Todd Weiler Is an Advocate for Change

The former assistant secretary of defense led inclusion initiatives for transgender children of military families.

Todd Weiler Is an Advocate for Change

The former assistant secretary of defense led inclusion initiatives for transgender children of military families.

When Todd Weiler ’87 arrived on TCU’s campus from Midland, Texas, he was already committed to public service.

“My mother raised me to be very much into service to the nation, so that’s what drew me to the military,” said Weiler, a political science major who served four years in TCU’s Army ROTC program.

Todd Weiler standing next to a military helicopter.

Todd Weiler was an attack helicopter pilot for the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division in the U.S. Army. Courtesy of Todd Weiler

Commissioned into the U.S. Army following graduation, he trained as a Cobra attack helicopter pilot and served with the 101st Airborne Division, fighting in the Gulf War. Four years into his service, the Army began moving from the Cobra to the Apache. The decorated combat pilot had three options: retrain on the Apache and serve another six years, stay with the Cobra (and spend a lot of time in South Korea) or leave. “I had already been to war, so I had that checkmark. I decided I would get out and pursue my first dream, which was to become president of the United States,” he said with a laugh.

Driving back to Midland from Fort Campbell in Kentucky, he stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas, to talk to the staff of then-Gov. Bill Clinton about joining his presidential campaign. “They were very happy to have a combat veteran on board.”

From the Campaign Trail to the White House

Weiler spent most of the 1992 presidential campaign with Hillary Clinton’s team. After celebrating the Clinton victory, he returned to the Midland oil fields where he had been doing environmental consulting work. “I was sitting in my apartment and a friend from the campaign called and said, ‘Come to D.C. — we have a country to run.’ So I drove to D.C., and I’ve been here ever since.”

He joined the inauguration committee in late November 1992, as the new administration was beginning to staff agencies.

“A friend asked if I wanted to be White House liaison to the Pentagon. I asked, ‘What does that do?’ He said, ‘Basically you’re firing the Bush people and hiring the Clinton people,’ ” Weiler recalled. “The next thing I know, on Inauguration Day in 1993, I am standing in the secretary of defense’s office at the Pentagon as the new White House liaison to the Department of Defense. For the next six months I placed people in positions in the Pentagon and saved a little spot for myself as the deputy assistant secretary of the Army.”

Todd Weiler talks to a soldier in uniform.

Todd Weiler was the White House’s liaison to the Department of Defense under the Clinton administration. He was also the deputy assistant secretary of the Army. Courtesy of Todd Weiler

Among his proudest accomplishments was shoring up the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program to include resources to help soldiers without spouses take care of bills and household items when deployed.

Private Sector Pivot

Like many political staffers, Weiler planned to stay until the end of the administration, briefly delve into the private sector and then return at a higher level with the next administration. Republican presidential wins in 2000 and 2004 lengthened his private sector stint.

He spent the first couple of years as chief information officer and vice president of marketing at Communities in Schools in Alexandria, Virginia, strengthening the nonprofit’s technological capabilities, before shifting to the business world. He consulted with companies wanting to do business with the Pentagon and then joined two retired colonels as a partner and chief operating officer at Arrowpoint Corp., an Alexandria-based information systems and technology services company.

“I quickly found out that I knew how to grow a business. I took this company from $800,000 in annual revenue to close to $20 million in annual revenue,” he said. “As ’08 got closer, I just knew that Hillary was going to run. So I sold my part of the business and jumped whole body into her campaign.”

After Clinton didn’t end up on the presidential ticket, Weiler launched One Hemisphere Ventures in 2008.

“I melded the work I was doing with veterans and the work I was doing with technology and created the first social network for military adaptive sports,” he said. “It was a place where wounded warriors, their families and their caregivers could communicate and come together virtually. That was probably one of the most fulfilling jobs that I’ve had.”

Head shot of Todd Weiler with American flag in the background

Todd Weiler is a combat veteran, business owner, author and equity activist. Courtesy of Todd Weiler

Yet something was missing.

“I was still frustrated by the fact that I wanted to be in politics — that’s why I came to D.C. — and my husband said, ‘Why don’t you reach out to your friends in the Pentagon and see if there’s an opening?’ ”

Weiler called a woman he had worked with during the Clinton years and she said, “We need you back in the building.”

Accepting the role of assistant secretary of defense, Weiler was required to divest himself of all private sector work and closed One Hemisphere Ventures.

“The process started in 2015 and I was appointed in 2016 with the thought that Hillary was going to win,” he said. “If I was a little bit better at predicting, I wouldn’t have divested a company only to start another one a year later.”

One Year, Maximum Impact

After his Senate confirmation — “one of the most frightening things I’ve ever been through” — Weiler hit the ground running. “Even though I thought Hillary was going to be our next president, I still had the element of ‘but what if not’ hanging over me. So I was really looking at a one-year tenure to get as much done as I could.”

Among the priorities: fix retirement. The prior system required 20 years of military service to earn a retirement package. “In order to get to the 20-year mark in the officer corps, that means you’re going to be pretty much a lieutenant colonel. Well, there are a lot of gates that kick people out along the way,” he said. “We created a 401(k)-type program. Now, if you serve four years, you will have something in your retirement account.”

Bringing in his technology background, Weiler’s staff set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. “I am a firm believer that if you’re in public service, you need to be accessible.”

Todd Weiler walks in front of troops lined up

Under the Obama administration, Todd Weiler was the assistant secretary of defense (manpower and reserve affairs) in the Department of Defense. Courtesy of Todd Weiler

Through a Facebook message, he heard about a transgender child in a military family in Germany who was being forced to walk across an open campus to another building to use a faculty unisex restroom.

Weiler said he discovered other transgender military children were struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Life “was so horrific for them. So I implemented protections for transgender kids of military service members who were going to our Department of Defense schools all around the world.”

He also implemented a new transgender service policy. “I believe that if you want to serve and can meet the rigorous standards, then you should be able to serve,” he said. “That’s why I did the things that I did at a very rapid pace in one year. It’s about having a military that reflects the society it serves.”

Ron Keohane, who met Weiler on the 1992 campaign trail, said, “Todd is dedicated to defending the underdog.”

“We had the ability to impact and change inequities that were impacting our military and their families,” said Keohane, who has worked for Weiler in the public and private sectors. “His ability to understand and embody that our military and military families need to reflect society as a whole is one of the greatest things about working with Todd.”

Next Chapter

Weiler’s quiet fear of having just one year became his reality when Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. He leaned into his disappointment for about three months.

Cover of Untamed Equality: the New Frontier of Safety, Security and Inclusion by Todd Weiler '87. Self-published, 2020.

In 2020, Todd Weiler published Untamed Equality: The New Frontier of Safety, Security and Inclusion. Courtesy of Todd Weiler

Then he started building a business.

He launched Blue Rose Consulting Group Inc. with a focus on human capital services — such as helping downsizing organizations take better care of their people and military families transition to civilian life — and IT services for clients like the Department of Education, the Pentagon and other agencies, along with the civilian market.

“Todd has a unique ability to really understand and process complex challenges and quickly develop a comprehensive plan on how to address those issues,” said Keohane, now managing director at Blue Rose. “That is a very unique talent.”

In 2020, Weiler published his first book — Untamed Equality: The New Frontier of Safety, Security and Inclusion — with the foreword written by actor Sean Astin, another longtime friend met during the 1992 campaign. (Weiler is the godfather of one of Astin’s children.)

Todd Weiler and Sean Astin

Todd Weiler, left, and Sean Astin celebrated Weiler’s Department of Defense achievements. The two have been friends since the early ’90s. Courtesy of Todd Weiler

Weiler — who saved every letter he wrote and received during the Gulf War — said he wanted to pen a book since his soldier days, but struggled with starting and stopping. The current environment — where “people are so caught up in their sides” — inspired him to finish.

“The subject is really about moving beyond the talking and normal actions of equality to something different,” he said. “We aren’t waiting anymore. … Our organizations function stronger, our communities work better and our nation is stronger when everyone is treated equally and fairly.”