The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 11, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person Nov. 30.
Next is DOD Industry Executive of the Year (Private Company) finalist Keoki Jackson, who’s senior vice president and general manager of MITRE National Security Sector. Here, he talks proud organizational moments, primary focus areas going forward, shaping the next generation of leaders and more.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
When Russia invaded Ukraine this year, MITRE immediately used a whole-of-MITRE, whole-of-nation approach to get critical capabilities to Ukraine at mission speed. I championed crowdsourcing ideas across all of MITRE. In a week, employees submitted more than 100 proposals for consideration, of which 11 emerged as front runners. Related solutions are now being deployed to support the people of Ukraine.
We’re partnering with government, non-profit organizations, and industry to forge fast and innovative solutions to protect Ukrainian lives and livelihoods ⏤ and to support broader national, humanitarian and global security interests.
We are tackling a cross-cutting set of issues, from securing satellite communications, to undermining Russian cyber threats and misinformation, to protecting humanitarian relief organizations, to crowdsourcing evidence of war crimes.
We envision these innovations will go beyond the support for Ukraine and be applied to future international threats.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
To preserve the free and open world order, America and our allies must make integrated deterrence visible. There are three critical areas ⏤ a holistic view of strategic competition, multi-national engagement and whole-of-nation approaches we need to address.
- We need holistic and data-informed situational awareness to understand the full breadth of our global strategic competition and develop coordinated responses. We must keep listening to our combatant commands, our industrial base and our international allies, and develop feedback loops across security, economic and cultural sectors.
- We need to operationalize our alliances and partnerships through multi-stakeholder coordination and engagement ⏤ by leaning into partnerships we already have in the Pacific and looking for opportunities to expand with other nations.
- We need a whole-of-nation approach to break out of our own silos. Whether it’s a cyber threat, a bio-outbreak a nuclear weapon or any manner of attack, China can quickly rally its entire governmental and industrial strength. America needs to be prepared to do the same at mission speed with government, industry, and academia resources, innovation, and leadership.
With our work across federally funded R&D centers and more than 200 independent labs, MITRE has a unique vantage point across the federal landscape. We see how the work of multiple agencies can be pulled together. We help those parties connect and find data-driven methods to face the pacing challenge of authoritarian nations. We’re immersed in nearly every aspect of global strategic competition ⏤ from modernizing nuclear deterrence to readying cyber defenders to protecting critical infrastructure and our democratic institutions to preparing for the next global health crisis. That’s how we solve problems for a safer world.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
The future leaders start with today’s diverse rising stars. In the summer of 2021, I backed MITRE’s National Security Accelerator Program, which fast-tracks and mentors top talent, jumpstarting their networks and providing diverse work experiences ⏤ from 5G to artificial intelligence to cyber ⏤ over a 6-month cycle.
We recruit highly motivated, early-career candidates passionate about solving problems for a safer world. Candidates become part of an elite cadre of early career scientists, engineers, programmers and technologists deeply immersed in MITRE’s work, culture, strategy, priorities and innovation. We prepare them to thrive in a technically rooted, mission-focused career. We’re empowering early-career talent to make a global impact ⏤ from day one.