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Lt. Col. Michael Feuquay’s Q&A

Service and Leadership with Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michael Feuquay

Q&A: Lieutenant Colonel Michael Feuquay (US Marine Corps) On Applying the Lessons of the Reagan Administration’s Cold War Policies To Current Challenges Posed By The People’s Republic Of China

By Jonathan Movroydis

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Feuquay is a National Security Affairs Fellow for the academic year 2021–22.

In this Q&A, Feuquay discusses his two-decade career as a financial management officer in the US Marine Corps. Feuquay enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served four years before enrolling at San Jose State University. He was inspired to rejoin the US Marines following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Feuquay describes his service as a financial management officer, including as comptroller of the First Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where he oversaw the management of the division’s funds and paying vendors in support of US military operations. Outside of his career in financial management, Feuquay talks about his experience as a marine assigned to an army civil affairs unit in Afghanistan. In this role, he led a program aimed at reintegrating insurgents back into society.

Feuquay says that he intends to focus his research at Hoover on how the United States can apply policies that the Reagan administration employed during the Cold War to current challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China. In particular, he is researching the relevance of White House National Security Directive 75 (1983), which defined US policy toward the Soviet Union on three principles: countering Soviet expansionism; promoting the process of change in the USSR toward a more pluralistic political system and open economy; and engaging the Soviet leadership in negotiations to protect and advance US interests.

Why did you join the US Marine Corps?

I decided to join on two different occasions. The first time was in 1991, right out of high school. I didn't have a lot of other options at the time. I knew at that point that I wasn't going to be successful in college. So, I decided to enlist in the Marine Corps and subsequently served four years. Upon completing my first enlistment, I left the service to pursue higher education. I attended San Jose State University, and it was there that I first realized how much the Marine Corps had changed me for the better. The Marines instilled a sense of discipline and a drive to succeed in me. Using the lessons I learned from the Marine Corps, I graduated from college after four years and searched for another career.

I took a few different jobs but struggled to find work that gave me a sense of purpose or made me feel like I was making a difference in society at large. Then, after the 9/11 attacks occurred, I felt a calling to immediately return to the Marine Corps. I was commissioned as an officer and haven’t looked back since.

Will you tell us about your educational background?

I studied criminal justice at San Jose State University. At the time, I was thinking about becoming a police officer. During my career in the Marines, I received a master’s degree in human resources management from Webster University. At the same time, I attended the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Can you describe your career arc as a financial management officer?

I started my career in the First Marine Division in Camp Pendleton, California, as the division’s budget officer. My job duties included managing unit funds, helping units get the funds they needed to accomplish their missions, and ensuring those funds were spent in accordance with fiscal regulations. I deployed to Iraq during that tour and closed out all military contracts following the initial invasion. In a military operation of that scale, a lot of money changes hands. For example, we purchased many different types of goods from vendors in Kuwait, and we had to make sure that they were paid in full and that these transactions were recorded in our books with complete transparency.

Following this tour, I went to the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot (MCRD) in San Diego, California, where marine recruits from west of the Mississippi River attend boot camp. My primary purpose at MCRD was to ensure that recruits received the proper training and that drill instructors abided by all appropriate safety rules and regulations. After a few cycles as a series commander, I became assistant director at the drill instructor school and taught all the incoming series commanders the rules and regulations of MCRD.

Following a year at drill instructor school, I spent another fifteen months at MCRD as a company commander, which meant I was overseeing two series (each company comprises two series of drill instructors and recruits). At any given time, I had 700 recruits under my charge. From there, I went to expeditionary warfare school in Quantico, Virginia.

After that, I joined the Third Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan, as deputy comptroller. The nature of this work was like my first deployment in Iraq: managing unit funds, competing for additional resources, making sure we were buying goods we needed in accordance with laws and regulations. During this tour, I filled an individual augment billet and deployed to Afghanistan. I ended up in Kabul with the Army's J9 civil affairs directorate. I was put in charge of the Afghanistan Reintegration Program, which essentially looked for ways to find job opportunities for working-age Afghans. Our thinking was that if Afghans were able to work and enjoy prosperity, they wouldn’t join the insurgency and try to topple the democratically elected government.

I worked closely with the State Department on that program. As we got it off the ground and started our initial projects, I redeployed to Okinawa. From there, I went to Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I then returned to work as a comptroller, first at Marine Corps Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, and then Second Marine Logistics Group at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Before coming to Hoover, my last job was as the commander of Financial Management School at Camp Johnson, a satellite camp of Camp Lejeune.

What will be your research focus at the Hoover Institution?

I am mainly focused on the China problem set. In my research, I recently discovered National Security Directive 75 (1983), the document that outlined the Reagan administration’s policy on the Soviet Union. As I read through that directive, I found that much of it could be applied in our competition with the People’s Republic of China.

In our competition with the Soviet Union, the Reagan administration leveraged not just America’s military advantages, but also diplomatic and economic strengths. In addition, we were able to communicate to the people living in the Soviet bloc that they could achieve greater freedoms and prosperity under a democratic form of government.

Currently, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has unexpectedly emerged as a formidable global threat. They have rapidly advanced in military and economic prowess and continue to work towards achieving what PRC President Xi Jinping terms the “China Dream.” This goal, if realized, would result in the PRC replacing the United States as the preeminent global power. The PRC has been aggressive en route to these ends. They have entered into contested territory disputes with neighboring nations, made significant advancements in military capabilities, installed their own brand of economic and technological preferences across the globe, and have sought to reshape international policy. US policy makers would do well to review the approach used by the Reagan administration to achieve such a decisive victory at the end of the Cold War. National Security Directive 75 (1983) demonstrates what a nation can accomplish if the various elements of national power come together in a synchronized manner.

Another area that I would like to focus on is retaining talent in the Marine Corps. Our current commandant has expressed the need for a more seasoned and well-trained force and retaining our best and brightest officers. I wanted to see if there may be insights on this topic that I can pull from the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Silicon Valley at large.

Is there anyone at the Hoover Institution that has made you think differently?

I am astounded at the professionalism exhibited by the fellows at the Hoover Institution. I would say that H. R. McMasterJim Mattis, and Elizabeth Economy have changed my perspectives on national security matters, especially as they relate to US competition with China.

I came to Hoover with an open mind and a willingness to hear from brilliant people. I am especially inspired by the level of research and analysis conducted by these fellows before they formulate an opinion.

I will give you an example. I came to Hoover with a tough stance against the People’s Republic of China. However, my outlook changed during one of our meetings led by Elizabeth Economy. She advocated that the United States not turn China into a boogeyman. Instead, we should focus on diplomatic engagement and not be aggressive out of the gate. Let’s avoid costly conflict and develop a functional and fair working relationship.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I find inspiration from family and the outstanding accomplishments of others. Having a beautiful wife and kids look to you for their needs is all the inspiration I need. I want nothing more than to make sure I live up to their expectations and set an excellent example for them to follow. I have always been able to find inspiration from my father. He is the most selfless and dedicated person I have ever known. I have always thought that I would be doing great if I could be half as good as he is. I also draw inspiration from great people accomplishing incredible feats. Whether highly successful service members, professional athletes, or individuals in the private sector, I am inspired by people who grind, give 100 percent to achieve their goals, and work their way to the top of their profession.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is achieving buy-in to your vision from colleagues and subordinates and accomplishing an established set of goals. Leadership is also selfless. It's letting the people who work for you understand that you care about what is in their best interests and that you wouldn’t ask them to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. Finally, leadership is about speaking the truth to someone who needs to raise their level of performance but then giving that person the proper instruction and tools they need to succeed.