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Hacking for Defense™

Solving National Security Issues with the Lean Launchpad



Hacking for Defense™

Solving National Security Issues with the Lean Launchpad


H4D classes are live-streamed Monday evenings @6:30pm on Twitter @H4DGUSSP and on Facebook Live @Hacking4DefenseGeorgetown. Next class is 3/20!

Hacking for Defense™ (H4D) is the most unique and rewarding class you’ll take at Georgetown. A Security Studies Program course designed for all graduate students in all schools and programs, it takes an entrepreneurial, interdisciplinary approach to America’s hardest national security challenges. The complexity of these challenges demands a transformative effort that requires multi-faceted teams comprised of graduate students from the foreign servicelaw, medical, and business schools. We need and want policy professionals, makers and mechanical engineers, systems engineers, computer scientists, biomedical and public health professionals, physicists, scientists, and everyone between to be part of this unique effort. You will be at the forefront of changing the paradigm of problem-solving and solution development for the U.S. Government. The course is demanding; you’ll present at every class, you’ll work closely with your team, you’ll receive relentlessly direct feedback, your problem sponsors may be in the room, your mentors will be in the room, and so will prospective investors, but you’ll be solving real problems for real customers, in real-time.

It's why you came to Georgetown.

H4D is an education initiative sponsored by the U.S. Government proponent, MD5 at the National Defense University, and was originally created at Stanford by Pete NewellJoe Felter, Professor Tom Byers, and Steve Blank and has been wildly successful. Eight teams of 3-5 students from interdisciplinary backgrounds work together to solve real-world national security challenges given by problem sponsors inside the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. Past problem sponsors have been Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER), Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO), National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), National Security Agency (NSA), U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and many others. Using Lean Startup Theory as a basis for solution development, and working closely with their problem sponsors, mentors, and liaisons, teams will have 13 weeks to bring a product or service "to market." In a past class, four of eight teams received additional funding to continue their work from either their problem sponsor or an investor.

Sign up on this Google Doc to see other interested Georgetown graduate students and the problems they want to solve!





Learn how to innovate at speed while helping make the world a safer place.

In a crisis, national security initiatives move at the speed of a startup yet in peacetime they default to decades-long acquisition and procurement cycles. Startups operate with continual speed and urgency 24/7. Over the last few years they've learned to be fast and efficient with resources and time using lean startup methodologies. In this class student teams will take actual national security problems and learn how to apply lean startup principles, ("business model canvas," "customer development," and "agile engineering") to discover and validate customer needs and to continually build minimum viable products (MVPs) to test whether they understood the problem and solution. Teams take a hands-on approach requiring close engagement with actual military and intelligence community end-users.

So, why Hacking for Defense?

1.     You’ll contribute to national service.

2.    You’ll work on real national security issues, with real national security leaders.

3.     You’ll learn Lean Startup methodology to help you build efficient and successful startups, and develop skills to solve problems in           any organization.

Here's a short video to demonstrate why H4D is so desperately needed:


General Info

General Info

Class Basics

SEST-701 - Hacking for Defense™: Solving National Security Issues with the Lean Launchpad


When & Where:

Spring 2017 (1/11 - 5/1) in St. Mary's Hall, Room 110 on Mondays (6:30 - 9:00 PM)


Donna Artusy, Paige Tsiumis, and Joe Schuman

Research Asst:

Syllabus & Application Info

Will be posted here



Admission is by teams of 3-5 Georgetown graduate students from any school or department. Limited enrollment by application. Click here for more information on applications.

Was 11/28. Check back here for future application deadlines, or, send an email to


Team Interviews:



  • Follow the course and review courseware from week-to-week here
  • Chris & Matt's weekly observations here
  • If you want to create/join a team, sign up on this Google Doc and attend brown bag lunches/information sessions.
  • To receive updates, please follow us on Twitter @H4DGUSSP.
  • Interested in providing technical advice to a team? Email Chris Taylor or Matt Zais
  • For examples from previous Student Final Presentations: click here
  • To better understand how the process works see the final presentation videos; watch them on video here.