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Mr. Riki Ellison, MDAA Chairman and Founder, on Capitol Hill with the '24 SHIELD Cohort.

Our MDAA collaboration with the University of Southern California to create the SHIELD Executive Program has marked its third year and annual academic visit to Washington DC. We recently concluded a transformative in-residence session held at the new USC Washington, D.C. campus from January 25th through January 27th. The cohort SHIELD 24’, consisting of 25 aspiring senior leaders from the military, government, and innovation sectors, engaged in a dynamic exchange of ideas and insights during the three-day intensive program.

The program featured technology and policy-centric presentations by MDAA experts to include physicist professor from Cern University, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb, Lt General Steve Whitney of the US Space Force, congressional staff, and esteemed faculty from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and public policy-centric presentations by faculty from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. The focal point of this 8-month intensive initiative is the development of an extensive formal capstone paper and presentation. These 6 capstone projects merge practitioner usage and functionality with rigorous academic research, fostering a holistic understanding of the intersection between public policy and engineering in defense-related security.

One of the highlights of the in-residence session included two remarkable site visits. The first visit took the SHIELD cohort to the United States Capitol, where they received a comprehensive briefing on an innovative cost breaking technology missile defense system currently developed out of necessity and  deployed in a wartime environment. 

The second site visit occurred at the Pentagon, where capstone teams presented their cutting-edge research to senior Pentagon officials in areas such as hypersonic defense, IAMDs, allied space support, and on-orbit logistics. These high-impact capstone projects serve as crucial launch points for shaping military and civilian defense policy.

The USC SHIELD Executive Program, a joint initiative of the Price School of Public Policy and Viterbi School of Engineering, was developed in collaboration with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance in 2021.  This unique 8-month program addresses the critical intersection of public policy and engineering in defense security, bridging the gap between academia and real-world application.

For more information on the SHIELD Program: 

Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.