Our Team

Vago Muradian

Founder & Editor

For nearly 25 years, defense and aerospace leaders in both the public and private sector have relied on Vago Muradian’s reporting and editorial opinions. Vago’s in-depth coverage and analysis of national and international security has made him a go-to authority on policy, strategy, innovation and technology, as well as a trusted source for the news that matters most.

As editor of Defense News for 14 years, Vago developed a network of international correspondents in 21 countries. He founded and hosted Defense News with Vago Muradian, the world’s first weekly TV program dedicated to defense issues, which aired in Washington, D.C., and worldwide on the American Forces Network.

Vago also founded and served as managing editor of Defense Daily International in addition to his role as a business and international reporter for Defense Daily, a U.S. newsletter covering the defense and aerospace industry. While at Defense Daily, Vago won numerous awards including “best breaking news coverage” for his 1998 coverage of the U.S. government’s rejection of a proposed merger between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Prior to Defense Daily, Vago served as Defense News’ land warfare reporter and later covered global operations, including in Europe, Haiti, Somalia and Zaire for the Air Force Times, the independent U.S. publication covering the U.S. Air Force.

Vago regularly appears on C-SPAN, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and conducts radio interviews for international outlets such as the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Swiss TV. His reporting and commentary is cited in books quoted in publications like the The Economist. He is a frequent speaker, panelist and moderator at international defense events, and he lectures at the Defense Acquisition University at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Michael Herson

President, American Defense International & Washington Roundtable Panelist

Michael Herson is President and Chief Executive Officer of American Defense International, Inc. Michael Herson is President and Chief Executive Officer of American Defense International, Inc. He was raised in New Jersey and has a Bachelor’s Degree in American Government from Georgetown University, a Juris Doctor from Rutgers University School of Law, and a Master’s Degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.

While a student at Georgetown, Michael was selected to be a White House intern where he served in the Executive Office of President Ronald Reagan and in the speech writing office of Vice President George Bush. After returning to Washington in 1990, Herson was appointed as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management and Personnel, the Pentagon’s senior manpower official responsible for all personnel policy and oversight of the recruiting, training, compensation, support, and management of the Department’s military and civilian personnel. In 1993, he was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.

After leaving the Department of Defense, Michael joined the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution as a Visiting Fellow for National Security Affairs. From April 1993 to June 1993, he was part of the team that successfully defended the Great Lakes Naval Training Center before the Base Closure Commission. From August 1993 through September 1994, Michael was the Assistant Vice President of HealthCare Imaging Services, Inc. in Middletown, New Jersey, a health care company which specializes in magnetic resonance imaging. On June 7, 1994, Michael won the Republican primary election becoming his party’s nominee for the U.S. Congress in New Jersey’s Sixth District and received national recognition as one of the youngest candidates in the country.

He has been quoted as a political and defense expert in many national and Washington publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Businessweek, Investor’s Business Daily, The Huffington Post, Politico, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Stars and Stripes, The Hill, and Roll Call and has been interviewed on National Public Radio, and XM Talk Radio 168, and is a regular guest on the Defense & Aerospace Report Washington roundtable podcast. Defense News has recognized him as one of the top 100 influential people in US Defense, and the Hill newspaper consistently names him as one of the top lobbyists in Washington and one of the top “Hired Guns” in the nation’s capital.
Michael serves on the board of many national security and defense-related organizations, as well as charitable organizations.

He is a member of the American Security Project’s Consensus for American Security, a group of influential military and national security leaders who have come together to highlight growing support for a new, sustainable and comprehensive national security policy. He serves on the Board of Trustees at the Lexington Institute, a non-profit public-policy think tank that focuses on national security, education reform, and U.S. relations with Cuba. Through the National Center for Children and Families, Michael and his wife, Vicki, serve as the ambassadors to the Montgomery County School District, providing food, shoes, school supplies, and other basic needs for impoverished children. Michael is also an honorary Member of the Board of Surprise Lake Camp, which provides high quality Jewish camping experiences for underprivileged children and young adults from the greater New York City area, and he previously served on the board of the Bronx Freedom Fund, which helped indigent defendants meet their bail obligations. Michael has also passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Level One examination and has his own wine label.

Alex Muradian


Alex is a graduate of the great books program at St. John’s College, Annapolis, with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and the History of Math and Science and minors in Classics and Comparative Literature. He was an assistant in the College’s Quantum Laboratory and worked on research and development projects at Maryland Energy and Sensor Technology located at the University of Maryland. As captain or Imperial Wicket of St. John’s Croquet Team, he led the squad to a national championship and bested the US Naval Academy to retain the coveted Annapolis Cup. Alex is a talented furniture maker producing custom pieces for clients nationwide.

Katie Taplett

VP, Sales & Marketing

Katie Taplett brings over 30 years of sales, business development, and market/partnership development experience in media and information services, working specifically with leading business to business content providers and trade publishers within the aerospace, defense and new space sectors. She has extensive expertise in strategic implementation programs for client engagement with both U.S. and non U.S. clients with a focus on digital media, lead generation and content creation. Most recently, Katie was VP for Revenue and Brand Management at AIAA and has led the revenue growth and brand expansions at several nationally recognized brands such as Defense News, Aviation Week & Space Technology and Janes Information Group.

Dr. Patrick Cronin

Roundtable Panelist

Dr. Patrick M. Cronin holds the Chair for Asia-Pacific Security at Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.Previously, he was the Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS); Senior Director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) at the National Defense University, where he simultaneously oversaw the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs; Director of Studies at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS); Senior Vice President and Director of Research at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); and Director of Research at the U.S. Institute of Peace. During the George W. Bush Administration, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the third-highest ranking official at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  He has been an adjunct faculty professor at the University of Virginia, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and Georgetown University.

Hon. Dov S. Zakheim

Roundtable Panelist

Dov S. Zakheim is Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Senior Fellow at the CNA Corporation, a federally funded think tank. Previously he was Senior Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton. From 2001 to April 2004 he was Under Secretary of Defense(Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Defense, and from 2002-2004 he was also DOD’s coordinator of civilian programs in Afghanistan. From 1985 until 1987, Dr. Zakheim was Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Planning and Resources, playing an active role in the Department’s system acquisition, strategic planning, programming and budget processes. He held other senior DOD posts from 1981-1985.

Dr. Zakheim has served on numerous government, corporate, non-profit and charitable boards. He is Vice Chairman of the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Board of Trustees, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Center for The National Interest. Dr. Zakheim’s membership of government boards and panels includes the National Intelligence Council’s International Business Practices Advisory Panel, which he chaired (2008-2011); the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008-11); and the Defense Business Board (2004-2012, 2014-2018), which he helped establish. He currently is an Executive Advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations.

Dr. Zakheim is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; Chatham House/the Royal Institute of International Affairs (UK); and the International Institute for Strategic Studies and is a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences. A 1970 graduate of Columbia University with a B.A., summa cum laude, Dr. Zakheim also studied at the London School of Economics. He holds a doctorate in economics and politics from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Zakheim is the author of numerous books, monographs, chapters in edited volumes, articles and book reviews He lectures widely and provides print, radio and television commentary on national security policy issues domestically and internationally. He blogs on The Hill and The National Interest.

Cliff Ransom

Lean Strategist

Cliff Ransom serves as the President of Ransom Research, Inc., an independent equity investment research firm he founded in 2003 to perform as an outsourced resource for major institutional investment organizations. He focuses principally on enterprises in the industrial arena, including manufacturing, aerospace and defense, electrical equipment, hand and power tools, power generation and transmission, railroad equipment, electronic test devices, construction and agricultural equipment, medical devices, and water and fluid handling. Cliff has a special interest in after-market operations, including service, spare parts, retrofits, upgrades, and re-manufacturing, and a recent emphasis on what

he calls IoDNE (pronounced “iodine”), for “The Internet for Darned nearEverything.” Three key competencies of the firm relate to the revolutions associatedwith “The Way of Lean Investing,” the advances in Additive Manufacturing, and the confluence of Lean, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Sensing, Communications, and rapid and inexpensive Data Processing. He is fond of saying“Data has no value until someone transforms the raw figures into actionableinformation.”

Cliff benefits from more than forty years of experience on Wall Street, on both the Buy Side and the Sell Side. He has served as Director of Research or Chief Investment Officer at several New York Stock Exchange Member Firms and as head of the Industrial Research Group at State Street Research and Management. Cliff wasnamed to Institutional Investor Magazine’s “Best of the Buy Side” during his StateStreet days.

Ransom Research, Inc., works with a deliberately-constrained number of major institutional investors. The twin defining differentiators of his research practice are adisciplined business travel schedule to “go to the gemba, the place that the real workis done,” and a deep and abiding faith in the concept that Lean Thinking is a precursor to superior investment performance. He has spent the last 29 years honing this approach, and he today operates the only Wall Street business model based on three pillars: long-term relationships with the investment community, deep familiarity with C- Suites around the world, and exposure to a wide range of global lean practitioners, thought leaders, consultants, authors, gurus, and sensei of all shapes and sizes. His concerns center on true Servant Leadership, the primacy of Safety and Employee Engagement, the role of Management Standardized Work, reliance on appropriate metrics, the need to make all measurements visible, and a drive for culture and sustainability above all else.

Cliff’s 30 years of exploration into the special realm of Lean Thinking has culminated in his roles as past Chairman of the Board of The Shingo Institute, a Life Member of the Shingo Academy for Operational Excellence, a “Champion” and Hall of Fame inductee at the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, and a Senior Advisor to six major lean consulting firms. Until 2019, he was the only Wall Streeter named to any of these positions, and he is proud of the fact that he is one of less than ten people on the planet who has been inducted into both the Shingo Academy and in the AME Hall of Fame. These experiences drove him to his realization that creation and sustainment of a lean culture is both the ultimate goal for lean transformation and an advantaged outcome for long-term investors.

Cliff has focused in recent years on the migration of traditional factory-floor lean manufacturing process change and transformation thinking to what he calls the“transactional” world of back-office, or “Carpet Land,” applications, including service,supply chain, SI&OP, marketing, finance, accounting, M&A, human resources, and new product development venues. The tagline of Cliff’s own firm, “The Way of Lean Investing,” speaks directly to this non-manufacturing milieu, particularly as Lean principles, behaviors, and cultures spread to government, medicine, healthcare, banking, finance, insurance, accounting, and, his own great passion, investing.

Corporate management and industry groups regularly ask him to speak, including gatherings of the Lean Enterprise Institute, Lean Accounting Summit, Shingo Institute, Association for Manufacturing Excellence, South Carolina Lean Consortium, Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership, and Manufacturing Institute of the UK. He has spoken at global management gatherings and Board meetings of companies as diverse as Barnes Group, Crane, Handy & Harman, Parker Hannifin, Regal-Beloit, Terex, and Wabtec. As market segmentation, he has created the taxonomies of“Super-Achievers,” and “Next-Generation Danahers” (which he admits is an inelegant description.)

Cliff’s continual stress for professional investors centers on the identification of that most elusive of cultural phenomena: enterprises with Lean Cultures that are Consistent, Repeatable, Improvable, Integratable, Scalable, Sustainable, and Predictable, an investment role model which he identifies by his acronym, “CRIISSP,”pronounced, “crisp.”

He jokes that he is only 37-years-old, but his 200-days-a-year business travelschedule accounts for his “rode-hard-and-put-away-wet” appearance.

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