Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper Joins Red Cell Partners as National Security Practice Chairman

Red Cell Partners (“Red Cell”), an incubation and venture capital firm that backs, builds, and scales early-stage technology-led companies in healthcare and national security, today announced the appointment of the Honorable Dr. Mark T. Esper, the 27th Secretary of Defense, as a Partner and Chairman of the National Security Practice.

Dr. Esper will lead Red Cell’s activities investing in and building new businesses in the areas of defense, cyber security, international affairs, space, and aerospace, and will eventually expand on the firm’s relationships within the government and national security sectors.

“Dr. Esper is an accomplished and visionary leader whose appointment comes at a pivotal point in Red Cell’s evolution,” said Red Cell Founding Partner and CEO Grant Verstandig. “His expertise across the spectrum of disruptive technologies is unparalleled and will be key to Red Cell’s ongoing ability to identify, create, and scale innovative and sustainable businesses in both the public and private sectors.”

Dr. Esper will join Red Cell’s multi-talented team of entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, and operators who, united by a shared sense of duty and deep belief in the power of innovation, are focused on building solutions to some of the greatest challenges faced on the battlefield of the 21st century. In his newly created role, Dr. Esper will seek to establish more agile, efficient, and meaningful ways to spur engagement between non-traditional innovators and the Defense Department.

“I am excited by the opportunity to join Red Cell’s exceptional team and to build new businesses capable of bringing revolutionary advancements to market in the nation’s most vital sectors,” Dr. Esper said. “I believe the key to accelerating and expanding the U.S. military’s overmatch in the years ahead is through the rapid, sustained, and aggressive modernization of the joint force. Grant and the team at Red Cell are applying the mission-focused vision and energy that is needed to bring new innovations and cutting-edge technologies to the national security sector in record time.”

Mr. Verstandig added, “In his role at Red Cell, Dr. Esper will play a leading part in shaping the future of national security. I have every confidence that he and his team will be instrumental in writing a new playbook for how today’s military arms, equips, and prepares to accomplish its mission during crises.”

Dr. Esper serves on the Board of Directors of Epirus, Inc., an artificial intelligence-enabled power management company focused on directed energy defense applications. Epirus was co-founded by Verstandig and is a part of the Red Cell portfolio of companies.

About The Honorable Dr. Mark T. Esper:

Dr. Esper served as the 27th Secretary of Defense from 2019 to 2020, responsible for ensuring the United States’ national security, protecting the American people at home and abroad, and advancing the country’s interests globally.

In this capacity, he led one of the largest, most complex organizations in the world given its nearly three million service members and defense civilians, and $740 billion annual budget. As Secretary of Defense, Esper made major strides in shaping and implementing the National Defense Strategy, which called for a return to preparing for high intensity conflict in a new era of great power competition. During his tenure, Dr. Esper oversaw the largest R&D budget in the department’s history, drove spending on cutting-edge technologies, and advanced other initiatives to ensure the U.S. military modernized for the future.

Dr. Esper is currently the first John S. McCain Distinguished Fellow at the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University, and a member of the Board of Directors at the Atlantic Council. Prior to becoming Secretary of Defense, he served as Secretary of the Army from 2017 to 2019, where he launched a sweeping renaissance of the service, including the establishment of Army Futures Command.

Dr. Esper was a senior corporate executive at the Raytheon Company from 2010 to 2017. He served earlier as an Executive Vice President at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Defense and International Affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association. Dr. Esper served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon during the President George W. Bush administration from 2002-04. He was also a senior Congressional staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations, Senate Government Affairs, and the House Armed Services committees, and served as national security advisor for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Dr. Esper is a 1986 graduate of the United States Military Academy and a combat veteran of the 1990-91 Gulf War. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2007 after spending 10 years on active duty and 11 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve. Dr. Esper is a two-time recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Among his many military awards and decorations are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal-Saudi Arabia, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Dr. Esper’s memoir of his time in office, entitled A Sacred Oath, will be published May 10, 2022.

About Red Cell Partners

Red Cell Partners is an investment and incubation firm that backs, builds, and scales technology-led companies bringing revolutionary advancements to market in the healthcare and national security spaces. United by a shared sense of duty and deep belief in the power of innovation, Red Cell leverages big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and advance materials to develop powerful technologies to address the Nation’s most pressing problems. Visit us at and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.