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Course Team

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Steve Blank

Steve Blank is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering (MS&E). He teaches courses on Lean Startups, innovation, entrepreneurship, defense, and international policy.

Blank served four years in the U.S. Air Force, was part of/co-founded 8 startups and is considered the father of modern entrepreneurship, Blank’s book The Four Steps to the Epiphany launched the Lean Startup movement.

His Lean LaunchPad class ENGR 245 was adopted by the National Science Foundation to become the NSF I-Corps, now taught in 98 colleges and universities. 

His Hacking for Defense class MS&E 297 (co-authored with Joe Felter and Pete Newell) was adopted by the Department of Defense and is now taught in 40 universities. 

His talk, The Secret History of Silicon Valley is the canonical history of how the DOD and intelligence community helped start Stanford's and Silicon Valley's innovation ecosystem. 

He blogs regularly at

Joe Felter

Joe Felter is a William J. Perry Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and research fellow at the Hoover Institution. From 2017 to 2019, Felter served as US deputy assistant secretary of defense for South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. There he was the principal advisor for all policy matters pertaining to development and implementation of defense strategies and plans in the region and responsible for managing bilateral security relationships and guiding Department of Defense (DoD) engagement with multilateral institutions.  

At Stanford, Felter is codirector of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project and coauthor of Hacking for Defense, a defense innovation­–focused academic curriculum sponsored by the DoD and taught at more than 20 universities across the country. His previous academic positions include director of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, assistant professor in the US Military Academy’s Department of Social Sciences, and adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs. His research focuses on addressing politically motivated violence and has appeared in the American Economic ReviewJournal of Political EconomyJournal of Development EconomicsJournal of Conflict Resolution, and a range of other academic and policy-focused publications.  He is coauthor of Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution and Modern Conflict (Princeton University Press, 2018). 

A former US Army Special Forces and Foreign Area officer, Joe served in a variety of special operations and diplomatic assignments across East and Southeast Asia. His combat deployments include Panama with the 75th Ranger Regiment, Iraq with a Joint Special Operations Task Force, and Afghanistan, where he commanded the COMISAF Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, reporting directly to Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.

He received a BS from the US Military Academy at West Point, a masters in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a graduate certificate in management from the University of West Australia, and a PhD in political science from Stanford University.

Raj Shah

Raj Shah is a technology entrepreneur and investor. Most recently he was the Managing Partner of the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense. Raj led DIUx in its efforts to strengthen our Armed Forces through contractual and cultural bridges between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon. Previously he was senior director of strategy at Palo Alto Networks, which acquired Morta Security, where he was CEO and Co-Founder. He began his business career as a consultant with McKinsey & Co. Raj serves as an F-16 pilot in the Air National Guard and has completed multiple combat tours. He holds an AB from Princeton University and an MBA from The Wharton School.

Military Liaisons

Military Liaison

LTC Jim Wiese

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Wiese, representing the U.S. Army, is a National Security Affairs Fellow for academic year 2020-21 at the Hoover Institution

Lieutenant Colonel Wiese was commissioned as an infantry officer in 2002.  In his first eight years of service, he led an air assault infantry platoon during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and later an airborne infantry company deployed along the Afghanistan / Pakistan border.  Between those deployments, Lieutenant Colonel Wiese served as a senior trainer for new infantry lieutenants, preparing them for service as combat platoon leaders.

Since 2010, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Wiese has served in the Special Operations community in a number of leadership positions with deployments to Afghanistan, Germany, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria.  Lieutenant Colonel Wiese has extensive experience in counterterrorism operations and has traveled throughout the Middle East.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Wiese earned a BA in Biological Sciences from Clemson University and a MA in Strategic Security Studies through the Joint Special Operations Master of Arts Program from the National Defense University.

Military Liaison

LTC Eldridge Singleton

Lieutenant Colonel Eldridge “Raj” Singleton, representing the U.S. Army, is a National Security Affairs Fellow for academic year 2020-21 at the Hoover Institution researching strategies to safeguard U.S. interests in the Pacific Islands.

Lieutenant Colonel Singleton studied at the United States Military Academy, San Diego State University (SDSU), and Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. In recent years, he lectured at SDSU and the University of Michigan. 

Lieutenant Colonel Singleton is a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) who served at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command as Chief of FAO Assignments Branch; in U.S. embassies as the Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché to Belize, Interim Senior Defense Attaché to Jamaica, Army Attaché to Bolivia, and Security Cooperation Officer in Haiti; and in multiple combat roles in Iraq as a Special Forces and Infantry Officer. 

Upon completion of his fellowship, Lieutenant Colonel Singleton will serve in DoD international relations positions focused on interagency and multinational collaboration.

Military Liaison

Chase Beamer

Chase Beamer, representing the U.S. Department of State, is a National Security Affairs Fellow for the academic year 2020–21 at the Hoover Institution.

Chase Beamer is a career Foreign Service Officer specializing in Public Diplomacy. Born and raised in Ohio, he holds a BA in economics and history from Denison University.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, West Africa, working with rural communities to enhance their water and sanitation resources.  After completing his Peace Corps assignment, he worked as a Program Officer for the U.S. State Department funded “Hubert H. Humphrey” scholarship program for mid-career professionals at the Institute of International Education in Washington, D.C.  He entered the Foreign Service on September 10, 2001. He has served as the Political-Military Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, the Deputy Spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Poland, the Deputy Spokesman of the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs in Washington, D.C., the Spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Slovakia, the Digital Media Coordinator of the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs in Washington, D.C., and the Spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia prior to assuming his current role as Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic.  He is the recipient of numerous Department of State awards for performance.

Military Liaison

Lt Col Denny R. Davies

Lieutenant Colonel Denny R. Davies, representing the U.S. Air Force, is a National Security Affairs Fellow for the academic year 2020–21 at the Hoover Institution.

Lieutenant Colonel Davies, is a C-130 command pilot and former squadron commander, having served in United States Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces, Air Mobility Command, Headquarters Air Force, United States Indo-Pacific Command, and the Joint Staff.  He deployed to Southwest Asia six times in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Originally from Sarasota, Florida, Lieutenant Colonel Davies graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Management.  He also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Oklahoma and a Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University in Washington, DC.  Most recently, he served as the Deputy Executive Assistant to the Commander, United States Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip S. Davidson.

Military Liaison

Lt Col Kenneth J. del Mazo

Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth J. del Mazo, representing the U.S. Marine Corps, is a National Security Affairs Fellow for the academic year 2020–21 at the Hoover Institution.

Del Mazo served in a variety of command and support roles throughout his 19-year career as an artillery Marine. As a lieutenant, he deployed to the Pacific as a fire direction officer and platoon commander in the 2d Marine Division, and subsequently to the Al Anbar Province, Iraq as a battery executive officer.  As a captain, he served as an artillery instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma before commanding a battery conducting combat operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, once again with the 2d Marine Division. As a major, he commanded Marine recruiters throughout South Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He concluded his tenure as a major serving as an operational planner with U.S. Marine Forces, South, focusing on crisis response in the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as integration with the Colombian Marine Corps. 

As a lieutenant colonel, del Mazo commanded 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, an artillery battalion in the 1st Marine Division. 

He earned an undergraduate degree in political science from the United States Naval Academy, a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma, and a Master of Operational Studies from Marine Corps University’s School of Advanced Warfighting.  

Lieutenant Colonel del Mazo’s research at Hoover will focus on rising threats to U.S. national security, and the Marine Corps’ plan to optimize itself to meet those threats.

Military Liaison

Lt Col Steven Skipper

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Skipper, representing the US Air Force, is a National Security Affairs Fellow for the academic year 2020–21 at the Hoover Institution.

Lieutenant Colonel Skipper leads force development and career management activities for all non-rated Air Force officers and enlisted personnel.  

Prior to this assignment, he commanded the 5th Communications Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, supporting B-52 bomber and intercontinental ballistic missions.  Lieutenant Colonel Skipper’s second command tour consisted of leading the 380th Expeditionary Communications Squadron in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and Combined Task Force Horn of Africa.  His staff experiences include an Air Staff tour at the Pentagon and a Pacific Air Forces assignment, where he deployed to Japan to support post-tsunami relief activities.  As a career broadening opportunity, Lieutenant Colonel Skipper served as an Air Force One mission director for President George Bush and President Barack Obama.          

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Master of Science degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas.  

As a fellow at Hoover, his research will focus on cyberspace security and national defense.

Military Liaison

CDR John “Jack” Souders

Commander John “Jack” Souders, representing the U.S. Coast Guard, is a National Security Affairs Fellow for the academic year 2020–21 at the Hoover Institution.

Commander Souders is a Coast Guard officer specializing in emergency response and law enforcement operations as an MH-65 helicopter pilot.  During his 18-year career, he served in a variety of afloat and aviation command and staff positions conducting operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.  He has disrupted transnational criminal organizations at sea, flown post-hurricane search and rescue missions, and protected the National Capitol Region Flight Restricted Zone as a Rotary Wing Air Intercept pilot.  Commander Souders comes to the Hoover Institution from the United States Senate, where he served as Chief of the USCG Senate Liaison Office, responsible for developing and executing the Service’s legislative strategy.  He earned his military commission from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where he also earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and holds a Master of Science in Aeronautical Safety from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Military Liaison

CDR Jeffrey Vanak

Commander Jeffrey Vanak, representing the U.S. Navy, is a National Security Affairs Fellow for the academic year 2020–21 at the Hoover Institution.

Commander Vanak is an intelligence officer who has served in multiple operational assignments that included deployments to Afghanistan, East Africa, Iraq, and embarked aboard USS Eisenhower (CVN 69).  His staff assignments include Special Operations Command, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO)-Intelligence Plot at the Pentagon, and the CNO Strategic Studies Group where he developed future Navy concepts for Human-Machine Teaming.  Most recently, he served at U.S. Pacific Fleet, providing intelligence and planning support focused on warfighting and Great Power Competition in the Indo-Pacific.

Commander Vanak graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2005 with a degree in Economics and earned his master’s from the U.S. Naval War College in 2017, where he was named Honor Graduate.  In 2012, he was named the Office of Naval Intelligence Junior Officer of the Year.

As a fellow at Hoover, his research will focus on Great Power Competition in the Indo-Pacific with a focus on China.

Course Development Team

Course Developer

Andrew Powell

Andrew co-founded and serves as CEO of Learn to Win, a learning technology company supporting defense, professional sports, and other high-performance settings. He graduated with an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2020, where he participated in the Hacking4Defense program, and has spent a decade working on education innovation.

Andrew is passionate about using technology and learning experience design to address the world’s biggest needs.


Teaching Assistant

Foster Karmon

Foster is a senior at Stanford studying Science, Technology, and Society where he is also a member of the varsity wrestling team. He was part of the 2019 Hacking4Defense cohort. Foster has experience working in trusted distributed computing and will be starting his professional career as an investment banking analyst upon graduation. 

National Security and Defense courses have been a foundational part of Foster’s Stanford experience, and he is committed to bridging the civil-military technology gap.


Course Development Team

Eric Volmar

Eric is a Stanford PhD candidate studying strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship. He explores how mental models enable (and constrain) success in mission-based organizations.

He is interested in applying principles of tech entrepreneurship to the context of national security.


Teaching Assistant

Nikita-Girey Nechvet Demir

Nikita is currently finishing his masters at Stanford University in Computer Science with a focus on Artificial Intelligence.

Nikita is fascinated by interactions across channels between Silicon Valley and the Defense industry.


Course Development Team

Mrinal Menon

Mrinal is a 2nd year MBA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a former Naval Officer and prior management/strategy consultant. He has held growth/strategy roles at a number of startups working to bring innovative solutions to the DoD.

Mrinal’s operational experience in the INDOPACOM AOR and efforts in the private sector have motivated him to ensure that American military personnel are properly equipped to confront the challenges of the future.


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Course Development Team

Theo Valaise

Theo is an undergraduate studying Bioengineering and Mandarin. He took Hacking for Defense in 2020, where he worked with SOCOM Pacific on building a maritime domain awareness tool for the South China Sea. He recently completed Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course Juniors in Quantico, VA and plans on commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the USMC after graduation. 

Theo is passionate about bridging together innovations in the private sector with national security and is motivated to grow national service opportunities for university students. 


Course Development Team

Katie Jonsson

Katie is an undergraduate studying International Relations. She currently works at a defense technology start-up and conducts research on influence operations at Stanford.

Katie is eager to help students explore the intersection of developing technologies and the nation’s most pressing security challenges. 


Course Development Team

Philip James Stiefel

Phil graduated from the Naval Academy in 2010 and spent 8 years on active duty before coming to Stanford to study law and business.  He took Hacking4Defense in 2019, where his team won the annual competition at Founders Fund, sourced two Phase II SBIRs, and became the first H4D team to transition a project to a program of record.

Economic power is foundational to military power, but the quantitative reality is that the US cannot continue to rely on its ability to outspend its competitors.  The DoD knows that it needs to change, but this course helps think through how it needs to change.


Course Development Team

Abhay Singhal

Abhay is an undergraduate studying Computer Science and Mathematics at Stanford. After working with the JAIC in Hacking4Defense in 2020, he co-founded and is CTO of a navigation startup developing vision-based solutions for localization in GPS-denied environments.

Abhay is passionate about promoting and developing innovative technologies in the context of public service.