitiveness in the areas of innovation, technology, research and entrepreneurship. Our state’s continued focus on these objectives will serve to benefit all Alabamians.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Justice Will Sellers: Remembering the Bay of Pigs and its aftermath

When great powers stump their toe on foreign policy, the initial pain, though slight, often causes loss of focus, a stumble and sometimes a more serious accident.

Sixty years ago, the United States sponsored an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba, and the colossal failure ultimately damaged our nation’s reputation, emboldened our enemies, worried our allies, and clouded our vision of proper objectives for foreign relations.

President John Kennedy’s inauguration was a cause for much optimism as a young, vibrant breath of fresh air would lead America in a new direction. His inaugural address was an inspiring call to a new nationalism of service to the world at large, and he promised that the United States would do all in its power to protect freedom around the globe.

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The naivety of his rhetoric was not apparent, however, until he was challenged by an energized Russian bear ready to test the mettle of the young president.

At the beginning of the new administration, America had every reason to be hopeful that the world was moving towards greater freedom. The Eisenhower administration had successfully used covert action to change the governments of Iran and Guatemala, some hotspots of communist insurgency had been stopped, and there was stability in the Philippines and Vietnam.

When the torch was passed to the Kennedy administration, the world appeared stable and controllable.

During his transition from electoral success to governing, Kennedy reached out to some of the smartest and most capable individuals in business and academia. These whiz kids promoted a theory that the machinery of government was a science, and if the formulas were correct, the results would be both predictable and successful.

But, while genius in government is great, practical simplicity is always better. Understanding and assessing people and personalities often primes academic articulation. Within a matter of months, President Kennedy was to learn this the hard way.

By failing to understand the difference between ideology and interests in diplomacy, the Kennedy administration embarked on a path that reflected an impractical view of the world as they wanted it to be and failed to appreciate that an effective foreign policy must reflect a national self-interest to deal with the world as it is.

Even before the Bay of Pigs, members of Kennedy’s foreign policy team decided on a covert coup to oust Portugal’s dictator.

This plan made little sense.

There was no overarching U.S. interest at stake, any local opposition to the regime was minimal, and, to make matters worse, Portugal was a NATO ally. Thankfully, the coup never got off the ground, the covert action was scrapped, and the instigators departed before any real damage was done.

But the thought process, or lack thereof, was troubling. And any further ideas about forced regime change should have been put on hold until a comprehensive foreign policy was developed and measured objectives approved.

But rather than seriously considering American interests, the excitement of covert action and the thrill of cloak and dagger operations distracted the young administration and set in motion one of the biggest disasters that was as open to ridicule as it was notorious for ineptness.

When U.S.-sponsored Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs, nothing went according to plan. There was no expected popular uprising, and, more importantly, Kennedy had canceled any air support. With limited engagement from the Navy, the landing party hardly got off the beach.

The conflict was a total rout with almost the entire invasion force killed, wounded, or captured. In retrospect, any casual observer would question the need to invade Cuba, our national interest there, and any thoughtful steps to take to achieve our goals short of force. The after-action report was devastating and served as a proof text for Murphy’s law.

The Bay of Pigs served as a shakedown cruise for the new administration, and the evaluations of its first four months was resoundingly negative. Allowing a small country like Cuba to thwart an American-sponsored coup fueled our enemies to take full advantage of the geniuses who attempted to advance the national policy of a new administration.

After the Bay of Pigs, the stature of the United States was substantially reduced in the eyes of the world; perhaps for the first time, we were vulnerable, and our enemies probed and tested our resolve.

Indeed, for the rest of his presidency, Kennedy’s foreign policy exploits would be an attempt to overcome this defeat in Cuba. Sensing distraction, our enemies took full advantage of us.

In Europe, the Soviets approved building a barrier between East and West Berlin, and when Kennedy signaled that he would take no actions to stop construction, the barrier became the solid, fortress-like wall, which was improved and secured to provocatively divide the people of Berlin.

In Southeast Asia, Russia amped up its support of the Pathet Lao in a proxy war for control of Laos. Khrushchev rhetorically decimated Kennedy at the Vienna Summit some months later.

Atoning for the loss of prestige at the Bay of Pigs, Bobby Kennedy became obsessed with Cuba, diverting resources in any number of attempts to topple the Castro regime. In fact, some of the most preposterous assassination plans cooked up by the CIA were aimed at Castro.

Rather than destabilizing Cuba, Kennedy’s singular focus forced Castro into a strong alliance with Russia, resulting in a Soviet base 90 miles from Florida. The obsession with Cuba led to the Cuban Missile crisis which was the closest the world has yet come to a nuclear war.

But perhaps the most significant legacy from Kennedy’s bruised ego was his desire to reveal his machismo and show he could draw a line in the sand against communism.

The place he chose to show resolve was Vietnam.

The Bay of Pigs represented not only a defeat of U.S. interests, but a disaster in creating a foreign policy that was rooted in a personal quest to show a powerful America and decisive administration. By focusing on goals and objectives that had little relation to the permanent interests of the United States, Kennedy ultimately followed a path leading to humiliation and defeat.

Engaging on the world stage requires critical thinking about America’s goals and the strategies to achieve them. Foreign policy must be practical and focused on long-term interests and not the distractions of ideological whims.

Will Sellers is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama

9 hours ago

Watch: Nick Saban gives master class on leadership, team building

The Birmingham Business Alliance recently presented a virtual business forum featuring University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who shared his candid insight and tips on a range of topics.

The event was sponsored by Red Diamond Coffee & Tea and was moderated by bestselling author Jon Gordon.

The legendary football coach discussed leadership, team building, creating a winning strategy and other lessons that can be taken from athletics and applied to the business world.

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“To be successful in whatever you choose to do is probably pretty similar,” Saban advised. “I think culture is the most important thing. I think mindset is a very important part of culture. Obviously, whatever your business is you have to define the culture. To get people to have a vision for what they want to accomplish and what they want to do — to get them to understand the things you have to do to accomplish that, ‘here’s what you have to do to edit your behavior to be able to do it,’ and then having the discipline to execute every day is important in being successful in anything you do. And I think the hardest thing for most folks is the discipline piece.”

He defined discipline as “do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it the way it’s supposed to get done — do the right thing the right way the right time, all the time.”

“But self-discipline is really more about, you know we make hundreds of decisions every day that really boil down to two questions,” Saban continued. “Here’s something I know I’m supposed to do that I really don’t want to do, and you make yourself do it; and then here’s something I know I’m not supposed to do but I want to do it — can you keep yourself from it? To me, if you can make those choices and decisions the right way, you’re always going to be able to stay on the path of doing the things you need to do to accomplish the goals that you have. … I think the mindset, the culture, what it takes to be successful in business or in football or in any sport is probably very similar.”

Watch the full 38-minute video of the forum here or below:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn