Sec. Deborah Lee James

Advisory Board Member



Through January 2017, Secretary James served as the 23rd Secretary of the United States Air Force with responsibility for 660,000 military and civilian personnel and a budget of nearly $140 billion. Secretary James has deep expertise in strategic planning, risk management, public policy, cyber security, logistics and innovation.

As the Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF), she successfully led strategic change in human capital management, training and acquisition approaches, as well as streamlining of headquarter operations and government-wide changes in space and cyber. She navigated people, policy and budgetary matters through the complex legislative and regulatory environment as well as invested R&D dollars to ensure the Air Force remains on the cutting edge of technology for decades to come. On the international scene, Secretary James enhanced more than 40 relationships with Air Force partners in the Middle East, Europe and Asia through the advocacy of U.S. defense products, training and interoperability. By establishing goals and metrics, she directed process changes to speed up the Air Force’s Foreign Military Sales requirements. She championed a variety of talent management programs, including ones designed to capitalize upon diversity of background, succession planning, and the identification and development of high potential employees.

As the SecAF, Secretary James was dual-hatted as the Principal Defense Space Advisor with responsibility for the rewrite and coordination of strategy and budgets for all U.S. national security space efforts. Over several years, this effort resulted in billions of dollars shifted toward making the U.S. space architecture more resilient. She also reintroduced competition for national security space launches.

Earlier in Secretary James’s career, she served as a Professional Staff Member for the House Armed Services Committee and as the DoD Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.

Secretary James has 15 years of executive experience in private industry. Most recently, she was the President of SAIC’s Technical and Engineering sector, a $2 billion, 8,700 person enterprise. Prior to becoming the President of the Technical and Engineering Sector, Secretary James served as Executive Vice President for Communications and Government Affairs, which included SAIC’s corporate responsibility programs. In this role, Secretary James worked extensively with the Board of Directors on reputation risk management issues and led SAIC’s Women’s Network. Earlier, she was a Business Unit General Manager of a $500 million, 2,500 person C4IT business unit. Prior to that role at SAIC, Secretary James served as the Director of Homeland Security.

Before joining SAIC, Secretary James served as the Chief Operating Officer for the non-profit entity Business Executives for National Security and spent two years as the Vice President for International Operations and Marketing for United Technologies Corporation (UTC).

Secretary James leads DLJames International LLC, a strategic advisory firm, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Textron Inc., The Atlantic Council, and MKACyber. She is a Special Advisor at Bain & Company and a Senior Advisor to the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS). Secretary James is on the Advisory Boards at Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Lincoln Laboratory and LeanIn.Org.


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