October 7-9, 2016 | University of Chicago Booth School of Business | Chicago, IL

Our annual three-day conference was simply unlike anything else. Unlike traditional conferences, our participants are the focus and their ideas take center stage. We mix together plenary talks, exciting hack-a-thon workshops, and transformative discovery activities to inspire, connect, and empower a new generation of innovative defense leaders.

Leading DEF2016 were Max Brown, Suneal Chandran, and Jen Walsh and DEF2016 was an absolutely success thanks to their relentless creativity and problem solving.  The quantity and quality of plenary DEF Talks from emerging leaders is simply extraordinary: Chris O’Keefe, Morgan Plummer, Kevin Kenny, Jon Gillis, Kristen Hajduk, Tyson Weinert, Miriam Krieger, and Ryan Evans all demonstrated the passion and inspiration that draw participants to DEF events. Building on DEF2015, our consultancies for the Air Force, MOAA, and the Army Cyber Institute offered three one-of-a-kind opportunities for DEF participants to have impact. And, of course, the weekend closed with our perennial innovation competition hosted at The Bunker Labs. Chad Manifold ran the entire competition from soliciting pitches to narrowing the list from over 30 to just 10 finalists until Jason Ray and Sightline Maps took home the top prize.

Peter Barkley, USN – Winner of the DEF2015 Innovation Competition


  • Graham Plaster – Panel Moderator
  • Cory Harrison, Defense Digital Services
  • Lauren Schmidt, DIUx
  • Josh Marcuse, DoD
  • LtGen. Michael Dana, USMC: Innovating within the Marine Corps
  • Matthew Von Ertfelda, Vice President & Global Team Lead, Insight, Strategy and Innovation Team, Marriott – Keynote: Leading Intrapreneurship
  • Steven Koltai, Brookings, author of Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Creating a Startup Culture for Development and Security

Friday Breakout Sessions

  • Peter Newell, BMNT Partners (USA, Ret.) – Applying Lean to the DoD
  • Josh Pavluk and Bret Perry, Avascent – Leading Organizational Change
  • Bryan Shu and Mike Michalak – Raspberry Pi
  • Rich Walsh and John Hawley, USN – High Velocity Learning
  • Tyson Weinert, Luma Institute (USCG, Ret.) – Design Thinking

Plus our annual pitch competition

Thanks to DEF2016’s Gold Sponsors

The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the Atlantic Community’s central role in meeting global challenges. The Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic economic and political changes defining the twenty-first century by informing and galvanizing its uniquely influential network of global leaders. Through the papers we write, the ideas we generate, and the communities we build, the Council shapes policy choices and strategies to create a more secure and prosperous world.

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation advances the knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship and innovation through a broad range of activities, including academics, research, conferences, competitions, and global and community outreach. The Polsky Center is the foremost resource for University of Chicago students and alumni as they pursue entrepreneurial endeavors and private equity careers.

The Pearson Institute and the Harris School of Public Policy, fill a critical gap in identifying new strategies rooted in innovative, data-driven research approaches that transform how we understand and reduce global conflicts. Its mission advances three main areas: (1) research to understand, prevent and resolve violent conflicts; (2) engagement by annually convening the international policy and academic community to recognize new data-driven approaches to policies that reduce global conflicts; and (3) education for the next generation of scholars and practitioners through new courses and programs, all designed to help resolve conflicts and inform more effective policies.

Founded one year ago, the Institute has named its first Academic Director, James Robinson, appointed new faculty members, and welcomed its first class of fellows this fall. The Institute continues to grow, develop partnerships, and connect with defense innovators. Person is excited to support the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, and to share ideas about how we create more effective defense policy and organizations. Pearson is like a startup, refining its position in the policy marketplace, and learning how they can make the greatest impact.