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

For additional assistance, please contact info@missiledefenseadvocacy.org

Academics and Innovation