A 10-16 week college course pairing interdisciplinary teams with DOD organizations, utilizing entrepreneurial methods to solve national security problems.

Hacking for Defense (H4D) is a semester-long course at top-tier research universities that offers the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) leaders with the opportunity to collaborate with talented student teams to develop innovative solutions to their most pressing national security problems. The course teaches students to apply the Lean Startup methodology to solve real national security problems. Through student teams, the DOD is provided an avenue to connect with problem-solvers from academia, the private sector, and other non-traditional DOD actors.

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Student Teams Working on Real-World Defense Problems

In H4D courses, interdisciplinary student teams are provided with real-world national security problems sourced from DOD agencies. Teams are instructed in and apply Lean Startup principles in order to iteratively develop and test potential solutions. By the end of the course, student teams will have conducted at least 100 stakeholder interviews and developed a minimally viable product (MVP) concept that addresses the needs of their DOD problem sponsor.

From Immersive Learning to Validated Insights

For students, H4D represents an unparalleled opportunity to work on real-world national security problems in close collaboration with DOD personnel and agencies. In addition to offering this unique academic experience, partner universities have received significant publicity from engagement in H4D in top news outlets, including Foreign Policy, Forbes, Wired, Bloomberg, and the Washington Post.

For problem sponsors, involvement in H4D is a force multiplier for their toughest problems. By the end of the course, sponsors will have their problems fully validated and be provided with an MVP that aims to address their needs in addition to gaining exposure to a novel problem-solving framework and creative, outside thinking on their problem topic. In addition, problem sponsors will receive a more refined and curated problem set by the end of the course.

Past government problem topics have come from a range of organizations including the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO), U.S. Navy 3rd Fleet, the Army Asymmetric Warfare Group, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, U.S. Special Operations Command, Army Cyber Command, Air Force Office of Energy Assurance, and the National Security Agency (NSA).

University Network

  • Arizona State University
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Tech
  • The Ohio State University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Colorado - Boulder
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Southern Mississippi
  • University of Texas - Austin
  • University of Virginia

Important Dates

07 JAN: Spring cohort starts

26 FEB: San Diego problem sponsors course

12 JUN: H4D Starts event

19 JUN: Fall problem submission deadline


For more information on participating in the Hacking for Defense Program, please contact Max Weintraub

Submit your problem to H4D!

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