Dr. Mark T. Esper

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  • U.S. Secretary of Defense (2019-2020) and Secretary of the Army (2017-2019)
  • Senior Corporate Executive, Raytheon Technologies, 2010-2017
  • Commissioner, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (2007-2008)
  • New York Times Bestselling Author, 'A Sacred Oath'

Mark T. Esper, PhD has led a distinguished career as a visionary leader, innovator, reformer, and change agent with a proven record of accomplishment in a wide range of roles and organizations. He attributes his success to the importance he places on character and values, coupled with boundless energy and a can-do spirit that puts the organization and its people first, and treating everyone with dignity and respect. Dr. Esper became the 27th Secretary of Defense in July 2019 when he was confirmed in an overwhelming 90-8 vote by the U.S. Senate in rare bipartisan fashion. Esper went on to successfully lead the Defense Department through an unprecedented time in the nation’s history, while driving R&D on Artificial Intelligence, directed energy, robotics, and hypersonics, and launching the biggest initiative in decades to improve diversity and inclusion in the armed forces. Esper’s memoir A Sacred Oath is a New York Times bestseller, chronicling this turbulent and critical period of modern American history.

Dr. Esper is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Strategy Group, and the Atlantic Council, among others, and is a frequent commentator on CNN, FOX, Bloomberg, and other news outlets. He is the Distinguished Chair of the Modern War Institute at his alma mater, West Point. Secretary Esper also serves on a number of private equity and venture capital portfolio company boards and is a partner in the venture capital firm Red Cell Partners, where he also serves as the chairman of its national security practice.

Mark T. Esper offers audiences an array of insights, ideas, forecasts, and strategies based on relevant experience, fostering the success of both individuals and teams.

 



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Mark Esper analyzes China's threats ahead of Taiwanese president visit to US | Morning in America - Get Sharable Link
Talks & Conversations with Dr. Mark T. Esper
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AI: The Next Frontier of Security & Technology

Former Secretary of Defense DR. MARK T. ESPER sees a great deal of disruption ahead caused by AI. Secretary Esper put forward a number of AI initiatives as both Secretary of the Army and Secretary of Defense in order to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. military. Since leaving office, he continu ...

Former Secretary of Defense DR. MARK T. ESPER sees a great deal of disruption ahead caused by AI. Secretary Esper put forward a number of AI initiatives as both Secretary of the Army and Secretary of Defense in order to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. military. Since leaving office, he continues to work AI and technology issues on think tank commissions that he chairs, and through his work as a Partner and Board Member in an AI-focused venture capital firm. Dr. Esper offers a realistic outlook on what AI will mean for the military and the private sector as its exponential growth outpaces regulation, covering both the upcoming great opportunities and serious risks.

A Global Outlook: How Geopolitics Affect Your Business

In this valuable address, DR. MARK T. ESPER shares his expertise on the emerging geopolitical landscape, highlighting current trends and concerns to explain the potential risk and implications to companies, investors, and policymakers. Dr. Esper blends his extensive experiences in both private firms ...

In this valuable address, DR. MARK T. ESPER shares his expertise on the emerging geopolitical landscape, highlighting current trends and concerns to explain the potential risk and implications to companies, investors, and policymakers. Dr. Esper blends his extensive experiences in both private firms (private equity and venture capital) and public service to demonstrate a deep understanding of cause and effect on a global scale. Providing a high-level overview of the world’s hotspots – the people, places, and policies that investors and companies should be aware of – Dr. Esper can advise on strategy in a meaningful and impactful way. This discussion can be customized to address your organization’s current concerns.

U.S. Foreign Policy: What Are the Top Issues Facing the U.S. Today?

In this riveting talk, DR. MARK T. ESPER offers a substantial and insightful perspective on U.S. foreign policy, and the top issues facing the United States today. During his tenure as U.S. Secretary of Defense (2019-2020) and Commissioner for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission ( ...

In this riveting talk, DR. MARK T. ESPER offers a substantial and insightful perspective on U.S. foreign policy, and the top issues facing the United States today. During his tenure as U.S. Secretary of Defense (2019-2020) and Commissioner for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (2007-2008), Esper successfully lead the Defense Department through an unprecedented time in the nation’s history: from conflict with Iran, an ongoing military campaign in Afghanistan, and counter-terrorist operations in the Middle East; to open competition with China and Russia amidst a fundamental shift in the geo-strategic environment. With experience as a corporate executive, Esper is in a unique position to address the challenges the U.S. faces globally while drilling down to the risks - and opportunities - that matter most to leaders, organizations, and policymakers.

Leadership: Caring for Your Most Important Asset, Your People

In this impactful speech, DR. MARK T. ESPER uses his informed experiences as a leader of two of the world’s largest and most complex organizations to discuss the necessity of having a clear vision, straightforward mission statement, and comprehensive strategy for your organization.  Esper speaks to ...

In this impactful speech, DR. MARK T. ESPER uses his informed experiences as a leader of two of the world’s largest and most complex organizations to discuss the necessity of having a clear vision, straightforward mission statement, and comprehensive strategy for your organization.  Esper speaks to the importance of being able to articulate these things well to multiple audiences, and how to develop coherent plans for developing, implementing, and sustaining success. Mark Esper believes the most important elements of an organization’s success are the character, values, and culture of its leaders and employees. In this pragmatic yet motivational presentation, Esper also shares:

  • The importance of empowering and motivating your team by delegating authority, assigning mission-type objectives, and giving people room to surprise you
  • How to strike the right balance between the demands of the present and the needs of the future when today is right in your face
  • The criticality of diversity, inclusiveness, and respect in the workplace
  • How to identify, recruit, develop, and retain quality people, especially leaders
  • The importance of caring for your most important asset, your people
  • How to drive change and implement reform in today’s world

National Security: What the U.S Government Can Do to Protect America Today While Readying for the Future

In this presentation, DR. MARK T. ESPER addresses the challenges the U.S. faces globally, moving from region to region, and hot spot to hot spot, to share his insights about the challenges, trends, risks and opportunities that every leader and organization needs to be aware of. Esper’s remarks will ...

In this presentation, DR. MARK T. ESPER addresses the challenges the U.S. faces globally, moving from region to region, and hot spot to hot spot, to share his insights about the challenges, trends, risks and opportunities that every leader and organization needs to be aware of. Esper’s remarks will cover topical issues, including:

  • What does the ascendance of China mean for the U.S. and the West in the 21st Century
  • How should America and its allies think about Russia over the next 10-15 years?
  • How real are regional threats to U.S. interests from countries like Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela?
  • How should the U.S. think about Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East?
  • What about transnational threats from terrorist groups and criminal organizations?
  • How do pandemics and climate change play into all of this?
  • What are the real challenges America faces in space and cyberspace?

Esper also speaks to how the U.S. can develop and implement a whole-of-country approach – one that includes government at all levels, and the private sector in all of its shapes and sizes – to deal with these matters, including what the United States government can do to protect America today while readying itself for the future. And what does this all mean for your organization and its future?

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<p><strong>Battle-tested leader Dr. Mark T. Esper shares his most valuable lessons in leadership during turbulent times</strong></p>

Battle-tested leader Dr. Mark T. Esper shares his most valuable lessons in leadership during turbulent times

During extraordinary moments in our nation’s history, DR. MARK T. ESPER has served at the highest levels of the U.S. government as Secretary of Defense, and earlier as Secretary of the Army.  He was also a senior corporate executive, worked at the top of prestigious Washington organizations, and led troops as an Army officer in war and peace.  As such, he understands the importance of character, integrity, and building trust when leading in difficult times.   Dr. Esper’s experiences in both the public and private sectors have also taught him how to drive positive change in organizations large and small, while also inspiring and communicating with diverse and distributed workforces.  Throughout a lifetime of leadership and service, beginning with his days at West Point, Dr. Esper offers his most valuable leadership advice – put your mission first and always take care of your people.

Dr. Esper will discuss the personal attributes, techniques, and inspiration necessary to lead and thrive through any challenge or crisis. With experience leading and advising not only during turbulent times, but also amid transformation and reform, he also speaks to the importance of diversity, inclusiveness, trust, and respect in the workplace.  Dr. Esper likens great leaders to the captains of ships navigating tough waters: “You need to know who you are as a leader, what is your mission, where is your destination, why you are going there, and what values will get you there…and then stay true to them.” Liz Schrayer, President and CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, says, “We are fortunate to have him [Dr. Esper] join our Advisory Council, adding his expertise, alongside our distinguished voices, helping advance America’s leadership on the global stage.”

Watch Dr. Mark T. Esper be presented with the 2023 Military Hero Award at the PFF Gala >>

<p><strong>Dr. Mark T. Esper offers a candid, studied, and personalized perspective on what AI means for businesses, industries, and society</strong></p>

Dr. Mark T. Esper offers a candid, studied, and personalized perspective on what AI means for businesses, industries, and society

Former Secretary of Defense DR. MARK T. ESPER now serves on a number of private equity and venture capital boards, and is a partner in VC firm Red Cell Partners – which is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence in healthcare and defense. Given his work in this space, Dr. Esper sees a great deal of disruption ahead when it comes to AI that will be marked by both great opportunities and serious risks. He addresses these issues from a C-Suite perspective and delivers sound insights for leadership audiences of all types, much as he does as a frequent commentator on FOX, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other news outlets. Dr. Esper offers a realistic outlook on what AI will not only mean for the military, but also the change it will drive in the private sector as its exponential growth outpaces the government’s attempts to regulate it. While large language models and other AI tools will aid workers, they will also displace others while causing their fair share of social and political disruption.  AI will also impact white collar workers in ways that previous leaps in technology have not.

With his vast public and private sector experience and insight, Dr. Esper is regularly sought out for his view on the tremendous opportunities and downsides presented by AI, from a venture capital perspective all the way to his time running one of the largest organizations in the world, the Department of Defense. From public speaking before large groups to private consulting for major companies to media appearances across a wide range of outlets, Dr. Esper delivers for audiences of all types. Dr. Esper customizes these conversations based on the issues relevant to his hosts and the unique issues facing their industry.

Watch Dr. Mark T. Esper give the distinguished keynote at Nexus 23 >>

<p><strong>Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper discusses China</strong></p>

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper discusses China

DR. MARK T. ESPER’s work on China goes back over three decades. From his time as a Pentagon war planner for Asia on the Army Staff, to his many senior positions in both chambers of Congress, and from his service as a commissioner on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commissioner to his tenure as head of the U.S. Global Intellectual Property Center, Dr. Esper has spent a fair amount of his professional life focused on U.S.-China matters, working issues from security and economic affairs, to trade, tech, and human rights. He even taught university-level classes on China earlier in his career. Dr. Esper has traveled multiple times to China and has met with two of the PRC’s last three leaders. He also negotiated with multiple Chinese counterparts on a variety of topics in Beijing over the years. During his time as Secretary of Defense, Dr. Esper worked closely with PRC Defense Minister Wei Fenghe to “open lines of communication, improve understanding, and reduce risk” in the relationship. In personalized conversations with C-Suite leaders, Dr. Esper leverages his knowledge and experience to share his assessment of U.S.-China relations, the challenges facing the PRC, security in the IndoPacific, Washington’s moves to de-couple/de-risk from Beijing, and what this all means for the foreseeable future.

In speaking to the next generation of leaders for the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Distinguished Lecture Series, Dr. Esper focused on the importance of organizational cohesion in any kind of coordinated global effort. In a conversation about China and Taiwan hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Asia Security Initiative, Dr. Esper proposed a five-point plan for Taiwan to defend itself against China. Dr. Esper’s unique skill in explaining and outlining a clear path forward for individuals and organizations in the face of varied concerns makes his advice actionable at scale.

 Watch Dr. Mark T. Esper speak on China on Morning in America >>

<p><strong>Dr. Mark T. Esper is uniquely poised to weigh in on the importance and complexity of logistics and supply chains in an era of great power competition</strong></p>

Dr. Mark T. Esper is uniquely poised to weigh in on the importance and complexity of logistics and supply chains in an era of great power competition

Former Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Army, corporative executive, and current venture capitalist DR. MARK T. ESPER offers executives a high-level perspective on the global economy, logistics, and supply chains, including the potential pitfalls and opportunities on the horizon, when it comes to U.S.-China relations. Since his time in Congress and as a Senate-appointed commissioner on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (2007-2008), up until his current roles as venture capitalist, consultant, and frequent appearances as a commentator on FOX, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other news outlets, Dr. Esper has maintained strong relationships in the region, visiting Taiwan annually to meet with the nation’s political and industry leaders. He connects the dots of current events and emerging developments to offer strategic insights and recommendations for business and financial leaders of all types.  Drawing on salient examples, like semiconductors and medical supplies, Dr. Esper leverages his knowledge of and relationships in the region, coupled with his extensive public & private sector experiences, to offer tailored remarks that help leaders and companies cut through the fog and noise to charter better paths ahead.

Watch Dr. Mark T. Esper discuss geopolitical risks & supply chain impacts with Travelers >>

<p><strong>Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper calls for security innovation and funding</strong></p>

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper calls for security innovation and funding

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Army, and Raytheon executive MARK T. ESPER sees strong potential for the modernization of security protocol everywhere. With perspectives formed during his tenure as Commissioner for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Esper sees a clear path ahead for security innovation activating the private sector. Recognizing the impact of high-tech startups and small firms, his commission has sought to increase funding flexibility and improve capability portfolio management. In an opinion column for The Hill, he says, “One of the most critical tasks on this agenda is modernizing the force with new weapons systems and equipment to ensure an advantage against our potential adversaries.” By increasing exchange between the public and private sectors, Esper sees a bright future for U.S. security practices.

Mark T. Esper is a vocal advocate for security innovation, willing to step up and speak when he sees an opportunity for even the U.S. government to improve its practices. His ability to speak to the future of crisis management and security as well as that future’s impact on relevant industries emphasizes his prowess not only as a foreign policy expert but also as a visionary leader, innovator, reformer, and agent of change. It is no surprise his perspective is frequently sought on CNN, FOX, Bloomberg, and more.

See Mark T. Esper speak at the Center for Strategic & International Studies here >>

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Biography

Dr. Mark T. Esper became the 27th Secretary of Defense in July 2019 when he was confirmed in an overwhelming 90-8 vote by the U.S. Senate in rare bipartisan fashion. Esper went on to successfully lead the Defense Department through an unprecedented time in the nation’s history: from conflict with Iran, an ongoing military campaign in Afghanistan, and counter-terrorist operations in the Middle East; to open competition with China and Russia amidst a fundamental shift in the geo-strategic environment. And from the greatest civil unrest and political turmoil America has seen in decades, to a major recession and the spread of a global pandemic the world had not experienced in over one hundred years, all while dealing with an unpredictable White House. Dr. Esper’s memoir, A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times, chronicles this turbulent and critical period of modern American history and was an instant New York Times Bestseller.

As Defense Secretary, Dr. Esper was responsible for ensuring the United States’ national security, protecting the American people at home and abroad, and advancing the country’s interests globally. In this capacity, he led the largest and most complex organization in the world given its nearly three million service members and defense civilians, $740 billion annual budget, and trillions of dollars of weapons, equipment, and infrastructure located at 4,800 sites in over 160 countries. Esper’s broad scope of responsibilities ranged from organizing, manning, training, and equipping the joint force, to the research and development of future weapons, concepts, and equipment, and from defense trade, diplomacy, and cybersecurity, to healthcare, hospitals, housing, and schools.

Dr. Esper made major strides in implementing the National Defense Strategy, which called for a return to preparing for high intensity conflict in a new era of great power competition with China and Russia. Esper established the Space Force and Space Command, proposed a dramatic change in the size and composition of the U.S. Navy, enhanced the resourcing and operations of Cyber Command, and led a major reform effort that reorganized the department and freed up billions of dollars for higher priorities. He worked hard to strengthen alliances and grow new partners, especially in the Indo-Pacific, and helped drive a major increase in the readiness and capability of NATO members while proposing to reposition U.S. forces farther east in Europe to deter Russia. Esper also advancing new warfighting, operational, and readiness concepts in the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, Secretary Esper oversaw the largest R&D budget in the department’s history, drove spending on innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, directed energy, robotics, and hypersonics, and launched the biggest initiative in decades to improve diversity and inclusion in the armed forces.

Prior to becoming Defense Secretary, Dr. Esper served as the 23rd Secretary of the Army from November 2017 until June 2019. In this capacity, he was responsible for over 1.5 million active, Guard, and Reserve Soldiers and Army civilians, a budget of $180 billion annually, and all aspects of leading the world’s most capable ground combat force. During his tenure, Esper launched a renaissance in how the Service organized, manned, trained, and equipped the force as it shifted its focus back toward large-scale combat operations against great power competitors.

Dr. Esper was a reformer who spearheaded an extensive review process dubbed “night court” that reduced organizational inefficiencies and eliminated scores of programs to free up funding for critical modernization initiatives. He also established a new U.S. Army Futures Command designed to improve the Army’s acquisition process and bolster its broader effort to field a modernized force capable of fighting in all domains. Finally, he directed an overhaul of Army recruiting standards and processes, the lengthening and toughening of Infantry Basic Combat Training, and the development of a new Talent Management system for the Service, all while advancing important initiatives for Army spouses and families.

Dr. Esper graduated from West Point with distinction in 1986 and received his commission in the Infantry. During 10 years on active duty, he served in the 101st Airborne Division and participated in the Gulf War with the “Screaming Eagles,” and later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe in what is now the 173d Airborne Brigade. He then served another eleven years in the National Guard and Army Reserve. From 1996 to 1998, Dr. Esper was chief of staff at The Heritage Foundation think tank, and later served in senior positions on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Government Affairs Committee, and House Armed Services Committee. Esper was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy from 2002 to 2004 and National Security Advisor for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist from 2004 to 2006.

From 2006 to 2007, Dr. Esper was the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Defense and International Affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association. He then worked as the National Policy Director on the 2008 presidential campaign of Senator Fred Thompson and as a Senate-appointed commissioner on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. From 2008 to 2010, he served concurrently as the Executive Vice President for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center and as Vice President for Europe and Eurasian Affairs. He was a senior executive at the Raytheon Company from 2010 to 2017. And from 2006 to 2010 he was an Associate Professor at the Missouri State University Graduate Studies program in northern Virginia.

Esper holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy, a Master of Public Administration degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a doctorate in Public Policy from George Washington University.

During his 21-year military career, Dr. Esper earned numerous awards and honors, including the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He is a two-time recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service and received the Minuteman Award for outstanding service from the National Guard Bureau in April 2021, and the General Andrew J. Goodpaster Award for outstanding leadership and selfless service from the George C. Marshall Foundation in July 2021.

Dr. Esper is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Strategy Group, and the Atlantic Council, among others, and is a frequent commentator on CNN, FOX, Bloomberg, and other news outlets. He is also the first John S. McCain Distinguished Fellow at The McCain Institute in Washington, D.C., the Distinguished Chair of the Modern War Institute at West Point, and a Board Member of the Atlantic Council. Dr. Esper also serves on a number of private equity and venture capital portfolio company boards. He is a partner at venture capital firm Red Cell partners, where he chairman of the national security practice.

Dr. Esper and his wife, Leah, have been married since 1989 and have three adult children.