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Who We Are

Meet the SCSP team.


Leadership

Board of Advisors

Michèle Flournoy

Nadia Schadlow

Robert O. Work

William “Mac” Thornberry III


Staff

Associate Director for Future Technology Platforms

Abigail Kukura

Associate Director for Future Technology Platforms

Abigail Kukura

Abigail Kukura is an Associate Director for Future Platforms for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, Abigail worked as a consultant on national security issues and she previously worked at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Abigail holds a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University and an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Vice President and Chief of Staff

Angela Ponmakha

Vice President and Chief of Staff

Angela Ponmakha

Angela Ponmakha is the Vice President and Chief of Staff of the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to joining SCSP, Angela served as the Director of Operations and Designated Federal Officer for the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. During her role at NSCAI, she ensured the Commission was in compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Prior to joining NSCAI as its third staff member, she served as the Chief of Staff for the Defense Innovation Unit. Over her 20+ career, Ms. Ponmakha has served in various government and private sector positions, leading organizational management and operations staff.

Associate Director of Communications and Public Affairs

Ariana Orne

Associate Director of Communications and Public Affairs

Ariana Orne

Ariana Orne is the Associate Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to the SCSP, Ariana served the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence as an Operations and Management Analyst and as an assistant in the Public Affairs and Communications office. She received her B.S. in the Social Sciences from Jacksonville University and her M.A. in Strategic Communications from American University. Prior to NSCAI, Ariana worked in communications with multiple nonprofit organizations.

Director for Society

Ben Bain

Director for Society

Ben Bain

Ben Bain is a Director for Society at the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, Ben held roles at Booz Allen Hamilton, the Department of Defense, the XPRIZE Foundation, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Georgia and a MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University.

Associate Director for Economy

Brady Helwig

Associate Director for Economy

Brady Helwig

Brady Helwig is an Associate Director for Economy for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, he worked as a Research Associate at the Hudson Institute, supporting the work of the Hamilton Commission on Securing America’s National Security Innovation Base. Brady holds a B.A. from Hillsdale College.

Director of Governmental Affairs

Brandon Mckee

Director of Governmental Affairs

Brandon Mckee

Brandon Mckee serves as the Director of Governmental Affairs for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, he served as the Director for Legislative Affairs at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. He has also served in the U.S. Department of Labor, on staff in the U.S. House of Representatives, and worked previously in the private sector.

Special Advisor

Chelsea Holt

Special Advisor

Chelsea Holt

Chelsea Holt is a Special Advisor for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, Chelsea served as the Special Assistant to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Before joining the NSCAI, she worked for the president of Texas A&M University, where she graduated in 2015. 

Senior Director for Society

Chuck Howell

Senior Director for Society

Chuck Howell

Chuck Howell is a Senior Director focused on emerging technologies’ impacts on society. Prior to SCSP, Chuck was Chief Scientist for Responsible A.I. at the MITRE Corporation. In this role he supported the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence line of effort on Responsible AI and Ethics.  Chuck has over 30 years of experience working in High Assurance Systems Engineering and A.I. Chuck is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

Director for Economy

David Lin

Director for Economy

David Lin

David is a Director for Economy at the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to joining SCSP, David served as an economic-coned Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. He also worked as a consultant for the Department of Defense. David holds a MA in Security Policy Studies and a BA in International Relations from The George Washington University.

Associate Director for Defense

Emma Morrison

Associate Director for Defense

Emma Morrison

Emma Morrison serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as an Associate Director for Defense. Prior to SCSP, Emma worked as the Policy Clerk for the House Armed Services Committee. As a research intern, Emma worked for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Brookings Institution, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Emma holds a B.A. in Political Science and Russian History from the University of Notre Dame and is enrolled in the Masters of Science in Foreign Service program at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Director for Foreign Policy

Hina M. Gir

Director for Foreign Policy

Hina M. Gir

Hina is a Director for Foreign Policy at SCSP. Prior to joining SCSP, she was a Manager for Cyber and Strategic Risk at Deloitte, serving government clients. Before joining Deloitte, Hina held roles across the USG as a Presidential Management Fellow, including at FEMA, DHS HQ, and at the National Security Council at the White House. Through her education and various roles, she has focused on climate change, cybersecurity policy, national security, homeland security,and immigration issues. Hina earned her BA from American University in Justice, Law, and Society. She also holds an MA from American University, focusing on Terrorism and Security Policy.

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Director of Foreign Policy

Jafer Ahmad

Director of Foreign Policy

Jafer Ahmad

Jafer Ahmad is a Director for Foreign Policy at the Special Competitive Studies Project. His experience includes leading policy and government programs at venture-backed startups offering no-code computer vision and geospatial intelligence capabilities; managing strategic engagement and communications at DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit; coordinating international technology and trade initiatives at the Pentagon; and research in Islamic law, philosophy, and scriptural exegesis as a Fulbright Fellow in Jordan. He holds a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Maryland, and an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University – SAIS. He is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Operations Manager

Jamie Tomberlin

Operations Manager

Jamie Tomberlin

Jamie Tomberlin is the Operations Manager for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to the SCSP, Jamie served the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence as an Operations Specialist. Over her 20+ year career, Ms. Tomberlin has served in various private sector positions, leading programs and supporting company-wide initiatives.

Director for Future Technology Platforms

Jefferson Gee

Director for Future Technology Platforms

Jefferson Gee

Jefferson Gee is a Director for Future Technology Platforms at the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, he served in the Department of State where he was mostly recently posted abroad in Bangkok. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an M.S. in Computer Science, both from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Senior Director of Operations

Jennifer Sheehan

Senior Director of Operations

Jennifer Sheehan

Jennifer is the Senior Director of Operations with SCSP. Prior to joining SCSP, she was the Deputy Director of Protocol at Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa, FL. In addition to her Combatant Command experience, Jennifer has spent the last 30+ years of federal service supporting two National Security Advisors, three Secretaries of Defense, and three Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She is a U.S. Army Veteran.

Senior Director for Foreign Policy

Joe Wang

Senior Director for Foreign Policy

Joe Wang

Joe Wang serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as Senior Director for Foreign Policy. Prior to SCSP, he was a Senior Advisor at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) and had previously served on the National Security Council staff as Director for Russia and as Deputy Senior Director for Europe and Russia. At the U.S. Department of State, Joe has also served as Senior Advisor to the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy, Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, and other positions in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in Economics and Psychology, and from Georgetown University with a Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS).

Senior Director for Defense

Justin Lynch

Senior Director for Defense

Justin Lynch

Justin Lynch serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as a Senior Director for Defense. Justin Lynch served as an active-duty army officer before transitioning to the Army National Guard. As a civilian, he has served in multiple roles in the national security enterprise including a Director of Research and Analysis at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, as House Armed Services Committee staff, and at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He is a Council on Foreign Relations term member and a Nonresident Fellow at the Modern War Institute.

Associate Director for Intelligence

Katherina Kurata

Associate Director for Intelligence

Katherina Kurata

Katherine Kurata serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as an Associate Director for Intelligence. Prior to SCSP, Katherine was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova and later worked as a research assistant at the Center for European Policy & Analysis, Center for Strategic & International Studies and the Global Taiwan Institute. Katherine holds a BA in Political Science and International Affairs from Gettysburg College in addition to a MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Associate Director for Economy

Katie Stolarczyk

Associate Director for Economy

Katie Stolarczyk

Katie Stolarczyk is an Associate Director for Economy at the Special Competitive Studies Project. Previously she was Special Assistant to the CEO. Prior to joining SCSP, she served as an Operations and Management Analyst at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence as well as a research intern to the Workforce Development and Talent Management research team. Prior to NSCAI, she interned at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism on the Weapons and Tactics team. She received her B.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland and has an A.A.S. in Intelligence Analytics from Anne Arundel Community College. 

Associate Director for Foreign Policy

Lauren Naniche

Associate Director for Foreign Policy

Lauren Naniche

Lauren Naniche is an Associate Director for Foreign Policy for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, Lauren was a research intern in National Security and Technology at Hudson Institute, and briefly in Transatlantic Defense and Security at the Center for European Policy Analysis. Lauren holds a B.A. in Political Science, Economics and Russian language from McGill University.

Senior Director for Economy

Liza Tobin

Senior Director for Economy

Liza Tobin

Liza Tobin is the Senior Director for Economy. Prior to joining SCSP, Liza served on the National Security Council staff as China Director, where she led the development of multiple US strategies and policies related to China, including on trade and economics, climate and the environment, military issues, and China’s influence beyond the Indo-Pacific. Prior to serving at the NSC, Liza worked for more than a decade in various capacities as a China specialist for the U.S. Government, including as a senior advisor at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and as an economic analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as in various roles in the private sector and academia. She holds an M.A. in international relations with concentrations in China studies and international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a graduate certificate at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and a B.A. in China studies and biblical studies from Gordon College. 

Associate Director for Intelligence

Meaghan Waff

Associate Director for Intelligence

Meaghan Waff

Meaghan Waff serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as an Associate Director for Intelligence. Prior to SCSP, Meaghan was a Fulbright Grantee in Malaysia and previously worked under the Department of Commerce and U.S. Congress. She holds a BA in International Studies and Spanish Language and Literature from Rhodes College in addition to a M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Meaghan also completed the General Course program at the London School of Economics.

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Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Michael Gable

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Michael Gable

Michael Gable is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to joining SCSP, Michael was the Chief of Staff for the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Prior to standing up and joining NSCAI, he served as the Director of Operations and Designated Federal Officer for the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Board. In his 25+ year career in federal service, he has held leadership positions in all levels of the U.S. Government across multiple Departments and agencies, primarily as a civilian, but also as a former Air Force officer.

Senior Technical Advisor

Michael Garris

Senior Technical Advisor

Michael Garris

Michael Garris is a Senior Technical Advisor focused on emerging technologies’ impacts on society. Mike serves the SCSP through a collaboration with the MITRE Corporation where he is a Senior Technical Advisor for AI and Autonomy. He is retired from the National Institute of Standards and Technology having devoted 34 years to areas of AI, image processing, pattern recognition, and biometrics. While in federal service, Mike served and led several interagency science and technology groups out of the White House, and he was honored to serve as the Chief Technical Advisor to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Mike has a BS in Computer Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and a MS in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins. A fun fact – Michael was technical lead of a small team in the early 90’s that collected the original handprint character image dataset now called MNIST, which is used as a worldwide machine learning benchmark.

Legal Director

Michael Lueptow

Legal Director

Michael Lueptow

Michael Lueptow is the Legal Director for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to joining SCSP, Michael served as the General Counsel for the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. He also previously served on staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs—including as Chief Counsel for Homeland Security—and the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Director for Intelligence

Peter Mattis

Director for Intelligence

Peter Mattis

Peter Mattis serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as a Director for Intelligence. Prior to SCSP, he was Senior Advisor for Global Democratic Resilience at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and served as the Senate-appointed staff director of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China during the 116th Congress. Peter previously worked at the Jamestown Foundation, National Bureau of Asian Research, and the Central Intelligence Agency. He graduated from the University of Washington with BAs in Political Science and Asian Studies, and from Georgetown University with an MA in Security Studies. 

Senior Advisor

PJ Maykish

Senior Advisor

PJ Maykish

Dr. PJ Maykish serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as a Senior Advisor. Prior to the SCSP, PJ was the Director for Technology Competition at the National Security Council. He directed classified research for the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence from 2019-2021. PJ developed “Third Offset” technology solutions for DoD deterrence credibility issues in the Strategy Office for the Secretary of Defense (OSD-P/SFD) from 2015-2017 and has 24 years of experience in military operations including Commander of U.S. Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) from 2017-2019.

Special Assistant to the CEO

Rachel Pankuch

Special Assistant to the CEO

Rachel Pankuch

Rachel Pankuch serves as the Special Assistant to the CEO at the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, she worked in the U.S. Senate as an Assistant to the Chief of Staff and Intern Coordinator for two and a half years. She earned a B.A. in Organizational Communication from George Mason University and is currently pursuing her MBA at the College of William and Mary. Before the U.S. Senate, she previously worked for a lobbying firm as an Office Administrator and as a Research Intern at a defense lobbying firm. 

Senior Director for Society and Intellectual Property

Rama G. Elluru

Senior Director for Society and Intellectual Property

Rama G. Elluru

Rama G. Elluru serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as Senior Director for Society and Intellectual Property, focusing on emerging technology and AI governance. Prior to SCSP, Rama was a Director of Research and Analysis at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) focused on Responsible AI and Intellectual Property. She was detailed to NSCAI from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, where she served as an Administrative Patent Judge. She has been practicing Intellectual Property law for more than 20 years. She holds a B.S. in Computer Science/Philosophy from Trinity University, J.D. from the Washington and Lee School of Law, and M.Sc. in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology from Georgetown University.

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Senior Fellow

Rick Switzer

Senior Fellow

Rick Switzer

Rick Switzer is a Senior Fellow with SCSP on a one-year sabbatical from the Department of State. Prior to joining SCSP, Rick was a State Department visiting professor at the National Intelligence University teaching graduate courses on China’s economy and innovation system. Rick also served as a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Council. From 2018 to 2019 he was a Senior State Department Advisor to the Department of Defense working with the Air Force and the Army. Preceding that he was the Environment, Science, Technology and Health Minister Counselor at Embassy Beijing, the largest science section in the world. Prior to joining government Rick co-founded a wireless technology start-up and also conducted innovation policy research at the University of California.

Executive Secretariat

Sarah Johnson

Executive Secretariat

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is the Executive Secretariat for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to the SCSP, Sarah was an attorney for the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. She received her J.D. from the George Washington University Law School and has previously worked with multiple federal agencies including NASA and the Department of Justice. 

Senior Advisor

Seth Center

Senior Advisor

Seth Center

Dr. Seth Center serves as a Senior Advisor for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, Seth served as the Senior Advisor for the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. He has also served at the National Security Council and the Department of State. 

Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs

Tara Rigler

Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs

Tara Rigler

Tara Rigler serves as the Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to SCSP, Tara served as the Director of Strategy, Communication and Engagement at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI). Prior to joining NSCAI, Tara was appointed to the Senior Executive Service and served as the Assistant Director for Communications for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in addition to many other senior communications roles during her 22 years of federal service.

Director for Economy

Tooba Awan

Director for Economy

Tooba Awan

Tooba Awan serves as the Director for Economy at the Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP). Previously, she concentrated on promoting U.S. exports by preventing the diversion of export-controlled items, identifying potential violations of export control regimes, disrupting proliferation networks and supporting civil or criminal law enforcement actions at the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in the U.S. Department of Commerce. Prior to BIS, she was focused on fostering U.S. economic prosperity by providing market expertise and identifying exporting opportunities in global markets at the Minority Business Development Agency.  She started her career serving in the U.S. Army and is the recipient of the Combat Action Badge for her actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom VI with the 82nd Airborne Division.   

Director for Economy

Warren Wilson

Director for Economy

Warren Wilson

Warren Wilson is a Director for Economy at the Special Competitive Studies Project.  Prior to joining SCSP, Warren served as a U.S. diplomat in economic positions in China, Ukraine, and Washington, and as a Diplomatic Fellow at Amazon Web Services (AWS).  He also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia.  He holds an M.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University and a B.A. in Anthropology and English from the University of North Carolina. 

Director for Future Technology Platforms

Will Moreland

Director for Future Technology Platforms

Will Moreland

Will Moreland is a Director for Future Technology Platforms at the Special Competitive Studies Project. Previously, Will served as a project manager and associate fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Program. He has experience with the Departments of Defense, Justice, State, and the Treasury. Will holds an M.S. in Foreign Service (MSFS) and J.D. from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in History and Political Science from Yale University. 

Senior Advisor

Ylber Bajraktari

Senior Advisor

Ylber Bajraktari

Ylber serves the Special Competitive Studies Project as a Senior Advisor, with focus on defense and intelligence matters, as well as special projects.  Previously, he served as a Geopolitical Strategist with the Investment Strategy Group at Goldman Sachs.  Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Ylber spent 13 years with the US Department of Defense and the White House. During that time, he served as a Senior Fellow in the Office of Net Assessment, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Defense Policy and Strategy, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy to the Secretary of Defense, and several different roles dealing with US policy towards the Middle East.  Ylber is the recipient of the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Medal – the highest award given to career DoD civilian employees.  He earned a BA in International Relations from American University, a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University, and an MS in National Security Strategy from the National War College. 


Research Assistants, Current and Former

Abhinav Kumar

Anabel Heisley

Annabelle Darby

Aristotle Vainikos

Asher Ellis

Caroline Agsten

Channing Lee

Christie Lawrence

Daniel Freedline

Eamon McKeever

Emma Gallagher

Evan Miller

Fiona Pollack

Humza Jilani

Itallya Taylor

Jessica Burrell

Karina Barao

Kimberly Syuardi

Louis Santoro

Luke Vannurden

Nyah Stewart

Ricky Altieri

Ryan Chen

Sabrina Laub

Shaantam Chawla

Sofia McGettigan

Sophie Baine

Stephen Coles

Tania Tsunik


Expert Advisors

SCSP’s expert advisors are leaders from industry, academia and government. The growing list of advisors includes:

Amy Zegart

Amyn Jan

Ben Horowitz

Bonnie Glick

Chris Darby

Christine Fox

Christopher Ahlberg

Christopher Kirchhoff

Condoleezza Rice

David Danks

Dawn Meyerriecks

Dean Souleles

DJ Nordquist

Eric Horvitz

Erik Brynjolfsson

Gina Neff

Glenn Gaffney

Greg Grant

Hal Brands

Jack Shanahan

John Raidt

Jonathan Rosenberg

Jose-Marie Griffiths

Lynne Parker

Mark Montgomery

Matt Pottinger

Mignon Clyburn

Mike McQuade

Nate Fick

Nick Beim

Raj Shah

Reid Hoffman

Rob Atkinson

Rodney Faraon

Sarah Sewall

Steve Rosen

Ted Schlein

Special thanks to Lirijon Kadriu for design of the SCSP logo