After 4 years of rapid growth, 2017 marks a major milestone for our network of defense innovators. Each day gives us a clearer vision for DEF in the future and we are excited to announce an array of updates for this year!

Annual Conference – We have 4 years of amazing memories from past conferences in Chicago, but it is time for a change of scenery. Comfort breeds complacency and stagnation. For 2017, our annual conference is moving to one of the hot beds of innovation – Austin, TX! We’re partnering with the Clements Center at the University of Texas to raise the bar for this year’s event. MARK YOUR CALENDAR: This year’s conference will be September 14-17th at the AT&T Center – an absolutely incredible space for our members and ideas to collide. Jen Walsh is leading this year’s planning team and we’ll have more details in June.

DEFx – One amazing measure of DEF’s impact is the growth of our DEFx program. When we first launched, we had 2 small satellite events. Now, new locations and more events than ever reflect the massive growth of the network and the value of the organization to our members. As a leadership team, our goal is to make it easier for each local team to plan and host their events by sharing the lessons and products from past events. We’re bringing back DC, Columbus, and Silicon Valley, while also expanding to Atlanta, Germany, and more. It has never been easier to host a DEFx, so connect with Matt (Archie) Archibald and get started!

Cloud Advisory – Thanks to the passion and hard work of Kelly McCoy, we are officially launching a program that enables DEF members from around the world to contribute their talent and expertise to help senior leaders solve real problems. What could be more empowering than that? Following successful projects with DoD, USNI, and Army Cyber, we are now continuing to grow this into a more effective method for connecting senior leaders to the talent, energy, ideas, and insights of the DEF membership. This is your chance for impact and we’ve already kicked off our latest project for the Defense Innovation Board.

Greenhouse – We’ve always been committed to supporting and showcasing the ideas from our members. Each year, our innovation competition has grown and the quality of projects is simply incredible. Now, we’re doubling down on our commitment. The Greenhouse is a year-long program to provide longer-term support to projects in an effort to create even greater impact. Chad Manifold hosted the innovation competition in 2016 and he is fired up about the ability to support our community of innovators even more.

Board of Directors: In 2015, DEF won the Veterans Take Point Initiative sponsored by the Atlantic Council. As you’ve witnessed over the last year, this incubation helped us to scale for even greater impact. Our inaugural board helped us greatly to better see ourselves and to understand how we can serve our members. This year, we are very proud to announce the team of leaders who share our dissatisfaction with the risk-averse status quo in the defense enterprise. LtGen. David Barno (USA, Ret.), Dan Chiu (former DASD for Strategy), Josh Marcuse (Executive Director of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board and founder of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy), Ben Kohlmann (DEF Founder and Board Chairman), Erin Simpson (former CEO of Caerus Asspciates), and Jackie Space (USAF veteran and partner at BMNT).

Since inception in 2012, DEF has been a grassroots, all-volunteer network, that has survived thanks to the tireless efforts of devoted members. After four years of growth, DEF is approaching the limits of a volunteer organization. To continue providing the exceptional quality of events, bring these new initiatives to fruition, and handle the increased administrative burden, we may need a paid staff member. We know this is a major endeavor. Our first step is to launch a crowd-funding campaign this spring. If you believe in DEF and if you see the value of inspiring, connecting, and empowering innovative defense professionals, then we need your help to reach our goal.

All of us on the leadership team are incredibly excited to serve our members in new or better ways this year. As the executive director, I am surrounded by a team of dedicated, passionate, and imaginative leaders who want to keep pushing DEF towards an even greater role in defense innovation. We are always eager to expand the team, so join us.

Jim Perkins
Executive Director, DEF

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