2nd Annual Middle Georgia National Security Forum – Innovation: Connecting Generations
The “digital trinity” — digital engineering and management, agile software, and open architecture — is the true successor to stealth: the next big paradigm shift for U.S. tech dominance. Rather than just building better systems, it builds systems better — opening doors to faster design, seamless assembly, and easier upgrades. This is certainly important to advancing our national security and sustaining our military edge, but just as important for ensuring the global competitiveness of our industries and workforce overall. Connecting our industries to these principles.....and then connecting our generations, the people to see these principles to the future... to ensure they evolve and continue to innovate, is the focus of this discussion.
Will Roper is the founder and chief executive officer of technology startup Istari Digital. Backed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Istari is building the world’s first engineering metaverse, where all technology – from medicines to satellites – can be created and certified completely digitally. Making innovation lightyears faster, cheaper, and greener is Istari’s mission.
A Distinguished Professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech, Roper is also a board member and advisor of numerous startups and investment firms, senior advisor at McKinsey & Co., member of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board, and U.K. Royal Air Force Honorary Group Captain.
Roper previously served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, overseeing $60 billion of annual technology development and operations for 5,300+ aircraft and satellites. A career innovator, he spearheaded the U.S. military’s first uses of artificial intelligence, digital engineering, venture capital investments, hypersonics, and sustainable aviation. Prior to this, he founded the Pentagon’s secretive Strategic Capabilities Office, creating over $1.6 billion of advanced prototypes annually, including the world’s largest drone swarm unveiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Roper began his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the Missile Defense Agency’s chief futurist.
During his service, Roper received the Pentagon’s and Air Force’s highest awards for public service. His features in Wired, Popular Mechanics, and his Matrix-inspired guide to digital engineering, “There is No Spoon,” continue to drive thought on technology and innovation.
He holds a bachelor’s and master’s in physics from Georgia Tech and a doctorate in mathematics from Oxford University, where he studied string theory as a Rhodes Scholar.
The Honorable Beverly Seay
Seay is the Southeast Regional Director for the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), a program office within the U.S. Department of Defense. In this role, she is leveraging talent through new partnerships with major universities and the venture community to drive national security innovation.
Seay is a former entrepreneurial modeling and simulation defense industry senior executive with global experience and a Fortune 500 track record in domestic and global business operations. She brings to NSIN strong university ties and industry collaboration expertise in start-ups, turnarounds, high growth, and acquisitions
Inducted into the National Center for Simulation Hall of Fame and selected every year as one of Florida’s most influential business leaders by Florida Trend, Seay is a trustee emerita of the University of Central Florida (UCF) Board of Trustees and served as Chair from July 2019 through June 2021. She is Chair of UCF’s Research Foundation and past chair of the Deans’ Industry Advisory Boards at the University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Engineering and Computer Science and the Georgia Tech College of Computing. In May 2023, Seay was inducted into the Georgia Tech College of Computing Hall of Fame. She is also Chair of the board of Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) (2022-present, member 2015-present).
As chair of the Florida Simulation Summit (2015-present), Seay works with the Orange County Mayor’s office and the National Center for Simulation to increase awareness of Modeling and Simulation technologies and their applications in industries such as healthcare, entertainment, transportation, education, and defense.
In December 2020, Seay was recognized as i4 Business Magazine’s 2020 Business Leader of the Year. In February 2021, she was recognized as Orlando Business Journal’s Businesswoman of the Year. In November 2021, she was inducted into the Mid-Florida Business Hall of Fame. In 2020, Women in Defense presented her with the Service to the Flag Award.
Seay has a B.S. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Computers, Information and Control Engineering from the University of Michigan.
Josh Altman serves as the National Security Advisor to United States Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA). He is Sen. Ossoff’s principal policy advisor for defense, foreign affairs, homeland security, and veterans’ affairs, and manages relevant legislative and oversight projects on behalf of the senator.
Prior to joining Sen. Ossoff’s office, Altman earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. While at Harvard, Altman worked at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs as a research assistant to Belfer Senior Fellow General (Ret.) Joseph Dunford, supporting General Dunford’s chairmanship of the Afghanistan Study Group at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He also served as a teaching assistant to former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, supporting Secretary Carter’s courses on technology, public policy, and leadership in the national security enterprise.
Altman previously served for five years as an infantry officer in the United States Army. He is a graduate of Officer Candidate School, Army Ranger School, and Jumpmaster School and deployed to Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. Prior to serving in the military, Altman worked for two years as a high school mathematics teacher with Teach for America. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from George Washington University. Altman grew up in Cherokee County, Georgia.