News | Nov. 20, 2017

About the Contributors

Effective, Legitimate, Secure: Insights for Defense Institution Building

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Alejandro J. Alemán is the Central American and Caribbean Project Lead for the Defense Governance and Management Team and a Professor of Practice at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. He manages three ongoing Defense Institution Reform Initiatives in his assigned region, working with local ministries in defense and security sector reform. Alemán has an extensive, 20-year record working Latin American issues, including portfolios focused on intelligence, policy, and strategic planning at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and Combatant Command levels, and across the interagency. He personally participated as the Joint Staff representative in the White House discussions addressing a changing Cuba policy and the transformation of the U.S.-Venezuela relationship. Additionally, he has deployed intelligence operations command experience, as well as legislative affairs expertise. Alemán has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University, and is a retired USAF Colonel with 25 years of service.

Paul M. Bisca is a conflict analyst in the intersection of security and development. Bisca led a public expenditure review of citizen security institutions in Mexico and has worked on World Bank social development projects in Indonesia, El Salvador, and Rwanda, as well as on strategies and financing instruments to enable the quick deployment of World Bank assistance to countries affected by conflict, fragility, and violence. Bisca has also performed customized political risk analyses for firms specialized in business intelligence and corporate due diligence. He holds an MA in strategic studies and economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a BA in international studies from Macalester College.

Dennis Blair is the Chairman of the Board and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Sasakawa Peace foundation, USA. He serves as a member of the Energy Security Leadership Council; on the boards of Freedom House, the National Bureau of Asian Research, the National Committee on US-China Relations, and the Atlantic Council. From January 2009 to May 2010, as Director of National Intelligence, Blair led the sixteen national intelligence agencies. From 2003 to 2006, Blair was president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Defense Analyses. Prior to retiring from the Navy in 2002 after a 34-year career, Blair was the Commander in Chief of U.S. Pacific Command. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Blair earned a master’s degree in history and languages from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. 

Frank Boland was the Director of Force Planning in the NATO International Staff from 2003 to 2015. He headed a staff responsible for analysis of the defense efforts of all NATO Allies and NATO partner countries. Boland joined the UK Ministry of Defence in 1975 where he held a number of posts dealing with military and civilian personnel policy and management, air force equipment issues, naval operations, nuclear waste disposal and the management of naval bases. In 1988, he became the coordinator of the UK’s annual Statement of Defence Policy. Boland was seconded to the UK Diplomatic Service in 1992, following a six-month course at the NATO Defence College in Rome, and joined the United Kingdom Delegation to NATO where he was responsible for Alliance force planning matters and, later, the Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process. Upon his retirement in 2015, he was awarded the NATO Meritorious Service Medal and, for his work on defense transformation and defense cooperation, he has received decorations from the governments or armed forces of Albania, Armenia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Georgia, Latvia, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine. Boland was educated in London and at the University of Wales where he graduated in politics and history, subsequently undertaking research in American politics.

Michael Boomer spent over 35 years in the Canadian Forces as an Air Force Supply Officer, holding line and staff officer posts in various bases, wings, and headquarters. His work with NATO included Chairman of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Program’s Legal, Contracts, and Finance Committee. His command appointments included the National Support Squadron for Canada’s Operation Pivot mission in Haiti and Commander, Camp Mirage, as part of Canada’s Operation Apollo mission in Afghanistan and the Arabian Gulf. His final appointment in the Canadian Forces was Chief of Operational Support Transformation in the Canadian Operational Support Command. While there, he instituted several initiatives such as the Global Reach-Hub and Spoke Concept, which will provide Canada an enhanced means to support deployed forces throughout the world. During that time, he also assembled and led a team from NATO, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada that conceived, designed, and then delivered, in situ, a method for these nations to schedule and share their fixed wing intra-theatre airlift in Afghanistan. He holds an Honors BA from the University of Western Ontario and a master’s degree from the Royal Military College. His awards include the Order of Military Merit and the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.

David A. Cate is the Director for Defense Governance in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). He provides policy oversight and direction for U.S. Defense Institution Building programs, including the Defense Institution Reform Initiative, the Africa-focused Security Governance Initiative, the Ministry of Defense Advisors program, and the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies. Additionally, he provides policy oversight for other capacity-building programs, including the Wales Initiative Fund, the State Partnership Program, and the Department of Defense Regional Centers for Security Studies. His past positions in OSD Policy include Deputy Director for European Policy, Executive Secretary of the Iraq Foreign Military Sales Task Force, Deputy Director for Peacekeeping, and Deputy Director for Eurasia Regional Programs. In this latter position he directed the Cooperative Threat Reduction Defense and Military Contacts program. Cate has 26 years of military service in a wide variety of operational, staff, and educational assignments. As a naval aviator he deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf, and served as Program Manager for the EA-6B aircraft. His staff assignments include service as Senior Operations Officer in Central Command’s Coalition Coordination Center during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, and as Division Chief for Readiness and Resources in Pacific Command’s Operations Directorate. Cate was also an Associate Fellow in the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Strategic Studies Group, and served on the CNO’s Executive Panel staff. Cate has been awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. Cate earned a BA in accounting from Towson University, an MA in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College, and an MBA from Columbia University.

Julie E. Chalfin is the Chief of Staff for the Security Governance Initiative (SGI), an interagency initiative housed in the U.S. Department of State African Bureau in Washington. Chalfin coordinates efforts to align partner priorities with U.S. national interests, resources, and expertise. Her work currently focuses on security sector governance, and she has worked closely with African security forces to address security sector reform in post conflict environments, including South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Prior to her work in the Africa Bureau, Chalfin was an American Association for the Advancement of Science diplomacy fellow in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. Department of State. Before coming to the State Department, Chalfin worked at several international non-governmental organizations, including Save the Children, the Carter Center, and the International Rescue Committee, and as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethno-political Conflict. Chalfin earned her PhD in social psychology from Claremont Graduate University where she researched international conflict management. She graduated from National Defense University’s Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy in 2013 with a master’s degree in national resource strategy. 

Paul Clarke works on civil-military relations, security sector reform, defense institution building, and combating violent extremism projects. He has developed courses and managed programs on five continents focusing on governance and security issues in partner countries. As a program leader and facilitator, he has organized and led combating violent extremism conferences in South Asia; counterterrorism training in Central Asia; regional seminars to combat organized crime, gangs, and narco-traffickers in Central America; and civil-military programs in Africa. As a strategist, he led a team to help Guinea create its first national defense strategy and assisted in an effort to aid Bangladesh in crafting its first national counterterrorism strategy. He is currently working on Security Government Initiative programs in Niger and Tunisia. He served as an intelligence advisor on the National Security Council staff and later as Assistant Press Secretary for Foreign Affairs at the White House, including acting Deputy Press Secretary. As an active duty Air Force officer from 1987 to 2007, he served in intelligence and operational positions, where he supported numerous operations, culminating with a deployment to the Persian Gulf, supporting missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct professor at the Naval War College and an adjunct senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation. Clarke earned a PhD in public policy from Auburn University, an MPA in public administration from Harvard University, and a BA and MA in international relations from San Francisco State University

Thomas Davies is the Knowledge Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Governance and Management Team. He was previously Director of Knowledge and Standards; Regional Division Chief for the Middle East, North Africa, and Eurasia; Country Project Lead for Libya; and Resource Management Subject Matter Expert for the Defense Institution Reform Initiative. During his career as an officer in the United States Army, Davies was Senior Advisor to the Afghan Assistant Minister of Defense for Finance, Office of the Secretary of Defense Program Officer for the development of the Afghan Ministry of Interior’s Air Interdiction Unit, an initiating member of the Iraqi National Counterterror Force Transition Team, and imbedded at Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems business unit as part of the Army’s Training With Industry Program. He also served as Budget Officer for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command; Comptroller and Civilian Human Resources Chief for the 20th Support Command, program officer for the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2); Command Analyst for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment; Comptroller for Joint Task Force Bravo in Honduras; Joint Readiness Training Center Attack Aviation and Air Cavalry Observer Controller; Second Infantry Division Assistant Division Aviation Officer; as well as operational Aviation leadership positions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republic of Korea. He earned a BS in economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and an MBA from Syracuse University’s Army Comptrollership Program.

Dickie Davis is a Special Advisor at the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation and the Managing Director of Nant Enterprises Ltd. He served for 31 years in the British Army, reaching the rank of Major General. During his military career he served extensively on operations in Afghanistan; commanding the first UK Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e-Sharif, leading the ISAF Reconstruction and Development effort and as Chief of Staff of Regional Command (South). His last two Army appointments were as Director General of Army Recruiting and Training, and as Director General of Personnel. He is a Vice President of the Institution of Royal Engineers, Chairman of the Royal Engineers’ Museum, and is Honorary Colonel of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia). A civil engineering graduate, he holds a master’s degree in defense technology and is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.

Nadia Gerspacher is the Director of Security Sector Education at the Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding at the United States Institute of Peace. She has been working across the U.S. government at policy, planning, and implementation levels to develop guidelines, tools, and approaches for capacity-building efforts, mainly in the security sector. She contributed to the creation of the MODA, AFPAK, NATO, EU and other pre-deployment training program and has published widely on advising and capacity-building approaches and lessons. Gerspacher also has done extensive research on community policing, international police cooperation, and policing for countering violent extremism, and has developed and delivered police capacity-building instruction in the Middle East, North Africa and Afpak region. She serves on several working groups and joint curriculum development initiatives in the United States and Europe, and has published widely on police capacity building and cooperation. Gerspacher has a PhD in international relations and public policy.

Jeanne Giraldo was the founding program manager of the Defense Institution Reform Initiative (DIRI) from 2009 to 2015. In October 2015, when DIRI and the U.S. Department of Defense’s legacy WIF-DIB (Warsaw Initiative Fund-Defense Institution Building) program were consolidated under the Defense Governance and Management Team, Giraldo became the Knowledge Manager of the new entity. Prior to standing up and managing DIRI, Giraldo worked for a decade in the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. She designed and taught courses on over a dozen different topics including counterinsurgency, terrorism financing, drug control, comparative politics, research methods, Latin American government and politics, and Latin American security issues. She advised approximately 50 master’s theses on a wide range of topics. She was a founder and director of the Program for Drug Control Strategy and Policy, funded by the National Guard Bureau and attended by students from the Department of Defense and the interagency. She headed a project on fighting corruption in post-conflict settings for the Center for Stabilization and Reconstruction Studies at NPS and was a participant in the Latin America regional program of the Center for Civil-Military Relations. Giraldo earned her undergraduate degree in politics from Princeton University and a master’s degree in government from Harvard, where she also received her doctoral training.

Querine Hanlon is the founding President and Executive Director of the Strategic Capacity Group, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the ability of the United States and its partners to build strategic security sector capacity both at home and abroad. SCG assists donor countries to enhance the sustainability and impact of their foreign assistance, and recipient countries to deliver security appropriately, effectively, accountably, and in accordance with the rule of law. Hanlon previously served as a Special Advisor for Security Sector Initiatives at the Center for Middle East and Africa at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), where she led projects on North African Security and Justice Sector Reform and North African Border Security. Hanlon came to USIP in October 2011 as the inaugural National Defense University Fellow, a sabbatical appointment by the President of National Defense University (NDU). Previously, Hanlon served as dean of academic affairs at the College of International Security Affairs, where she was instrumental in designing the College’s post 9/11 focused security studies curriculum. During her tenure, she transformed the institution from a small university component to NDU’s newest degree-granting college and negotiated, funded, and implemented National Defense University’s first satellite campus at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, NC. Hanlon holds a doctorate and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.

Hugh F.T. Hoffman’s career in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) spanned over 45 years, where he served first as an Army officer and then as a senior executive in the civil service. Commissioned as an infantry officer in 1973, he served in a wide variety of positions over a 30-year career that included multiple infantry commands, tours as a strategic and operational planner, and direct service to two Chiefs of Staff of the Army. Retiring from the Army as a colonel in 2002, he entered the civil service, serving in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OSD) for Policy as a senior executive. During his service in OSD, he had responsibility for a variety of portfolios in the strategy, operational planning, and security cooperation realms. His early responsibilities included leading the development of three editions of the Department’s operational planning guidance, assisting the Secretary with reviewing over 65 combatant commander contingency plans, writing major sections of other strategic guidance and planning documents, leading DOD’s initial efforts to transform its contingency planning system (‘’Adaptive Planning”), serving as DOD’s first Building Partnership Capability Portfolio Manager, and representing OSD Policy on the Department’s Global Force Management Board. His later assignments included service as the Director of the Security Cooperation Reform Task Force. In Iraq, Hoffman served as the Director of the Partnership Strategy Group-Iraq, Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq. His last assignment in DOD was to the Defense Technology Security Administration where he served as the Deputy Director. Hoffman graduated from West Point in 1973. He holds master’s degrees from the University of Massachusetts and the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies. He is also a 1994 graduate of the Army War College. In 2000 he completed a fellowship at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. His military and civilian awards include the Army’s Distinguished Service Medal and the DOD Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service.

Jack D. Kem is the Associate Dean of Academics at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS. Prior to his current position, Kem deployed for two years as a member of the Senior Executive Service to Afghanistan as the Deputy to the Commander, NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan. His responsibilities included providing broad oversight of the program management of the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, serving on the U.S. Embassy’s Rule of Law Deputies’ Committee, providing oversight of the Afghan National Security Force Literacy Program, and spearheading the Human Rights and Gender Integration Initiatives for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Kem entered the U.S. Army in 1974 and retired as a Colonel in 1998, serving in a wide variety of key intelligence positions. His military education includes graduation from the Defense Language Institute (Turkish), Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, Military Intelligence Officer Advanced Course, Army Command and General Staff College, Air Command and Staff College, Joint Forces Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. Kem’s civilian education includes a BA from Western Kentucky University, an MPA from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a PhD from North Carolina State University. He has received the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Polish Armed Forces Gold Medal, the EUPOL–Afghanistan Gold Medal, and two awards of the U.S. Army Superior Civilian Service Award.

Alexandra Kerr is a Research Fellow at the National Defense University (NDU) in the Center for Complex Operations. Kerr leads NDU’s Defense Institution Building initiative, in addition to her research on security assistance and cooperation, irregular warfare, and the evolution of security in the 21st Century. Prior to joining NDU, she was Assistant Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). She joined CFR in 2012, managing projects and research on global multilateral cooperation, and went on to develop and manage CFR’s premier international initiative, the Council of Councils. Prior to joining CFR, Kerr held a fellowship in conflict mediation at the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva. During her studies she held several research positions, including in Oxford, the University of Saint Andrews, the political risk division of Lloyds of London, and the UN World Food Program in Rome. She holds an undergraduate and master’s degree in international relations from the University of Saint Andrews and a master’s degree in international conflict from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

Erik J. Leklem is a strategist, organizational designer, and Asian geopolitical risk expert. For over a decade, he has leveraged this expertise as a civil servant in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. He has served in overseas advising and defense institution building roles in Indonesia and Afghanistan, where he directed cross-cultural teams of defense advisors and capacity builders. Over his career, Erik has worked on homeland defense, strategy formulation, and Asia-Pacific security cooperation in a variety of roles in the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State. This has included analyzing maritime counterterrorism issues with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; interagency planning and technology experimentation at U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Pacific Command; and serving as a strategic advisor to the Deputy Secretary of State. Leklem is a frequent lecturer on national security issues at U.S. and international universities and war colleges, and has also served as an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University. He is a Truman National Security Fellow and a member of the U.S.-Japan Leadership Program Fellow’s Advisory Committee. Erik received his BA in political science and English from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree in international security and economic policy from the University of Maryland.

Henry “Chip” A. Leonard is a senior international/defense researcher at the RAND Corporation. He served for more than 27 years as an Army officer; half of that time was with tactical units, including seven years of direct command experience. In addition, he served in key operational staff positions at the battalion, brigade, division, and corps levels. He has served in Vietnam and in Germany. His experience in manpower analysis and operational and strategic planning includes tours with the Army staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff. Since joining RAND in 1998, Leonard has been involved with projects examining the Army’s manpower, unit training, leader development, training resource management, and officer and NCO career management programs. He recently led a study designed to help the Army develop a more comprehensive approach to assessing and articulating its overall strategic readiness. His current work includes defense institution building initiatives in Bosnia, Ukraine, Montenegro, Kosovo, the Republic of Georgia, and Macedonia, along with inventory projection modeling for several projects examining alternative manpower strategies. He recently completed work supporting the Office of the Secretary of Defense in their efforts to develop training strategies for the use of unmanned aircraft systems. He has a BS in engineering from the United States Military Academy, West Point, and an MPA in economics and public policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Michael Miklaucic is the Director of Research, Information and Publications at the Center for Complex Operations (CCO) at the National Defense University. He is also the Editor of PRISM, the journal of CCO. Prior to this assignment he served in various positions at the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State, including Chief Operating Officer for the USAID Office of Democracy and Governance, and Rule of Law Specialist in the Center for Democracy and Governance. From 2002 to 2003 he served as the Department of State Deputy for War Crimes Issues. He later returned to State as USAID representative on the Civilian Response Corps Inter-Agency Task Force. He studied at the University of California, the London School of Economics, and the School for Advanced International Studies. He is an adjunct professor of U.S. Foreign Policy at American University, and of Conflict and Development at George Mason University.

Gary J. Milante is Director of Studies for Peace and Development at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. His research has focused on the intersection of security and socio-economic development throughout his career as a researcher and policy advisor. From first principles based on theory of conflict and cooperation, to applied econometrics, statistical analysis, and modeling, Milante has concentrated on making the complex problems associated with sequencing of institutional reforms, development portfolio design, strategic planning, and needs assessment accessible to policymakers and practitioners in the field, with a special focus on the needs of fragile and conflict-affected states. Milante’s subject expertise includes development practice and policy, global indicators of security and development, defense economics, development impacts of peacekeeping, comprehensive approach/whole of government responses, security and development nexus, and fiscal and monetary policy in conflict and post-conflict countries. His regional expertise is in Africa (Horn and Central), the Middle East, and the Pacific. Milante received his PhD in economics from the University of California at Irvine.

Renanah Miles is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Columbia University. Her research interests are in the political economy of international security, with a focus on military transfers between states and the politics of power projection. Additionally, Miles is an adjunct researcher with the RAND Corporation, where she has worked on assessments of U.S. defense institution building in Africa. Prior to attending graduate school, she was a program analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Miles has written a number of articles and reports on post-conflict stabilization, basing politics, and coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. She holds an MPhil and an MA in Political Science from Columbia University, an MA in security studies from Georgetown University, and a BA in international community development from Oral Roberts University.

Robert M. Perito is the Executive Director of the Perito Group LLC, which advises governments on security sector reform (SSR). Formerly, Perito was the Director of the Center for Security Sector Governance at the United States Institute of Peace. He served on the Security Governance Initiative SSR mission to Niger, and advised the Syrian “Day After” Project and the United Nations Police. Perito was a Senior United States Foreign Service Officer with the State Department and served in the White House as Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. He led the Justice Department’s international police assistance program and was an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. He received a Presidential Meritorious Honor Award for government service. Perito is an adjunct professor at George Mason University and previously taught at Princeton and American University.

Juan Carlos Pinzón presented his Letters of Credence to the President of the United States on August 3, 2015. Most recently, Pinzón served as Minister of Defense of Colombia for nearly four years. Under his leadership, the Armed Forces dealt the most severe blows to terrorist organizationsFARC and ELNand Criminal Bands, highly degrading their capabilities, structure and leadership, which was critical to President Santos’ Peace Strategy. This resulted in improved security conditions throughout the country and the lowest homicide rate in 35 years. During his tenure, the Armed Forces’ equipment and training was modernized, the welfare of the men and women in uniform and their families was improved, and a transformation plan for the next 20 years was designed. Colombia also became an exporter of security expertise, aiding over 60 nations. Prior to serving as Defense Minister, Pinzón was Chief of Staff to President Juan Manuel Santos from 2010 to 2011, and Vice Minister of Defense from 2006 to 2009. In 2011 the World Economic Forum selected him as a Young Global Leader. He has also held positions as Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of the World Bank, Vice President of the Colombian Banking Association, Assistant Vice President of Investment Banking at Citibank, Private Secretary and Chief of Staff for the Ministry of Finance, and Economist for Colombia at Citigroup. Pinzón taught economics at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and the Universidad de Los Andes. He earned a BS in economics and holds an MS in economics from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, and a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University. Pinzón also completed advanced courses in international relations and strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, and in science and technology at Harvard University.

Thomas W. Ross, Jr. was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Security Cooperation from August 2014 to January 2017. As DASD he was responsible for prioritizing U.S. Department of Defense bilateral and multilateral security cooperation activities and aligning security cooperation resources to the defense strategy, as well as managing a suite of Defense Institution Building programs designed to strengthen capacities in partner-nation military and defense institutions. Ross joined the Defense Department after 12 years as a staff member in Congress. From 2009 to 2014, he served as Senior Intelligence and Defense Advisor to Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Majority Leader. From 2005 to 2009, he served on the staff of Rep. David Price of North Carolina. He served as Legislative Assistant and, subsequently, Legislative Director, advising Rep. Price on foreign affairs, defense, intelligence, and veterans' issues, and managing the Congressman’s legislative staff. He staffed Rep. Price's work as Chairman of the House Democracy Partnership, a congressional commission working to strengthen institutional capabilities of legislatures in developing democracies. Previously, he served as a policy analyst for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, where he supported the Democratic Caucus on national security policy and communications. He began his career as a research assistant for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Ross is a graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina, and holds an MA in theology and ethics from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He has completed the Air Force's Air Command and Staff College as well as a Certificate in Africa Intelligence Studies at the National Intelligence University.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a member of the Career Foreign Service and has served as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs since 2013. In this capacity, she leads the bureau of State focused on the development and management of U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to this appointment, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources from 2012 to 2013. Thomas-Greenfield’s 34-year Foreign Service career includes an ambassadorship to Liberia from 2008 to 2012, and foreign postings in Switzerland (at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. In addition to the Bureau of Human Resources, her Washington postings include the Bureau of African Affairs from 2006 to 2008, where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration from 2004 to 2006, where she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary. Thomas-Greenfield was the 2000 recipient of the Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Affairs in recognition of her work with refugees. She has received several Superior, Meritorious, and Performance awards, including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award. She was a 2010 inductee into the Louisiana State University Alumni Association Hall of Distinction. Prior to joining the Department of State, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield taught Political Science at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. She earned a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she also did work toward a doctorate.

George Topic is Vice Director of Joint and Strategic Logistics at Ft. Lesley J. McNair. His career as a military logistician and strategist spans almost 35 years, including service at many different levels within the U.S. Department of Defense. From 2006 to 2009, he served on the Joint Staff as the Deputy Director for Strategic Logistics where he was responsible for the strategic management of multinational, interagency, and NATO logistics, as well as information management, education and concept development programs. Topic received a commission in the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army in 1976 through the ROTC program at Claremont-McKenna College in California. His assignments included tours with 3rd Armored Division and 7th and 25th Infantry Divisions. He also commanded the 194th Maintenance Battalion at Camp Humphries, Korea. Topic has also served in a variety of staff positions including the Department of the Army Inspector General, the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command and the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics at the Headquarters of the Department of the Army. For his last four years on active duty, Topic served on the faculty of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces where he was director of the Strategic Logistics Program; his areas of special interest included Security Cooperation, Asian Regional Security Studies, Contractor Support to Military Operations, and Humanitarian Assistance. After retiring in 2005, he worked as a Director of Business Development for MPRI, a defense contractor. Topic earned master’s degrees in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology and national security studies from the Naval War College. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.