The Secretary of Defense Executive Fellows (SDEF), initiated by Secretary Perry and continued today by Secretary Mattis, is a long-term investment and a key part of DoD's strategy to achieve the transformation of our military forces and capabilities. Annually, two or more officers with highly successful operational command and staff backgrounds from each Service are selected to receive their senior service college credit outside the traditional career path by training with Corporate America. In this program, they are exposed to businesses reshaping organizational structures and methods of operations to provide innovative and competitive advantages, and they are able to glean the best of change, innovation, and leading edge business practices that could be implemented to transform DoD. SDEF alumni form a cadre of future Service leaders more knowledgeable in the organizational and operational opportunities made possible by the revolutionary changes in information and other technologies.
Prior to arriving at their corporate assignments, new officers receive a month of general and specific training to acquaint them with the strategic issues and other factors facing DoD. This includes lectures by subject matter experts on current political/military issues and leading edge technologies; meetings with senior DoD officials, business executives, Members of Congress, the press, and former SDEF officers and sponsors; and graduate business school executive education. During their one-year assignment, SDEF officers, as a group, conduct discussion-level meetings with the senior leadership of each sponsoring company, and update senior leaders in OSD and the Services on relevant observations and recommendations. At the conclusion of the assignment, each member of the SDEF submits an individual final report and the group, as a whole, provides individual briefings to the Secretary of Defense/Deputy Secretary of Defense, Service Secretaries and Chiefs, and over three dozen other senior OSD and Service leaders.
Officers have been assigned to such diverse and innovative businesses as: 3M, Accenture, Amazon, Amgen, Apple, Boeing, Booze Allen, Caterpillar, Cisco, DuPont, ExxonMobil, FedEx, General Dynamics, Google, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, JPMorganChase, Lockheed Martin, Merck, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Northrop Grumman, Oracle, Raytheon, Salesforce.com, SAP, Shell, Southern Company, SpaceX, Union Pacific, and United Technologies. Although in different kinds of corporate structures, each is placed at the senior leadership level of their respective companies. In addition to learning, they provide DoD an opportunity to showcase some of its finest officers at high levels in the corporate world, allowing each to share his or her leadership capabilities, critical and analytical insights, and a first-hand knowledge of military life. The payback for these assignments is enormous, not only for the respective officer, but also for the Services and DoD at large. With their experiences at leading edge companies, SDEF officers bring back knowledge of today’s corporate realities, such as change management, adaptive and collaborative structures, knowledge management, the virtual workplace, and how to leverage the best of new technologies and human intellect, and they apply this knowledge in a myriad of ways throughout their military careers.
The Secretary of Defense Executive Fellows program is governed by Department of Defense Instruction Number 1322.23.