The USC SHIELD Executive Program ’24

MDAA is honored and excited to announce The USC SHIELD Executive Program ’24; Global Defense and Deterrence – Developing leaders in Policy, Space, and Technology for National Security. 

This is a joint program with the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy and Viterbi School of Engineering, and is an 8-month program designed to educate aspiring senior leaders from the military, government, and innovation technological communities about the intersection of public policy and engineering. It is designed to close the widening gap between theory and the practical application of National Security constructs, including new challenges from the burgeoning use of space for both civilian and military uses by the United States and its allies and adversaries.

“I need your help. We’re in a decisive decade, 10 year window that is our opportunity and necessity to tackle this era’s defining challenges. Look, we have government here, civilian and military. We have think tanks, we have academia, we have business, we have industry. So here’s what I respectfully ask you to help us go do. First, revise the theory of strategic deterrents. This is a long term effort that is going to take the best minds across government, academia and private industry. We have to grow the next generation of strategic deterrents thinkers to think about these problems.”

– Admiral Charles A. Richard | Commander, STRATCOM

The USC SHIELD Executive Program ’24 is led by USC’s renowned faculty in public policy and engineering, along with guest speakers from current and former senior defense officials, military leaders, and experts in defense policy, strategy, operations, and innovation. The program’s hybrid design leverages innovative technology and in-person sessions that fully prepare students to lead in the field. The capstone exercise, which will be presented during the final session in April 2024, will consist of group projects in which participants tackle some of the toughest problems facing government and military leaders in space and defense.

MDAA is led by Riki Ellison, a 1983 graduate of the USC School of International Relations and a recipient of a certificate in Defense and Strategic Studies at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Art and Sciences. Mr. Ellison was also presented the Scholar-Athlete Award of Honor by the David X. Marks Foundation. During his time at USC, he started at middle linebacker on the football teams that won the 1978 national championship and 1979 and 1980 Rose Bowls.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Should Apply?


Participants are drawn from a unique cadre of aspiring senior leaders from the military, government, industry, and innovation communities to develop the executive and leadership skills needed to grapple with today’s increasingly complex security environment. While each application will be reviewed and given careful consideration, the program is intended for executives and leaders with roughly 20 years experience in national security or defense, related to strategic deterrence or missile defense.

How Does the Hybrid Model Work?

The program will be conducted over the course of seven months from September 2023-April 2024, with a mix of in-person and online instruction two or three days per month.

Instruction will typically occur on Friday and Saturday to facilitate participation by working professionals. Two in-person sessions will be held on USC’s campus in Los Angeles, California to provide networking opportunities critical for professional development.

The capstone exercise of the course will consist of group projects in which participants will tackle some of the toughest problems facing government and military leaders in space and defense, and will be presented during the final session in April 2024.

SHIELD Alumni & Network

The SHIELD program has a robust network of alumni dedicated to advancing our nation’s national security through their roles in both the public and private sector. Some of our past SHIELD alumni have come from:

  • National Guard
  • Air National Guard
  • US Army
  • Space Force
  • United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM)
  • United States Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM)
  • MDA
  • Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and other industry partners

Program Schedule

Week 1: September 21 – 23, 2023 (USC Residency)

Thursday, September 21,  2023

  • 8:00am – Check In and Breakfast
  • 8:45am – USC and MDAA Program Welcome
  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Leading Complex Systems through collaboration and ecological organization – Peter Robertson, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
    • Workshop: Leading Complex Systems through collaboration and ecological organization – Peter Robertson, PhD
  • 5:00pm – Welcome Reception

Friday, September 22,  2023

  • 8:00am – Check In and Breakfast
  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Intercept 1961. From the First Intercept of a Long-Range
      Ballistic Missile to Soviet Missile and Space Defense – Mike Gruntman, PhD
  • 10:30am – Faculty Lecture
    • Leveraging Interactive Storytelling in Model-Based Systems Engineering: A Transdisciplinary Systems Engineering Approach – Azad Madni, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
    • The Engineering Life-Cycle, and Which Life-Cycle Stages are Most Influential On The Success of Missile Defense Projects – Neil Siegel, PhD
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion
  • 6:00pm: OPTIONAL – ‘Get to Know Your Cohort’ Dinner (not hosted)
    • El Cholo Restaurant: 1037 Flower St., Los Angeles, CA 90015 – MAP

Saturday, September 23,  2023

  • 9:00am – 2:00pm: Capstone Convergence & Teaming
    • Location: Ralph and Goldy Lewis Hall, RGL 101, 650 Childs Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089 – MAP
    • Past SHIELD alumni will be in attendance to help with capstone development

Week 2: October 20 – 21, 2023 (Online Interactive)

Friday, October 20, 2023

  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Collaboration Through Engagement: Processes and Practices for Effective Problem Solving – Tara Blanc, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
    • Workshop: Collaboration Through Engagement: Processes and Practices for Effective Problem Solving – Tara Blanc, PhD
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Saturday, October 21, 2023

  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Common Errors in Engineering Assessment, and How to Avoid Them – Neil Siegel, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
    • Big Data Management with Distributed Computing – Seon Ho Kim, PhD
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Week 3: November 16 – 18, 2023 (USC Residency)

  • Space Systems Command, El Segundo  – Site Visit Coordinated by MDAA

Thursday, November 16,  2023

  • 8:00am – Check In and Breakfast
  • 8:45am – USC and MDAA Program Welcome
  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Institutional Design and Policy Evaluation- Policy Design Concepts & Analytics – Rym Kaki, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
    • Gen Glen D. VanHerck (via zoom)
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
    • Inventive Thinking – Berok Khoshnevis, PhD
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Friday, November 17,  2023

  • 8:00am – Check In and Breakfast
  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Policy Formulation: Creating Credibility In A Set of Recommendations –  Neil Siegel, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Capstone Project Collaboration
    • This time is dedicated to working on capstone projects and requesting feedback
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Saturday, November 18,  2023

Vandenberg Air Force Base  – Site Visit Coordinated by MDAA

Week 4: January 25 – 27, 2024 (Washington D.C. Residency)

Thursday, January 25, 2024

  • 8:30am – Congress 2045 Rayburn Bldg
  • 1:00pm – Pentagon 1E744A Air Force Briefing Center (Check in to the Pentagon visitor center at 12:30pm)
    • Hon John Plumb, Major General Whitney, Alexia Borkowski, and Mike Songer as guest speakers

Friday, January 26, 2024 

  • 8:00am – Check In and Breakfast
  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • AI-Enabled MDO & JADC2: Securing Through Autonomy – Randy Hill, PhD and Ryan McAlinden, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
    • Potential of in-space 3D printing for constructive cleanup of orbital debris – Berok Khoshnevis, PhD
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Saturday, January 27, 2024

  • 8:00am – Check In and Breakfast
  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Capstone Review – Frank Zerunyan, JD & Michael Falkow
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – MDAA Expert Panel
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Week 5: February 23 – 24, 2024 (Online Interactive)

Friday, February 23, 2024

  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Organizational Behavior and Survey Design – Howard Greenwald, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
    • Maj. General Nicholas Gentile
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
    • Team-Building, Motivation, and Conflict Management on Complex Engineering Projects – Neil Siegel, PhD
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Saturday, February 24, 2024

  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Case Studies in Space, Air Defense, and Missile Defense – Neil Siegel, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
    • LTG (ret.) Neil Thurgood guest speaker
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Week 6: March 22 – 23, 2024 (Online Interactive)

Friday, March 22, 2024 

  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Decision analysis, risk analysis, multi-attribute utility theory, information theory, Bayesian analysis, and data-based decision making – Ali Abbas, PhD
  • 12:30pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Lunch
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
    • Workshop: Decision analysis, risk analysis, multi-attribute utility theory, information theory, Bayesian analysis, and data-based decision making – Ali Abbas, PhD
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Saturday, March 23, 2024 

  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Risk and opportunity management for complex engineering projects – Neil Siegel, PhD
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Faculty Lecture
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Week 7: April 25 – 27, 2024 (USC Residency)

Thursday, April 25, 2024

  • Site visit coordinated  by MDAA

Friday, April 26, 2024

  • 8:00am – Check In and Breakfast
  • 9:00am – Faculty Lecture
    • Emerging Digital Technologies – Neil Siegel
  • 12:00pm – Lunch Forum
  • 1:30pm – Break
  • 2:00pm – Capstone Project Collaboration
  • 5:00pm – Conclusion

Saturday, April 27, 2024 

  • 8:30am – Breakfast
  • 9:00am – Capstone Introduction and Presentations
  • 12:30pm – Lunch Forum
  • 2:00pm – Capstone Presentations
  • 5:30pm – Certificate Ceremony

For additional assistance, please contact info@missiledefenseadvocacy.org

Guest Speakers