The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization’s (AHI) highly acclaimed two-week Washington Program on National Security (WAPONS) has successfully concluded.

A one-of-a-kind learning experience since 2015, the Washington Program on National Security (WAPONS) held its seventh session from June 21-30. For the past two years, the program was made possible by a generous fund from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, a donor devoted to education, leadership training, American history and civics, and national security. We are deeply grateful to Diana Davis Spencer, DDS Chairman and President, and CEO Abby Moffat.

This highly popular program aims to prepare promising and motivated college students from throughout the United States for the challenges of a rapidly changing global environment by offering them an opportunity to engage with some of the best thinkers on and practitioners in the field of national security. This year there were fifteen participants from 14 universities.

The program has always been highly anticipated and well received by participants. But this last seems to have been especially appreciated. One attendee articulated what most of them conveyed as well: “Had it not been for this program, I would not have found that same sense of purpose that I now feel the need to fulfill. In the days since our departure from your program, I have found myself talking with family and friends to explore a number of options to advance that purpose. I could go on and on about the personal impression this program has left on me, but I’ll spare you the reading. That said, I hope you will be assured that what you’re doing with WAPONS empowers young conservatively minded people, like myself, to equip themselves with the necessary knowledge to advocate for what they believe in. Thank you for the honor in meeting and working with you in such a wonderful experience.”

Since its inception, WAPONS has been directed by AHI Senior Fellow Dr. Juliana Geran Pilon, author of several books, including The Utopian Conceit and the War on Freedom (2019) and The Art of Peace: Engaging a Complex World (2016). When commenting on this year’s program Dr. Pilon said “The students were as receptive and well-prepared this year as the speakers were engaging. The agenda was a packed cornucopia of national security information, and our group met with an amazing array of speakers. We visited many organizations, including the Hudson Institute, The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, The Heritage Institute, the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), among others. The students were also invited to attend the 2023 National Security Symposium on the Legal, Practical, and Policy Implications of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict organized by the Federalist Society. In sum, the group had a fantastic time together in D.C. as they shared knowledge, key learnings, stories, and their goals for the future.

Dr. Pilon’s The Art of Peace was used by the students as background material in addition to a lengthy reading list, mostly by authors whom the students subsequently meet during the program. Endorsed by Generals H. R. McMaster and Jim Mattis, the book’s preface was written by Michael R. Eastman, now a retired Brigadier General and Executive Director of the ETS Sponsorship Program, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit corporation dedicated to assisting active duty service members of all branches in their transition from military to civilian life.

A regular WAPONS speaker, Gen. Eastman is an engaging speaker whose warmth, candor, and genuine interest in the students always shines through. His experience is astonishing. Before retiring in 2021, he was Commanding General of Train, Advise, and Assist Command (South) in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Commanding General, 10th Mountain Division, Director of Joint Force Development and Design on the Joint Staff, and Director of the National Military Command Center. Prior positions included: Director of the Army Futures Command Development Team, Chief of Staff of the Army Senior Fellow, and Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army. Serving simultaneously as Deputy Brigade Commander for Civil Capacity, he coordinating all military participation in economic, political, and civil reconstruction operations across 4 southern Iraqi provinces, while as Commander of an 1800-Soldier Field Artillery Brigade deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield, he was responsible for all aspects of training, operations, logistics, and leader development while providing command and control over multiple elements deployed across the Middle East. His many awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and Bronze Star.

In fact, virtually all the experts are world-renowned. Among them:

  • Ilan Berman, LLD – Senior Vice President, American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC. An expert on regional security in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation, he has consulted for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency as well as the U.S. Departments of State and Defense and has also provided assistance on foreign policy and national security issues to a range of governmental agencies and congressional offices. He has been called one of America’s “leading experts on the Middle East and Iran” by CNN. A member of the Associated Faculty at Missouri State University’s Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, he is a frequent writer and commentator, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post and USA Today, among many other publications. Mr. Berman is the editor of six books: Dismantling Tyranny: Transitioning Beyond Totalitarian Regimes (2005), co-edited with J. Michael Waller; Taking on Tehran: Strategies for Confronting the Islamic Republic (2007); Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America (2015), co-edited with Joseph Humire; The Logic of Irregular War: Asymmetry and America’s Adversaries (2017); Digital Dictators: Media, Authoritarianism, and America’s New Challenge (2018); and, most recently, Wars of Ideas: Theology, Interpretation and Power in the Muslim World (2021).​
  • Murray Bessette, PhD – Vice President of Education, Common Sense Society; former Director of Academic Programs, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Dr. Bessette oversees its international fellowships and professional development programs, directs its middle school and high school curricular initiatives, and plans the programming for its academic events. In his eighteen years in the academic and non-profits sectors, Dr. Bessette has edited or authored numerous books, chapters, articles, and reviews; organized and presented at dozens of international and national conferences and panels; and co-directed more than $3 million in U.S. federal grants. He was previously an associate professor at Morehead State University and Director of Academic Programs at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He was also a Lincoln Fellow of the Claremont Institute, an academic fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the co-director of the Bluegrass State Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence, president of the Kentucky Political Science Association, and an academic advisory board member of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions. Dr. Bessette earned a Ph.D. in political science and an M.A. in American government from Claremont Graduate University and an M.A. and B.A. in political science from the University of Alberta.
  • Matthew Boyse – Adjunct Fellow, Hudson Institute’s Center on Europe and Eurasia specializing in Central Europe. He is also an adjunct lecturer at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the George Washington University, and American University. A former Senior Foreign Service Officer, Mr. Boyse as Deputy Assistant Secretary overseeing policy towards Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. He also oversees the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues. Mr. Boyse joined the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs in September 2018 after serving as Acting Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs in Ottawa, Canada from 2015 until 2018. Mr. Boyse has had three assignments in Germany – as Political Advisor to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Consul General in Duesseldorf, and at Embassy Berlin. His other overseas tours were Kabul, Afghanistan; New Delhi, India; Warsaw, Poland; Moscow, Russia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and London, United Kingdom. In Washington, he was Deputy Director in the Office of European Union and Regional Affairs and Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs. Before joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Boyse worked at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, both in Germany.​
  • Stephen Bryen, PhD – Senior Fellow at the Yorktown Institute, the Center for Security Policy and the American Center for Democracy. He is a Senior Fellow and Board Member of Il Nodo di Gordio (The Gordian Knot), a major Italian think tank focused on geopolitics, and of the Taiwan Institute for Economic, Social and Political Studies. He has 50 years of experience in academia, government, and industry. He has served as an Assistant Professor of Government at Lehigh University, as Senior Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as the head of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, as the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Trade Security Policy, as the founder and first director of the Defense Technology Security Administration, as the President of Delta Tech Inc., as the President of Finmeccanica North America (now Leonardo), and as a Commissioner of the U.S. China Security Review Commission. Dr. Bryen was the founder of the Defense Technology Security Administration and served as a Deputy under Secretary of Defense and Director of DTSA during both Reagan administrations.  He led the Defense Department’s efforts to halt the hemorrhage of western technology to the Soviet Union and China. He was the Pentagon’s spokesperson on technology security and led the Department’s efforts in Paris at COCOM and in other fora.  He played a major role in halting the transfer of sensitive technology to Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya and was the principal player in establishing cooperative agreements with allied and friendly countries on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).​
  • Josh Carter – Military Legislative Assistant to Senator John Hoeven. Previously he was the Minority Staff Director, Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Josh first came to Washington from his native Kansas to serve on Senator Sam Brownback’s staff from 2003 to 2004, then returned from 2006 to 2011, first as National Security Advisor/Legislative Assistant and later as Legislative Director. In the interim two years, from 2005-2006, he was a Foreign Affairs Specialist in Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he developed and coordinated briefings on Iraq policy for the Secretary of Defense and senior DoD leaders. The previous year, from 2004 – 2005, as Legislative Affairs Coordinator Iraq Project and Contracting Office, he briefed Congressional offices on Iraq reconstruction strategy and contracting process. He holds an MA in International Affairs from American University and the U.S. Naval War College.​
  • Victoria Coates – Vice President of Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, Heritage Foundation; former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Communications, NSC. Victoria Coates is a Senior Fellow in international relations and national security at Heritage’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. She focuses on the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. energy security and strategy, and countering the threat from the People’s Republic of China. Coates is the author and presenter of dozens of publications and conference papers worldwide on the intersections of art and history, including David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art (2016) and the forthcoming Seeing the Light: A History of Christianity in Twelve Works of Art, which are part of a projected trilogy on the key tenets of Western Civilization: democracy, the Judeo-Christian moral code, and the primacy of the individual. In 2007, Coates left academia to become the Director of Research in (former) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s personal office, and subsequently joined (then) Governor of Texas Rick Perry’s primary campaign for President in 2011 as a Senior Advisor, continuing as a consultant to Governor Perry on foreign policy until 2013, when she accepted the position of Senior Advisor for National Security in Senator Ted Cruz’s office.  In 2016, she was appointed to the NSC as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Communications. Coates subsequently served as Senior Director for International Negotiations and for Middle Eastern Affairs, before being named Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Middle Eastern and North African Affairs in 2019. In early 2020, Coates transferred to the Department of Energy to advise Secretary Brouillette on national security issues and act as his personal representative in the Middle East and North Africa. The following year, she became the Director of Middle Eastern Programs at the Center for Security Policy, then a Distinguished Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.
  • Seth Cropsey – President, Yorktown Institute; former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict. Following 15 years as a senior fellow and director of the Center for American Seapower at Hudson Institute, Seth Cropsey founded Yorktown Institute in 2022 and is the Institute’s president. He began his career in government at the U.S. Department of Defense as assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and subsequently served as deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, where he was responsible for the Navy’s position on efforts to reorganize DoD, development of the maritime strategy, the Navy’s academic institutions, naval special operations, and burden-sharing with NATO allies. In the Bush administration, Cropsey moved to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to become acting assistant secretary, and then principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. Cropsey served as a naval officer from 1985 to 2004. From 1982 to 1984, Cropsey directed the editorial policy of the Voice of America (VOA) on the solidarity movement in Poland, Soviet treatment of dissidents, and other issues. Returning to public diplomacy in 2002 as director of the U.S. government’s International Broadcasting Bureau, Cropsey supervised the agency as successful efforts were undertaken to increase radio and television broadcasting to the Muslim world. Cropsey was previously a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and director of the Heritage Foundation’s Asia Studies Center. Cropsey is the author of the highly acclaimed books Safeguarding Defense Technology, Enabling Commerce(2002), Mayday: The Decline of American Naval Supremacy (2013), and Seablindness: How Political Neglect Is Choking American Seapower and What to Do About It (2017). His articles on national security and foreign policy have been published in Commentary, Foreign Affairs, The Public Interest, The National Interest, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, and other national journals.​
  • John J. Dziak, PhD – Professor, National Intelligence University and Institute of World Politics; former Senior Executive in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Dr. Dziak has served almost five decades as a senior intelligence officer and Senior Executive in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and in private consulting, with long experience in counter proliferation, counterintelligence, counter deception, strategic intelligence, and intelligence education. Dr. Dziak has served as DIA representative to DCI-led major espionage damage assessments, with special emphasis on U.S. critical technologies, and was U.S. representative to senior-level allied intelligence groups concerned with espionage penetrations and hostile special operations. Dr. Dziak received his Ph.D. from Georgetown University, is a graduate of the National War College, and is the recipient of numerous defense and intelligence awards and citations from DoD, DIA, CIA and the Director of National Intelligence, including the Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service. He lectures at the National Intelligence University, has taught at the National War College, Georgetown and George Washington Universities, the Institute of World Politics, and lectures on intelligence, counterintelligence, and foreign affairs throughout the US and abroad. He is the author of the award-winning, Chekisty: A History of the KGB (1988), numerous other books, articles, and monographs, including “The Military Relationship Between China and Russia, 1995 – 2002” (2002) for AFPC, and is finishing a book on foreign counterintelligence systems. Dr. Dziak is co-founder and President of Dziak Group, Inc.
  • Mike Gonzales – The Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow, Heritage Foundation, writes on critical race theory, identity politics, diversity, multiculturalism, assimilation and nationalism, as well as foreign policy in general. He spent close to 20 years as a journalist, 15 of them reporting from Europe, Asia and Latin America. He left journalism to join the administration of President George W. Bush, where he was speechwriter for Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox before moving on to the State Department’s European Bureau. His books include: BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution (2021); The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics is Dividing the Land of the Free (2020) and A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic America (2014).
  • Eric Hannis, LLD – Director of Legislative Affairs at Textron and a Senior Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. Till recently, he had been Director of Government Relations at Raytheon Technologies. Formerly, he was the principal defense advisor and Military Legislative Assistant to Rep. Randy Forbes. Hannis was also the Senior Military Legislative Assistant to Rep. Dave Weldon. As Vice President and head of the defense practice at The Russ Reid Company, a government relations firm, as well as Executive Director at Etherton and Associates, a defense consulting firm, Hannis represented both small and large defense companies on Capitol Hill, in the Pentagon, as well as in other government agencies.  He also currently serves as a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force Reserve and is certified as an International Affairs specialist by the Department of Defense.  Having served over nineteen years in the military, including over nine years on active duty, which included assignments in international political-military affairs, operations planning, fighter aircraft maintenance and munitions operations, logistics, and Congressional affairs, his last active assignment was as the Country Director for Afghanistan and Central Asia for the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs (SAF/IA). Hannis’ military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, as well as the German Armed Forces Military Proficiency Badge, gold level. A graduate of Air Command and Staff College and a student in Air War College, Hannis earned a B.A. from Hamilton College and J.D. from Catholic University, specializing in international law.
  • Peter Huessy – Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, where he focuses on nuclear deterrence and modernization, arms control, and defense policy. Mr. Huessy has spent the past four decades laying out the requirements for nuclear deterrence and modernization, arms control, and defense policy, as well as the companion efforts on missile defense, space, non- and counterproliferation, particularly using public diplomacy to further US policy. In 1983, Mr. Huessy created a series of Congressional breakfast seminars (initially just for members of the US House and Senate) to help with the Reagan administration’s nuclear modernization strategy. The 1983 series was augmented in 1984 with a companion series on missile defense; with space being added in 2014; and the National Nuclear Security Administration added in 2020. Since 2010, Mr. Huessy has also created and hosted 22 Nuclear Triad symposiums. Since 1981, Mr. Huessy has been an adviser on policy and legislative issues to a group of aerospace industries in the strategic deterrent business. From 1993 to 2011, he was affiliated with the National Defense University Foundation and from 1981 to 1993 with the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis. He is the author of a weekly nuclear-focused essay with the National Interest and delivers a nuclear news digest on the Don Smith podcast every weekend. Mr. Huessy has lectured at the United States Naval Academy. He has also guest lectured at the Institute for World Politics, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, the JHU-Applied Physics Lab, Global Strike Command, and US Strategic Command. Mr. Huessy received a degree in anthropology and the history of ancient civilizations, international relations, and US national security policy from Beloit College in 1972, graduating magnum cum laude and as a Porter Scholar. He studied at Yonsei University in 1969-70 in Seoul, Korea as part of his Beloit degree program, including work periods as a research assistant with Senators Gaylord Nelson and William Proxmire. From 1976 to 1981, Mr. Huessy was with the Environmental Fund and was special assistant for International Energy and Environment for the US secretary of the interior.
  • Paul Lieber, PhD – Associate Research Scientist at the University of Maryland’s Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS), with specific expertise in data science-driven modeling and assessment of influence toward vulnerable populations within social media environments. Formerly a Chief Scientist with the Corporation and the Information Professionals Association (COLSA), he served as the Command Writer for two USSOCOM Commanders, likewise Strategic Communication Advisor to the Commander of Special Operations Command-Australia. Within academic environs, Dr. Lieber was a full-time member of the Graduate faculty at Joint Special Operations University, Emerson College, University of South Carolina, and the University of Canberra, respectively. Within these roles, he taught across the entire strategic communication and influence curriculum, with a research emphasis on social media-based persuasion and methodological design. He holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communication and Public Affairs, a Masters of Mass Communication from Louisiana State University, and B.S. in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University.​
  • COL (Ret.) David Maxwell -Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; former Associate Director of the Center for Security Studies and the Security Studies Program, Georgetown University. COL Maxwell is a 30-year veteran of the US Army, after 20 years in Asia, primarily in Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, leading organizations from the A-Team to the Joint Special Operations Task Force level. A 1980 graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a BA in Political Science, COL Maxwell has Masters Degrees in Military Arts and Science, as well as National Security Studies, from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies, and the National War College. A fellow at the Institute of Corean-American Studies (ICAS), he serves on the Board of Directors of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, the International Council of Korean Studies, the Special Operations Research Association, and the Small Wars Journal. His awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Korean Defense Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Joint Meritorious Unit Citation, the Army Meritorious Unit Citation, the Philippine Legion of Honor, the Philippine Humanitarian Service Medal, the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Korean, Philippines, and Australian Parachute Badges and the Special Forces and Ranger Tabs.​
  • Michael Pack – President, Palladium Pictures; former CEO, U.S. Agency for Global Media. An American documentary filmmaker who was CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media from June 2020 to January 2021, prior to 2020 he was President of Manifold Productions, Inc., an independent film and television production company, which he founded in 1977. He has written, directed, and produced numerous award-winning nationally broadcast documentaries as well as corporate and educational films, including Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words– a resounding success. Also, upcoming, The Last 600 Meters, tells the story of the 2004 battles of Najaf and Fallujah in Iraq. Other movies broadcast on PBS include: Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power (2014); Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton (2011); God and the Inner City (2003); Rediscovering George Washington (2002); among many others. From June 2020 to January 2021, Mr. Pack served as the first Senate-confirmed CEO of the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees the government’s five international broadcasting networks: Voice of America, Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. From 2015 to 2017, Mr. Pack served as President and CEO of the Claremont Institute and Publisher of its Claremont Review of Books. From 2003-2006, Mr. Pack served as Senior Vice President for Television Programming at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In 2002, President Bush nominated, and the Senate confirmed, Mr. Pack to serve on the National Council on the Humanities, which oversees the National Endowment for the Humanities, from July 2002 to February 2005. In 1993, Mr. Pack served as Co-Chair of the International TV Council at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.​
  • Roger Pilon, JD PhD – Senior Fellow, Cato Institute Center for Constitutional Studies; inaugural holder emeritus, Cato’s B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies; former Vice President for Legal Affairs. Dr. Roger Pilon founded the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies in 1989 and directed until 2019; the inaugural holder emeritus of Cato’s B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies, Cato’s first endowed chair, established in 1998; and the publisher emeritus of the Cato Supreme Court Review, which he founded in 2001. He has also served as vice president for legal affairs, which he was named in 1999, and publisher of the Cato Supreme Court Review, which he founded in 2001. Prior to joining Cato, Pilon held five senior posts in the Reagan administration, including at the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice, and was a national fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. In 1989, the Bicentennial Commission presented him with its Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in writing on the U.S. Constitution. In 2001, Columbia University’s School of General Studies awarded him its Alumni Medal of Distinction. Pilon lectures and debates at universities and law schools across the country and abroad, and he testifies often before Congress. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Legal Times, National Law Journal, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Stanford Law and Policy Review, and elsewhere. He has appeared on ABC’s Nightline, CBS’s 60 Minutes II, Fox News, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, C‑SPAN, and other media. Dr. Pilon holds a BA from Columbia University, an MA and a PhD from the University of Chicago, and a JD from the George Washington University School of Law.​
  • Herman Pirchner, Jr., PhD – President, American Foreign Policy Council. In 1982, Herman Pirchner, Jr. became the founding President of the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), a non-profit public policy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. Under his leadership, AFPC has hosted Washington events for hundreds of foreign officials ranging from the Prime Minister of Malta to the Prime Minister of Russia; conducted hundreds of briefings for Members of Congress and their staffs and, organized dozens of fact-finding missions abroad for current and former senior American officials. AFPC’s publication program includes sponsorship of articles, monographs, books and Congressional testimony. AFPC authors have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including the Washington Post, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Jane’s Defense Weekly, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and National Review. In addition to his duties at AFPC, Mr. Pirchner directed the national security team advising the 2012 Presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich. Among his many publications is Pirchner’s prescient 2004 monograph, Reviving Greater Russia: The Future of Russia’s Borders with Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Ukraine. He is also the author of Post Putin: Succession, Stability, and Russia’s Future(Rowman and Littlefield, May 2019), which is also available in Ukrainian and Russian editions. Before founding AFPC, Mr. Pirchner served in the U.S. Senate as Director of Legislation for Senator Roger Jepsen (R-IA) and Legislative Assistant to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).​
  • Gregory Scarlatoiu – Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) in Washington, D.C., having coordinated 28 HRNK publications exposing North Korean realities. He is a visiting professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, instructor and coordinator of the Korean Peninsula and Japan class at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), vice president of the executive board of the International Council on Korean Studies (ICKS), and a member of the advisory board for The Korea and World Politics Institute. Prior to HRNK, Scarlatoiu was affiliated with the Korea Economic Institute (KEI) in Washington, D.C. He has over six years of experience in international development, on projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. For fifteen years, Scarlatoiu has broadcast to North Korea for Radio Free Asia, and is a frequent commentator for CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and other media organizations. He has published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and also academic papers in volumes produced by organizations including The Hanns Seidel Foundation, The Asan Institute for Policy Studies, and the International Journal of Korean Studies. He has testified in Congressional hearings on North Korean human rights. Scarlatoiu holds an MA in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University, and holds both a BA and MA from Seoul National University, in International Relations.​
  • Matthew Spalding, PhD – The Kirby Professor in Constitutional Government at Hillsdale College and the Dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government at Hillsdale College’s Washington, D.C., campus. He is the best-selling author of We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future, executive editor of The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, A Sacred Union of Citizens: Washington’s Farewell Address and the American Character; Patriot Sage: George Washington and the American Political Tradition; and The Founders’ Almanac: A Practical Guide to the Notable Events, Greatest Leaders & Most Eloquent Words of the American Founding. Prior to joining Hillsdale, Dr. Spalding was vice president of American Studies at The Heritage Foundation and founding director of its B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics. He is a Fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and serves on the boards of the Steamboat Institute and the Philadelphia Society.​
  • Charles “Cully” Stimson – Deputy Director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Manager of the National Security Law Program, Senior Legal Fellow, and Senior Advisor to the President. He has also served as the Chief of Staff at Heritage three times and ran the transition for three Heritage presidential changes of command. Stimson’s work in criminal law includes paper and a blog series on progressive “rogue” prosecutors; a comprehensive study on the constitutionality of life sentences for teen-age murderers entitled “Adult Time for Adult Crime;” a ground-breaking paper detailing the inner workings of the military justice system compared to its civilian counterpart; and more. His work on national security issues includes a paper on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and its applicability to ISIS; a paper explaining FISA Section 702 and its importance in the collection of foreign intelligence; issues related to closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Cuba; a major paper on why repealing the 1991 and 2002 Iraq war authorizations is sound policy, and other papers. Before joining Heritage in 2007, Stimson served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs. He advised then-Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates and coordinated the Pentagon’s global detention policy and operations, including at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq and Afghanistan. An accomplished trial lawyer, Stimson worked as a prosecutor in San Diego, Maryland, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. A third-generation naval officer, Cully served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) for 30 years, including three tours on active duty. During his active duty and reserve career, he served as a military defense counsel, prosecutor, as Deputy Chief Judge of the Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary, and the Commanding Officer of the Preliminary Hearing Unit among other assignments. He retired from the Navy JAG Corps as a Captain on February 1, 2022, after 30 years of service. Stimson’s thousands of media interviews and appearances include Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, NPR and C-SPAN. He has been quoted by most major newspapers, including the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and London Times. A businessman and educator by training, Stimson is Chairman of his family’s commercial real estate company in Seattle. Before 9/11, he was a Vice President at a New York-based global financial services and insurance brokerage firm where ran the private equity mergers and acquisitions D.C. operation. Stimson holds a law degree from the George Mason University School of Law, where he later taught as an Adjunct Professor of Law. He is a graduate of Kenyon College, where he was Captain of the men’s varsity soccer team and an All-Conference player. He also studied at Harvard and Exeter universities. An avid soccer player and triathlete, he serves as Chairman of the Board of the United States Soccer Foundation, the charitable giving arm of U.S. Soccer.​
  • Dorothy Taft – Executive Director, The Market Project, has more than three decades of experience in US and international policy to advance human rights protection, democratic governance and civil society program development, as well as issues related to trauma healing. Before that, she was Director of USAID’s Office of Democracy and Governance; Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff for the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; Professional Staff for the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere; and Foreign Policy Legislative Assistant for a Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.​
  • Piotr Trabinski – Management Board Advisor, Polish Development Fund (PFR) in Washington, DC. He consults for both public and private entities in different geographies on issues related to digital transformation, digital money, climate change and financial sector supervision, and economic growth and recovery. Prior to 2022, he was the Executive Director for the Swiss-Polish Constituency at the International Monetary Fund (IMF),), where he covered policy issues ranging from fiscal and monetary policies and financial sector supervisions to central bank digital currencies (CBDC), Fintech regulation, and AML-CFT. Moreover, he oversaw Fund’s financing, operations, and liaised between IMF management and authorities of nine countries. Prior to that, he worked in Poland’s banking sector where he held senior managerial positions in the corporate segment, while spearheading innovative IT projects.  Piotr has a JD and LLM from the University of Warsaw, a Masters in Engineering, specializing in computer science and cybersecurity, from the George Washington University, as well as a Masters in International Relations from the Institute of World Politics, in addition to over 13 years of experience in finance and policy.​
  • Michael Waller, PhD – Senior Analyst for Strategy at the Center for Security Policy. He holds a Ph.D. in international security affairs from Boston University and received his military training as an insurgent with the Nicaraguan contras. He was a co-founder of the Blue Team on China in the 1990s. For 13 years he was the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC. A former instructor with the Naval Postgraduate School, he is an instructor/lecturer at the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. The author or editor of books relating to intelligence, political warfare, public diplomacy, terrorism, and subversion, he publishes in Daily Beast, Daily Caller, The Federalist, Forbes, Insight, Investor’s Business Daily, Kyiv Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Real Clear Politics, USA Today, Washington Examiner, Washington Times, and the Wall Street Journal.​​
  • Dakota L. Wood – Senior research fellow for Defense Programs at The Heritage Foundation, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005. He served as a strategic analyst for the Commandant of the Marine Corps and, later, while assigned to the Office of Net Assessment, the Secretary of Defense’s internal “think tank,” where he participated in a range of comparative analyses of military, technological, political, economic, and other factors governing the relative military capabilities of nations, with a specific focus on identifying emerging or potential threats and opportunities for the United States. Moreover, in his capacity as Strategist for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Special Operations Command, Mr. Wood was responsible for advising the Commander on strategic level guidance, policies, and operational concepts. Following retirement in 2005, Mr. Wood helped to organize and operationalize the National Biosurveillance Integration System, a Department of Homeland Security effort intended to provide national leadership with the earliest indications of a potential biological threat to the United States. From 2006 to 2011, Mr. Wood served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments where he organized or materially contributed to numerous seminar-style wargames conducted for various Department of Defense sponsors. Wood graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in oceanography and was named a distinguished graduate for his work in earning a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the College of Naval Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College. He was also recognized for meritorious distinction by the Marine Corps’ School of Advanced Warfighting.​
  • Jian Li Yang, PhD– former Chinese dissident. Dr. Yang was born in Shandong Province, China and graduated from college at the age of 19. A rising star in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the 1980’s, he quickly became disenchanted with the corruption and duplicity he experienced in the communist system. He left China to pursue a career in Mathematics at University of California in 1986 when he was 23 years old. In 1989, his fellow Chinese students at Berkeley elected him to go back to Beijing in support of their counterparts in China who were demonstrating for democracy in Tiananmen Square. He returned to Beijing, joined the movement and witnessed the massacre of thousands by the guns and tanks of the CCP army including tanks running over protesters. This event changed his future. He narrowly escaped capture and returned to the United States to study democracy and continue his activism. In 2002, after completing his Doctorate in Political Economy at Harvard (earlier he had gotten a PhD in Mathematics from UC Berkeley), Dr. Yang returned to China to help the labor movement with non-violent struggle strategies. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, kept in solitary confinement for a good part of the imprisonment. Following an international outcry for his release, including a UN Resolution and a unanimous vote of both houses of the United States Congress, Dr. Yang was freed in April of 2007. Immediately following his return to the U.S., he formed Citizen Power Initiatives for China, a pro-democracy movement committed to a peaceful transition to democracy in China. In March 2010, Dr. Yang co-chaired the Committee on Internet Freedom at the Geneva Human Rights and Democracy Summit. In December 2010 in Oslo at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony, he represented that year’s laureate, the imprisoned Chinese democracy leader Liu Xiaobo, who would die in the CCP regime’s custody on July 13, 2017. Dr. Yang is a frequent contributor to and interviewee by the international media, a panelist at hearings held by the US Congress, the European Parliament, the UK Parliament and the Taiwan Legislative Yuan. He has also been a speaker at various international forums on topics ranging from human rights in China, China’s democratization, China’s politics, ethnic relations in the PRC, cross-strait relations, and on US – China policies.​

To cap off our amazing program, WAPONS alumnus and program assistant Mason Goad lead discussions in the evening, on cyber security and related topics.

  • Goad is a researcher with the National Association of Scholars, investigating the rise of Critical Theories in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine (STEMM) under the guise of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE) as well as so-called “Anti-Racism.” His undergraduate thesis, “A Quantum of Solace: How Quantum Computers Affect Cryptography and the Greater Implications for National Security,” has recently been listed as among the “100 Best Quantum Computing Books of All Time,” and is currently being revised for the release of a second edition. He has also written on the topic of TEMPEST technologies, and the integration of physics within the field of information security for The Cipher Brief,and his other writings have appeared with the Foundation for Economic Education, American Greatness, and Minding the Campus.

In brief, the program was a resounding success. “I loved the program,” wrote one student. “[A]nd if it continues and I find myself in D.C. I would be happy to continue to be a part of it.”  We all intend to stay in touch – indeed many alumni still do.  The WAPONS family is unique – as is the AHI.  Thank you again, Diana Davis Spencer, DDS Chairman and President, and CEO Abby Moffat.