Meet the ACNSL Team

Donna Barbisch

Donna Barbisch became the Chief Executive Officer of the American College of National Security Leaders in March 2021.  A 38-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Donna retired after serving as the Director of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Program Integration at the rank of Major General.  She has a distinguished track record as a national security policy analyst, a leader in countering/mitigating the impact of public health pandemics, chemical, radiological, nuclear, and cyber security crisis. Her focus is on senior leader crisis decision making and whole-of-government and whole-of-society solutions.

General Barbisch began her military career as an Army Nurse in Vietnam.  Her career spanned the business and private sector, US governmental and non-governmental organizations, and the global community.  She is a proven leader and internationally acclaimed speaker who moves people to action. General Barbisch drives organizational change through leadership and systems integration, governance, and effective corporate culture from the board room to the classroom promoting ethical solutions to complex environments.  

Robert McBrien

Bob McBrien became the Treasurer of the American College of National Security Leaders in September 2021.  He was a leader and innovator in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions organization, for nearly 25 years. Mr. McBrien is an authority in the employment of U.S. economic sanctions programs and was a participant in the U.S. counter-terrorism program from its 1972 inception to his retirement and in counter-narcotics programs since 1985. 

His career began as a Special Attorney in the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. He moved to the Treasury Department where he worked closely with the U.S. Secret Service, Customs Service, and ATF and began his career-long involvement in the U.S. counterterrorism program and with intelligence issues.  He retired in 2011 after 42 years of government service.  A career Senior Executive Service member, he was the Associate Director for Global Targeting in the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  Following retirement from the Treasury Department, Bob served as a contractor to the Defense Department, advising on sanctions, illicit finance, and countering threat networks. He now consults, provides expert witness services, and serves on boards of advisers to a private sector company and to the Center on Economic and Financial Power of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  He is a distinguished graduate of the National War College and was a visiting scholar on terrorism at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He also  mentors graduate and undergraduate students at St. Louis University.

Ricardo Aponte

A recent graduate with Masters of History at Claremont Graduate University, Brig. Gen. Aponte is currently writing on military history and presenting his findings at conferences and public events. He is also the Chief Operating Officer of the American College of National Security Leaders. A Citizen Airman, Command Pilot flying F-111 fighters, and 25-year experience in Politico-Military Affairs with a Latin American specialty. He retired as the Director of Innovation and Experimentation (J7) of U.S. Southern Command where he also served as Deputy Director of Operations during the U.S. 2004 response to Haitian unrest. He is a graduate of Air War College, the National Security Course at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and the U.S. Marine Corps Weapons and Tactics School.


Michael E. Smith
Michael E. Smith
Founder & Past President

Mike Smith served as the Chief Executive Officer of the American College of National Security Leaders from its inception in 2017 until 2020.  Admiral Smith was recognized as one of the Navy’s premier strategists and served in its headquarters as the Division Director responsible for developing and implementing Navy Strategy and Policy.

With an Ocean Engineering degree and a Masters in National Security Affairs, Mike spent 32 years in the U.S. Navy successfully planning, executing and leading strategic change. He served in a range of operational commands including Commander of Carrier Strike Group Three. Admiral Smith capped his navy career as the independent authority responsible to Congress for evaluating the material effectiveness of every ship and submarine in the Navy, including those under construction.

Jamie Barnett
James Barnett

James Arden “Jamie” Barnett, Jr. is a retired Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, serving for 32 years as a Surface Warfare Officer. He is one of the founders of the American College of National Security Leaders. His final assignment in the Navy was Deputy Commander of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. NECC consisted of approximately 40,000 specially trained Sailors such as the Seabees, Explosive Ordinance Disposal personnel, Coastal Warfare and Riverine units, with approximately 8,000 of these Sailors deployed to combat zones. His previous flag assignment was Director of Naval Education and Training in the Pentagon. Upon retiring from the Navy, Rear Admiral Barnett was named as the Chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. He was responsible for overseeing FCC activities pertaining to public safety, homeland security, emergency management and disaster preparedness. Under his leadership, the Bureau proposed major initiatives for Next Generation 9-1-1. He worked actively on a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network for first responders, including a rule making that designated the Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology for that network. He established the Cybersecurity and Communications Reliability Division in his bureau and led the Commission’s team in developing policy to fight botnets and improve the security of Internet routing and the Domain Name System. He proposed and helped conduct the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System. Rear Admiral Barnett is currently a partner in a major law firm in Washington, D.C. where he is the Chair of the Telecommunications group. In 2015, he was named as a Top Lawyer in DC for cybersecurity by the Washingtonian magazine. He has written pieces for or been interviewed by The Washington Post, Newsweek, Roll Call, The Hill, Politico Pro, Communications Daily, The Washington Examiner, FedScoop, TR Daily, CIO Magazine, New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Network World, National Defense Week, Stars and Stripes and Law360 and has been interviewed on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Bloomberg News as well as local Washington, DC stations. He is currently the Senior Vice President for Government Services for RigNet, a global communications and cybersecurity company. Legal Counsel Rear Admiral, USN (ret)

Dave Oliver
Dave Oliver

Dave’s diverse career has included extensive experience in the defense sector from the perspective of the military, where he served thirty-two years, and reached the rank of Rear Admiral,: industry, where he became the Chief Operating Officer of what has subsequently become Airbus, North America; and government where he served as a senate-confirmed political appointee. Before entering industry, Dave graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served during the Cold War aboard submarines located in several locations including Mare Island and San Diego. While in San Diego his wife graduated from law school and passed the California Bar. Dave then operated the Allied submarines against the Soviet Union as the Commander of Submarine Group Seven in Yokosuka, Japan followed by duty as Chief of Staff of the Seventh Fleet. Following selection for the rank of admiral he became responsible for plans and policy in the Pentagon and then for training the attack submarines on the West Coast as Commander, Submarine Group Five in San Diego. He returned to the Pentagon to become responsible for the Navy Program (budget) during the four transition years following the Cold War. He served as the Principal Deputy, Acquisition, Research and Logistics before retiring in 1995. Dave’s active duty decorations include the Defense and Navy Distinguished Service Medals as well as six awards of the Legion of Merit. After working as an executive at Westinghouse and Northrop Grumman, Dave was appointed by President Clinton as Principal Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, the fifth senior person in the Defense Department. Subsequently, after Dave left government and ran his own business for two years, President Bush appointed him as the Director of Management and Budget for the Coalition Forces in Iraq as well as the and special advisor for the Iraqi Finance Minister. When he returned from Iraq, Dave worked to increase international ties, serving as the Chief Operating Officer of much of the United States organization of Airbus. His public service awards include the Bronze Palm (2nd award) to the Department of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service as well as the Army and the Navy Public Service Awards. Dave is the published author of Making it in Washington, as well as two leadership books, Lead On, and Against the Tide, the story of Admiral Rickover’s establishment of culture change in the Navy. He has also written his wife’s biography, “Wide Blue Ribbon.” Dave and his wife, Linda, live in Trinidad, CaliforniaExecutive Committee ChairRear Admiral, USN (ret)

Jan Hamby
Jan Hanby

During her Navy career, RADM (Ret) Hamby focused on the employment of telecommunications, space and computer systems to make information available for command and control of the Force and to enhance decision making at all levels of the chain of command. Her service included two command tours, positions on the Navy, NORAD/USNORTHCOM, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Staffs, and operational assignments in aircraft carriers, directing the Navy’s offensive and defensive cyber forces, and Baghdad, Iraq. She served as senior officer and community leader for the Navy’s Information Professional officer corps. Her highest military award is the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. She holds master’s degrees in the Management of Information Systems, Business Administration and National Security and Strategic Studies and is completing a Doctor of Management degree. Following her active duty career she served as Chancellor, National Defense University College of Information and Cyberspace. She is a recognized expert on the implications of cyberspace for operations and policy, diversity and leadership. She serves as an independent director on several public and not-for-profit Boards of Directors.Rear Admiral, USN (ret)

ACNSL Board Members

Chairperson/Board President:
Major General Peter Cooke, USA (ret)

Chief Executive Officer:
Major General Donna Barbisch, USA (ret)

Brigadier J. Scott O’Meara, USMC (ret)

Mr. Robert McBrien, SES (ret)

Membership Committee Chair:
Major General Mari K Eder, USA (ret)

Africa Committee Chair:
Ambassador (ret) Vicki Huddleston

American Values and Norms Committee Chair:
Major General Steven J. Lepper, USAF (ret)

Asia-Pacific Committee Chair:
Brigadier General Joseph V. Medina, USMC (ret)

Partnerships and Allies Committee Chair:
Mr. Bruce Lemkin, SES (ret)

At Large Directors:
Brigadier General John Douglass, USAF (ret)

Lieutenant General Walter Gaskin, USMC (ret)

Rear Admiral Mike Smith, USN (ret)

Executive Committee Chair:
Rear Admiral David Oliver, USN (ret)

Legal Counsel:
Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, USN (ret)

Inaugural Members

Brigadier General Ricardo Aponte, USAF (ret)

Major General (ret) Donna Barbisch, USA

Major General (ret) David Burford, USA

Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, USMC (ret)

Rear Admiral Chris Cole, USN (ret)

Major General (ret) Peter Cooke, USA

Vice Admiral Dirk Debbink, USN (ret)

Lieutenant General Walter Gaskin, USMC (ret)

Vice Admiral Kevin Green, USN (ret)

Major General Richard Haddad, USAF (ret)

Major General (ret) Robert Harding, USA

Ambassador Richard Holwill (ret)

Brigadier General (ret) David Irvine, USA

Lieutenant General Arlen Jameson, USAF (ret)

Ambassador Patrick Kennedy (ret)

Brigadier General Carlos Martinez, USAF (ret)

Major General (ret) Gale Pollock, CRNA, FACHE, FAAN, USA

Ambassador Francis Ricciardone (ret)

Brigadier General (ret) John Schuster, USA

Brigadier General Frank Taylor, USAF (ret)

Major General F. Andrew Turley, USAF (ret

Lieutenant General Willie Williams, USMC (ret)

Major General (ret) Margaret Wilmoth, PhD, MSS, RN, FAAN, USA

Major General (ret) David T. Zabecki, PhD, USA