Dr. Will Roper is on the Board of Directors for Ursa Major Technologies. For three years, Dr. Roper served as the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. In this role, he led all research, development, procurement, and logistics for both the U.S. Air Force and Space Force: an annual budget totaling $60 billion. But he is best known for accelerating acquisition timelines and fostering disruptive innovation inside of government.
While at the Air Force, Will took large strides in opening defense market opportunities to commercial companies, spearheading initiatives like AFWERX and Small Business Innovative Research reform that connected 2,300 tech companies with military problems and associated contracts. He also led Department-wide technology transformations for software, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital engineering and initiated high-tech programs for hypersonic weapons, autonomous drones, advanced satellites and rockets, and a militarized internet of things (IoT), all while overseeing the day-to-day readiness of over 5,300 military aircraft and satellites.
Prior to departing the Air Force, he demonstrated the first use of AI on a military weapon system (the U-2 spy plane) and first IoT kill chain, downing a cruise missile with inexpensive artillery. He also led the turnaround of the troubled KC-46 tanker program by redesigning its critical 3D vision system. But in addition to technology, Will was equally passionate about competing for talent, updating 50-year-old body standards for all Air Force programs to increase accessibility for women and people of color to pursue military careers.
Earlier in his career, Dr. Roper was the founding Director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), growing this once-classified innovation office from $50 million to $1.6 billion annually. Solving the military’s most pressing problems, his programs spanned concepts like artillery-based missile defense, multi-domain missiles, smartphone-navigating weapons, big-data-enabled sensing, standoff arsenal planes, autonomous wingmen, and swarming drones—including the world’s largest drone swarm demonstration in 2017. During his tenure as Director, he transitioned over three fourths of SCO’s programs into military programs and served as the Principal Staff Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for disruption and innovation.
Will has a bachelor’s and master’s in physics from Georgia Tech and a doctorate in mathematics from Oxford, where he studied string theory as a Rhodes Scholar.
Dr. Ronald Sugar is former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Northrop Grumman Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and leader in the aerospace and defense industry. He is currently a director of Chevron Corporation, Amgen Inc. and Apple, Inc., and serves as a senior advisor to two private equity firms and several growing technology businesses. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, Trustee of the University of Southern California, and member of the UCLA Anderson School of Management Board of Visitors. Dr. Sugar brings extensive board, executive, and aerospace industry expertise to provide Ursa Major with critical guidance through all phases of operation and growth.
Deborah Lee James is a former Secretary of the Air Force under President Obama. Ms. James has 30 years of defense and national security experience in both the federal government and private sector, including time as President of SAIC. Ms. James currently serves in a number of advisory and director roles, including on the board of directors of Unisys and Textron; and an advisor at Bain & Co., Ultra Electronics, and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.
Michael Goldberg is a partner and director in the Los Angeles office of Bain & Co. Mr. Goldberg has worked with the most successful aerospace and defense primes as well as many industry suppliers. In addition to being a senior member of Bain’s Industrial Goods & Services Practice and the leader of their global Aerospace & Defense practice, he currently serves as chair of a private biotech company.
Michèle Flournoy is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors, and former Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), where she currently serves on the board. She served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy within Obama's Defense Department from 2009-2012. Previously, she was senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a distinguished research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. She also served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy in the mid-1990's.
Charles Bolden is is a former NASA administrator, a retired United States Marine Corps Major General, and a former astronaut who flew on four Space Shuttle missions. President Obama nominated Bolden to serve as NASA administrator in 2009 and he served in this role until 2017.
Michael Silton is currently the Managing Director of Act One Ventures and Chair Emeritus of the UCLA Venture Capital Fund. Prior to his role as an investor, Michael was the CEO and Founder of Rainmaker Systems, which saw an IPO and peak market cap of over $1B and over 1,000 employees. He also co-founded UniDirect Corp., which was acquired by Savoir Technology Group. At Act One Ventures, Michael manages a diverse portfolio of investments with a focus on the great talent and technology coming from the Los Angeles university ecosystem.