Saturday, April 17, 2004

Spirit of America is Aptly Named



Postrel shares a column about the work being done by Spirit of America. Excerpts:
Thus spake George W. Bush this week: "The people of our country are united behind our men and women in uniform, and this government will do all that is necessary to assure the success of their historic mission." Still, many Americans who support the war don't much like sitting on their hands doing little more than watch it on TV. Some have written here, asking what they can do to help. This column will describe a real project that lets the folks at home lend a hand to the soldiers in Iraq.

Over the past year, a successful technology entrepreneur named Jim Hake has been working with the Marine Corps to help their reconstruction projects in Iraq. The Marines identify local equipment needs, and Mr. Hake's organization, Spirit of America, after raising the money, acquires the stuff, typically for schools and medical clinics. It flies directly out of Camp Pendleton in California. Jim Hake and the Marines are a coalition of the can-do, bypassing the slow U.S. procurement bureaucracy.
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Jim Hake's organizational insight is to deploy the best practices of the modern U.S. economy--efficiency and speed--around the margins of the Iraqi war effort. The Amazons, Best Buys, FedExes and DHLs can get anything anywhere--fast. Why not use the same all-American skill at procurement efficiency and quick distribution to get the soldiers in Iraq (and Afghanistan) the stuff that government red tape will never provide in time?

His operation, in Los Angeles, is wholly New Economy. For past projects he's gotten the word out via Web loggers such as Glenn Reynolds's InstaPundit.com, windsofchange.net and hughhewitt.com. Mr. Hake finds low-cost suppliers on the Internet and negotiates prices. His donor network also suggests suppliers.

Earlier projects for the Marines flew over cargo planes of school supplies, basic medical equipment and toys (turns out Iraqi children love Frisbees). One anecdote: The day before the school equipment was to ship, they found that all the pencils broke easily. On a hunch, Mr. Hake made a morning call to a Staples manager in southern California. By midafternoon the Staples man lined up sources for 120,000 pencils--cheaper than the original buy. Mr. Hake bought and shipped them. Spirit of America is all-volunteer. The accounting for its projects, down to the penny, is listed on the Web site.
I just went to their site and donated. Please consider doing so too.

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