Amb. (Ret.) Thomas R. Pickering
Thomas R. Pickering, currently Vice Chairman at Hills and Company which provides advice and counsel to a number of major US enterprises, retired as Senior Vice President International Relations and a member of the Executive Council of The Boeing Company on July 1, 2006. He served in that position for 5 and one half years. He was responsible for The Boeing Company's relations with foreign governments and the company's globalization.
Pickering joined Boeing in January 2001, upon his retirement as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, where he had served since May 1997. Prior to that, he was briefly the president of the Eurasia Foundation, a Washington-based organization that makes small grants and loans in the states of the former Soviet Union.
Pickering holds the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service. In a diplomatic career spanning five decades, he was U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Pickering also served on assignments in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
From 1989 to 1992, he was Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations in New York. He also served as Executive Secretary of the Department of State and Special Assistant to Secretaries William P. Rogers and Henry A. Kissinger from 1973 to 1974.
Pickering entered on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1956-1959, and later served in the Naval Reserve to the grade of Lieutenant Commander. Between 1959 and 1961, he was assigned to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the State Department and later to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and from 1962 to 1964 in Geneva as political adviser to the U.S. Delegation to the 18-Nation Disarmament Conference.
Pickering received a bachelor's degree, cum laude, with high honors in history, from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 1953. In 1954, he received a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Melbourne in Australia, and received a second master's degree in 1956. In 1984, he was awarded an honorary doctor-in-laws degree from Bowdoin College, and has received similar honors from 12 other universities.
In 2012, he chaired the Benghazi Accountability Review Board at the request of Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton which made recommendations on improving security stemming from the attack on the US Mission at Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 and the loss of the lives of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
In 1983 and in 1986, Pickering won the Distinguished Presidential Award and, in 1996, the Department of State’s highest award – the Distinguished Service Award. He is a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies and the Council on Foreign Relations. He speaks French, Spanish and Swahili and has some fluency in Arabic, Hebrew and Russian.
The son of Hollywood legends Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, Max Brooks is dedicated to challenging and
encouraging systems and institutions to think outside the box. Using fictional metaphor and historical
events to prompt serious discourse on large-scale problem-solving, Brooks explores new ways to address
old problems and new concerns. From the basic responsibilities of civilians and corporations to the overarching
role of government and the military, Brooks in his writing sheds light on what each can—and
should— be prepared to do, to not only survive, but thrive in the face of real-world threats, disaster, and
After working for the BBC in Great Britain and East Africa, Brooks wrote The Zombie Survival Guide.
Brooks’ New York Times best-seller, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War has been made into a
major motion picture starring Brad Pitt.
Brooks’ ultimate goal is to challenge old ways of thinking and encourage mental agility and flexibility for
problem solvers and leaders. His books have inspired the U.S. military and federal government to examine how they might respond to potential crises in the future. ‘Survival Guide’ was read and discussed by the sitting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Brooks has been invited to speak at a variety of military and government venues —from the Naval War College and the FEMA hurricane drill at San Antonio, to the nuclear “Vibrant Response” war game.
Today, Brooks explores the consequences of failed leadership, making the leap from mythos to American History with the release of his latest book, The Harlem Hellfighters. The graphic novel chronicles the little-known story of the successes of first African-American regiment mustered to fight in WWI. A former writer for Saturday Night Live, Brooks lives in New York City with his wife, Michelle, and their miniature dachshund, Maizey.
Dr. Virginia Burkett
Virginia Burkett serves as Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change at the U.S. Geological Survey. Burkett was formerly Chief of the Wetlands Ecology Branch at the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Burkett has also served as Secretary/Director of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Director of the Louisiana Coastal Zone Management Program, and Assistant Director of the Louisiana Geological Survey. Burkett has published extensively on the topics of climate change, sea level rise, and low-lying coastal zones. She was a Lead Author of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third, Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports (2001, 2007 and 2014) and the IPCC Technical Paper on Water (2008). She was a Lead Author of the 2001, 2009 and 2014 U.S. National Assessments of climate change impacts produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Virginia Burkett is among the Nobel Prize-winning authors of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fourth assessment report.
In addition to journal articles and books, Burkett has co-authored reports for The Wildlife Society (2004), the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (2005), the Everglades Task Force (2007), the U.S. Department of Transportation (2008), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2012) that address climate change impacts and potential adaptation strategies. She is a Senior Editor of the journal Regional Environmental Change and serves on the Editorial Board of the journal Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics. Burkett has been appointed to over 60 Commissions, Committees, Science Panels and Boards during her career. Burkett received her doctoral degree in forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas in 1996.
Dr. Erkko Etula
Erkko Etula is a Vice President in the Investment Strategy Group at Goldman Sachs.
Erkko is responsible for research in Strategic and Quantitative Asset Allocation within the Investment Strategy Group at Goldman Sachs. Since joining Goldman Sachs in 2010, he headed the design and development of the Investment Strategy Group's robust factor-based approach to asset allocation. Currently, his main focus is customized portfolio solutions for clients. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Erkko was an Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where he focused on asset pricing as a member of the Capital Markets team. Erkko has published a number of articles in economics and finance journals, including the Journal of Finance and the Journal of Portfolio Management. Erkko earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in Economics from Harvard University where he was a Presidential Scholar. He also holds a B.Sc. Phi Beta Kappa from MIT.
Brigadier General Kimberly Field
Brigadier General Kimberly Field is the Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs (Middle East), J-5. She is a 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy, where she majored in Russian.
BG Field served in many leadership positions at various levels, from Platoon Leader in the 59th Military Police Company to the Executive Officer (XO) of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command in Afghanistan. Over the course of her career, BG Field has studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, California, earned a Master of Arts in Security Management from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and graduated from the US Army War College.
BG Field returned to West Point to teach as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences, served as Political Advisor to the United States’ Ambassador the United Nations, and served as the Chief of Plans and Analysis at the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany. BG Field served as the ISAF Executive Officer (XO) for three commanders: General McKiernan, General McChrystal, and General Petraeus. In addition to her deployments to Afghanistan, she has also deployed to Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope and to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dr. Kevin P. O'Prey
Kevin P. O’Prey, Ph.D., is co-founder, Chairman, and President of Obsidian Analysis, Inc (www.obsidiandc.com). Dr. O’Prey is a nationally recognized facilitator and analyst of homeland security challenges. He is the facilitator and lead developer of the Senior Officials Exercise (SOE) and Principals-Level Exercise (PLE) series, the Federal Government’s premier exercises for senior homeland security officials, including Cabinet Secretaries and the President. In that capacity, Dr. O’Prey works closely with officials at all levels of government to develop, conduct, and assess the results of exercises that examine the nation’s capacity to manage catastrophic events. In addition, he facilitates a number of executive-level tabletop exercises and seminars for other Federal departments, state and local governments, academic institutions, international organizations, as well as private sector leaders.
Dr. O’Prey additionally directs analytical and strategic planning projects for a range of Federal, state, and local government clients. He served as a staff member for the White House review of the Federal Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Among his projects have been path-breaking work in assessing the nation’s preparedness, cyber-security challenges, all-hazards planning, as well as assessment/evaluation of specific programs.
Dr. O’Prey earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Grinnell College. The author of several books on international security, he was formerly a fellow at the Brookings Institution, Managing Partner of the Palisades Group, and President of DFI Government Services.
Dr. Rachel M. Sondheimer, Moderator
Rachel M. Sondheimer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States
Military Academy. Dr. Sondheimer also serves as the Director of the American Politics Program at West
Point. She earned a B.A. degree in government at Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in political science at
Rachel teaches courses on American politics, public policy, research methods, political participation,
politics and the media, and identity politics. She has published numerous articles on civil-military
relations as well as political participation, including a study on the effects of education on voter turnout
in the American Journal of Political Science (with Donald Green). Rachel is currently working on a new
edition of the textbook American National Security (Johns Hopkins University Press) which is widely used
at colleges and universities in the United States.