Join DEF

DEF started as a movement of passionate doers that saw a need for greater innovation in the defense and national security community. We have continued to grow the virtuous insurgency since our first national conference in 2013, leaving a question of how best to scale and incorporate all the incredible participants.


As always, DEF is free to join – we value diversity and recognize that low barriers to entry are important to cultivate a vibrant community. Since piloting a membership concept in September 2017, we have been listening to feedback and looking to shape a program that supports our action-oriented community as we continue to grow.


We hope the new opportunities are exciting and allow you to amp up your insurgent activities as we continue working hard and bring us closer to the goal. Regardless of your desire to support the virtuous insurgency, we hope that you will engage in the discussion, find opportunities to help out your teammates, and take every opportunity to encourage a more innovative national security culture.


DEF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit run entirely by volunteers. We are always looking for motivated people willing to give their time in order to advance disruption and innovative thinking within the National Security ecosystem.

Image by Clark Tibbs

Frequent Questions

Hasn’t DEF had a membership program for a while? What changed?


We rolled out our pilot membership plan at DEF2017 and received lots of great feedback that is incorporated into the current program. There have been some big changes that we’re excited about! The biggest changes include a simplified structure, retention of access to our digital platforms for non-paying members, and the introduction of a Corporate Membership component that will allow our private sector partners to cement their support for DEF. We’ve also included some cool options for DEF-branded gear in this version!


I previously supported DEF through the pilot membership program – what do the updates mean for me?

Anyone who signed up for paid membership under the membership pilot program on or before August 1, 2018, will be eligible for all the entitlements and benefits that came with their payment (e.g., discount to the Annual Conference). All memberships under the pilot program, whether paid or unpaid, will be grandfathered into the current program. Those who signed up for paid membership under the pilot program will be automatically ‘upgraded’ to the closest equivalent in the current plan and receive any additional benefits that were not included in the pilot membership program (e.g. DEF gear).

My company is interested in supporting DEF – is corporate membership possible?

Unlike sponsorship, which provides marketing opportunities for discrete events, the new, corporate membership component of the plan provides an opportunity for companies to purchase memberships for their employees and solidify the enduring value that they see in DEF. The number of paid memberships available vary, based on the company’s annual revenue and size. 

Cool, I’d like to support DEF financially: where does the money go?

Directly back to our members in the form of national programs and services that provide opportunities to inspire, connect and empower! As we continue to implement the DEF 3.0 evolution (focused on that critical “empower” component), we recognize the need to provide real value back to our members. Proceeds from membership , both corporate and individual, will help fund key programs like the Firestarters Fellowship, support the IT architecture for Cloud Advisory, provide financial flexibility so that we can support down payments for DEFx events, and support new pilot programs created by you, our members!

Is membership in DEF really needed? I thought it was more of a movement.

One of the things we learned, after a careful and detailed review of our books, is that DEF has largely been operating in the red for the last few years. Whatever you think of the idea of a membership program, we all seem to want DEF to endure and continue to inspire, connect and empower. We want to offer value back to our members in the form of something more than local volunteers convening events and need revenue diversity to ensure continued solvency. Membership in DEF is always free; this just provides a structured way for those who want to give more to be able to do so.

This is great, but I have some ideas to make it even better – how do I share them?

We need your feedback, comments and concerns so that we can iterate to success! We want membership to reflect our organizational values and ensure that DEF will be around 10 years from now! Consistent with our desire to implement Lean principles into our operations, we’ll periodically evaluate the whole program and make updates based on feedback of our members. Please share any thoughts and ideas here.