The United States is experiencing a crisis in government public service. Appreciation and respect for government service has steadily declined since the 1960s. Washington Post Live will gather a major statesman of the last 40 years and a significant current policymaker for this important discussion. Join the 22nd U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates and Stefanie Tompkins, the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on Friday, Nov. 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET. They will evaluate strategies to galvanize a new generation to go into public service and instill a fresh dynamic that builds a “start-up” kind of enthusiasm, whether that involves designing the next lunar mission for NASA, deploying AI for national cybersecurity or shaping strategy at the Pentagon and White House.


“The struggle for democracy, particularly in the foreign policy arena… is still as important and clearly as needed today as it was in the mid-1960s… The fact is, most people would not choose to live in any other country, and so how do we protect our own interests… these are all idealistic reasons for going into public service.” (Washington Post Live)
“Putin loves keeping the west and the United States in a state of… high anxiety. And he loves us not knowing what he’s going to do next. Whether or not they will move into eastern Ukraine, I would be surprised… I think the worry about Ukraine is justified. The question is whether [Putin] actually pulls the trigger, and frankly I think a major military move into eastern Ukraine… I would say the odds are against that but I wouldn’t bet a lot of money against it.” (Washington Post Live)
“He has the cyber capabilities essentially to cripple Taiwan. He has the… economic ability to bring great pressure to bear because of the extensive economic connections between Taiwan and the mainland… There are a number of tools short of an outright invasion that Xi has available to him… I think… risking a major war is pretty low on his priority list.” (Washington Post Live)
“I come from a military family. I also lived overseas for a good chunk of my childhood so you have a really interesting perspective on the role of the United States in the world and the fact that the people that serve the government are ultimately serving the nation and hopefully benefitting the world as a whole…. For me it’s been a little bit addictive.” (Washington Post Live)
Technology is really complex so even in a specific discipline–for instance, say quantum– you’re going to find sub-disciplines and sub-sub-disciplines– and in any one of those, I believe that there are some in which China is doing much better than we are and there are others in which we’re doing much better than they are in the sense of advancement… I do think there are areas where we have lost ground.” (Washington Post Live)

Robert M. Gates

Provided by representatives with Robert M. Gates.

Robert Gates served as the 22nd secretary of defense (2006-2011). He is the only secretary of defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in office by a newly elected President. Dr. Gates served eight U.S. presidents across both parties.

On Gates’s last day in office, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Before becoming secretary of defense in 2006, Gates was the president of Texas A&M University, one of the nation’s largest universities. Prior to assuming the Texas A&M presidency on August 1, 2002, he served as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999 to 2001.

Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional. During that period, he spent nearly nine years on the National Security Council at the White House, serving four presidents of both political parties.

Gates served as director of Central Intelligence from 1991 until 1993. He is the only career officer in CIA’s history to rise from entry-level employee to director. He served as deputy director of Central Intelligence from 1986 until 1989 and as assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser at the White House from January 20, 1989 until November 6, 1991, for President George H.W. Bush.

Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, has three times received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received CIA’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

He is the author of four books, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World, published in 2020, A Passion For Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service, published in 2016, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, published in 2014, and From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, published in 1996.

Gates currently is a partner in the consulting firm, Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel, LLC, with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. He is a member of the NCAA Board of Governors, currently serving as one of its five independent members. Additionally, he is a member of the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America, where he served as president of the National Eagle Scout Association from 1996-2006 and National President of the Boy Scouts of America from 2014-2016. He has also served on the board of directors of Starbucks, the board of directors and executive committee of the American Council on Education, the board of directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. A native of Kansas, Gates received his bachelor’s degree from William & Mary, his master’s degree in history from Indiana University, and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from

Georgetown University. In 1967, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and served as an intelligence officer at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. In February 2012, Gates was installed as chancellor of William & Mary. He is the first William & Mary alumnus in the modern era to serve as chancellor. In May of 2018, Gates succeeded General Colin Powell as National Chairman of the Eisenhower Fellowships.

Stefanie Tompkins, PhD

Provided by DARPA.

Dr. Stefanie Tompkins is the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Prior to this assignment, she was the vice president for research and technology transfer at Colorado School of Mines. Tompkins has spent much of her professional life leading scientists and engineers in developing new technology capabilities. She began her industry career as a senior scientist and later assistant vice-president and line manager at Science Applications International Corporation, where she spent 10 years conducting and managing research projects in planetary mapping, geology, and imaging spectroscopy. As a program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, she created and managed programs in ubiquitous GPS-free navigation as well as in optical component manufacturing. Tompkins has also served as the deputy director of DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, director of DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office – the agency’s most exploratory office in identifying and accelerating breakthrough technologies for national security – as well as the acting DARPA deputy director.

Tompkins received a Bachelor of Arts degree in geology and geophysics from Princeton University and Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in geology from Brown University. She has also served as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army.

Moderated by David Ignatius

David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column for The Washington Post. Ignatius has written 11 spy novels: “The Paladin” (2020), “The Quantum Spy,” (2017), “The Director,” (2014), “Bloodmoney” (2011), “The Increment” (2009), “Body of Lies” (2007), “The Sun King” (1999), “A Firing Offense” (1997), “The Bank of Fear” (1994), “SIRO” (1991), and “Agents of Innocence” (1987). “Body of Lies” was made into a 2008 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe.Ignatius joined The Post in 1986 as editor of its Sunday Outlook section. In 1990 he became foreign editor, and in 1993, assistant managing editor for business news. He began writing his column in 1998 and continued even during a three-year stint as executive editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Earlier in his career, Ignatius was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering at various times the steel industry, the Departments of State and Justice, the CIA, the Senate and the Middle East.Ignatius grew up in Washington, D.C., and studied political theory at Harvard College and economics at Kings College, Cambridge. He lives in Washington with his wife and has three daughters.

Honors and Awards: 2018 Finalist team, Pulitzer Prize for Public Service2018 George Polk Award2010 Urbino International Press Award2013 Overseas Press Club Award for Foreign Affairs CommentaryLifetime Achievement Award, International Committee for Foreign JournalistsLegion D’Honneur awarded by the French government2004 Edward Weintal Prize2000 Gerald Loeb Award for CommentaryAs The Post’s foreign editor, Ignatius supervised the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait

Content from WAEPA

The following content is produced and paid for by a Washington Post Live event sponsor. The Washington Post newsroom is not involved in the production of this content.

(Washington Post Live)

The Importance of Federal Leadership

In a segment sponsored by WAEPA, Shane Canfield, CEO will discuss the future of the Federal workforce, the challenges that workforce will face, and the skills necessary to meet those challenges head on. As the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of Federal service and Federal leadership have never been more important. But how do we inspire the next generation of civilian Federal employees to answer the call to action?

Shane Canfield

Shane Canfield brings more than 25 years of experience in insurance and non-profit leadership to WAEPA. He joined the organization in 2016, having most recently served as the Executive Director of the Council on Employee Benefits. Shane has spent most of his career in the pooled-risk group/affinity insurance industry and is a board member for both the Council of HR Management Associations and PIMA, the Professional Insurance Marketing Association. Shane has an MBA from George Mason University, is a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist from the Wharton School of Business and IFEBP, Registered Health Underwriter from the American College, Certified Association Executive, and holds various other certifications.

Moderated by Jeanne Meserve

Jeanne Meserve has been an anchor and correspondent for CNN and ABC News, winning two Emmy Awards, and an Edward R. Murrow Award. She also contributed to two CNN Peabody Awards for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Oil Spill, and anchored CNN’s award-winning coverage of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination and the death of Princess Diana. Meserve moderates on a wide array of subjects for groups including the Halifax International Security Forum, the International Women’s Forum, the Munich Security Conference, and the American Red Cross. In 2016 she conducted town hall meetings with six Republican presidential contenders on national security issues for Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security.