More speakers announced for LENS’ 27th Annual Conference on Feb 25-26!

As we announced on November 24th, Duke’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security (LENS) will hold its 27th Annual National Security Law Conference on Friday, February 25 and Saturday morning, February 26.  Although we had hoped to have this year’s conference in-person, the vagaries of COVID restrictions have driven us to do the conference online this year. But, you’ll enjoy (at no cost!) a fantastic event packed with information on a variety of national security topics!  

Our slate of speakers is truly outstanding!  As our keynoter, we are thrilled to have the Honorable Jeh Johnson, the former Secretary of Homeland Security and, prior to that, General Counsel of the Department of Defense.  Mr. Johnson, who also served the Air Force general counsel and as an assistant U.S. Attorney, is now a partner with the leading New York firm of Paul, Weiss. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The American Lawyer on December 2nd.

We are extremely honored to have General Phil Breedlove, USAF (Ret.) as our conference Leadership Speaker this yearGeneral Breedlove is former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Commander of NATO).  I’ve known him for many years, and he’s always been a friend of military lawyers.  We can look forward to a very interesting – and candid – set of remarks from him.

I’m also excited to have General Larry Spencer, USAF (Ret.), with whom I served in the Air Force, as our Conference Author.  He’ll talk about his new book: “Dark Horse: A Journey from the Horseshoe to the Pentagon”  A reviewer on Amazon described it this way (lightly edited):

“Dark Horse is a captivating read as you follow General Spencer’s journey from an inner city boy to the man he is today. He overcame many adversities such as being poor, low self esteem and racism, as he worked hard to make life better for himself and his family. Throughout the book, there is a theme of compassion, humility, hard work, motivation, dedication and leadership. Dark Horse is an inspirational book everyone should read. You will be moved by General Spencer’s life story.”

One of our most popular speakers will join us again this year:  Mr. Dean Cheng Dean will bring us up-to-date on all things China, and with the tensions with China over Taiwan, hearing from him could not be more timely.

One of the new speakers to the LENS conference will be RADM Melissa Bert, the Judge Advocate General and Chief Counsel for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Given that by law the Coast Guard has eleven missions (Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security; Drug Interdiction; Migrant Interdiction; Defense Readiness; and Other Law Enforcement; Marine Safety; Search and Rescue; Aids to Navigation; Living Marine Resources; Marine Environmental Protection; and Ice Operations), I’m as anxious as you are to hear how Coast Guard JAGs deal with such a wide range of legal issues these missions would inevitably engender. 

I also expect her to share her observations about other challenges the military faces.  (And, BTW, Duke Law now boasts a grad in the USCG ranks, LTJG Peyton Coleman, ’21).

We’ll also hear from Brig Gen. Gail Crawford who is the Director of Operations and International Law for the U.S. Air Force.  She’ll brief us on the variety of legal challenges the  Air Force faces in today’s complex international security environment. 

There is another reason I am especially glad to have her as part of the conference: she was my superb executive officer when I was Staff Judge Advocate for Air Combat Command.  I could not have been more pleased to see her extraordinarily well-deserved promotion to flag rank last summer!

Vanderbilt’s Prof. Mike Newton will give us an update on international criminal justice Mike is one of the nation’s top experts in this area.  Among the many accomplishments reflected on his crowded resume is his service as a former senior adviser to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the U.S. State Department.  He is also the editor of The United States Department of Defense Law of War Manual: Commentary and Critique from Cambridge University Press.  

More awesome speakers and fascinating topics!

A stellar lineup of additional speakers and panelists will also present at LENS this year! 

Then Col Oler and I on a trip to Iraq, 2009

With the COVID pandemic on everyone’s mind, you will be pleased for know that conference favorite Prof. Adam Oler (who teaches at the National War College) will team with my friend and former acting Army general counsel (and Air Force vet) Ms. Michele Pearce to discuss an intriguing topic: Law in the Age of COVID:  Lessons Encountered.  I’m very much looking forward to hearing from them (and am already forming some questions!).

Prof. Laurie Blank, the director of the International Humanitarian Law Clinic at Emory Law, is a familiar face to LENS conference attendees.  This year she’ll brief us on current issues in space law.  She certainly knows the topic as she’s one of the key experts involved with the development of the Woomera Manual on International Law Applicable to Conflict in Outer Space so we know we’ll be getting the latest and greatest.

Interested in cyber?  We’ll have two panels that directly address it albeit in different ways.  Duke’s Prof. David Hoffman will moderate a really important discussion with his panel entitled “Cybersecurity: Can the Intelligence Community and the Private Sector Collaborate?.”  It’ll feature such luminaries as Mr. Christopher SteedMs. Caroline Brown, and Mr. Carl Ghattas

Additionally, LENS’ Prof. Shane Stansbury, will moderate a panel about an aspect of cyber you’ve seen, unfortunately, in the news recently: “Current National Security Challenges: Ransomware and Cryptocurrency.” It will include such experts as Ms. Jessica Nye, Mr. Ari Redbord, and Duke Law’s Prof. Lee Reiners.

We may have some more speakers/panelists as we finalize the agenda for you, so continue to watch this space!  

How to attend “virtually”

The agenda for the conference is found here. Guests can join simply by clicking the Panopto link indicated for each session.  No registration is required.  If you would like to send a question to be considered for a specific speaker or panel, please send an email before or during the conference to

If you have any questions about technology, accessing the conference, or other questions about the center, please send an email to Subscribing to Lawfire is the best way to keep up with the latest conference developments.

Again, online attendance will be at no cost to you so mark your calendars

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