By Julie Galante

Brian Goodman MC/MPA 2024 lives out the U.S. Space Force motto, keeping his eyes trained “Semper Supra,” or “Always Above,” to protect and defend.

Brian Goodman MC/MPA 2024, a self-professed “military guy,” keeps his eyes to the skies to solve bigger challenges.

After serving in the U.S. Air Force—and now U.S. Space Force—for nearly 25 years, Goodman relocated to Hanscom Air Force Base in Lexington, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children—their third move in three years—so he could attend the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration (MC/MPA) Program as a Department of Air Force Fellow.

In addition to getting his associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force and his bachelor’s from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Goodman received his master’s in ministerial leadership from Amridge University in Montgomery, Alabama. Two things he’s passionate about, he notes, are leadership and his personal faith.

After graduation, Goodman and his family will head to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery where he will spend a year at the U.S. Air Force’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies before returning to military operations.

We caught up with Goodman before commencement week to learn more about the U.S. Space Force, what he got out of his HKS experience, and what public service means to him. 


How did you decide to go into the military? 

I grew up in southern Connecticut and didn’t come from means. After high school, I had the choice to either get a working-class job like my buddies—none of us could afford college—or do something different. I decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force where I was a jet mechanic for over 12 years, working on fighter aircrafts. It was very hard, very meaningful work. It felt tangible, going to work in clean clothes and, by the end of the day, being drenched in fuel, oil, and sweat.

After I cobbled together my college degree by going to school nights and weekends, I got into the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School where I was taken out of maintenance, commissioned as a lieutenant, and put in the Space Force (then under the U.S. Air Force).


What can you tell me about the U.S. Space Force?

The U.S. Space Force became the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces in December 2019 when President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. 

Technology has radically changed the character of war and how modern forces fight. And space capabilities, specifically satellite capabilities, have transformed the mechanisms through which we wage war. More than that, satellites have fundamentally changed the way we operate in our every day. The blessings of modernity are underpinned by data and connectivity provided by satellites. Without them, we don’t have cell phone service, we don’t have international communications, we don’t have weather forecasting to predict when the next Hurricane Katrina will hit so we can ensure emergency preparedness. We have no missile warning capabilities if our nation is 10 seconds away from being destroyed by an intercontinental ballistic missile attack. 

All of these things are services the U.S. Space Force either directly provides or protects and defends. 

But there’s a fundamental concern: modern weapons require satellite connectivity in almost every instance to be able to fire—that includes the bad guys firing at us. If we want to inhibit an adversary’s capability to target and destroy U.S. battleships with missiles, we can do that very effectively through space capabilities. It’s an Achilles’ heel for Americans, too, and these capabilities need to be defended and protected if and when conflict breaks out. 

The air domain became a theater of war when airplanes were invented. Just like we need the U.S. Air Force to keep the skies defended, we need the U.S. Space Force to keep those capabilities up and running—and take them away when needed.


Brian Goodman MC/MPA 2024 wearing a sapphire blue sweater.

“Technology has radically changed the character of war and how modern forces fight. And space capabilities, specifically satellite capabilities, have transformed the mechanisms through which we wage war.”

Brian Goodman MC/MPA 2024

What was your driving factor for coming to HKS? What were you hoping to get out of this experience?

One of the developmental milestones among U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force Officer careers is developmental education for mid-career majors like me. The service selects a portion of us to get a master’s degree from war colleges or civilian institutions like Harvard to develop a better educated, more competent professional officer corps.

My work in the Space Force has been very technically focused—figuring out how to get the most operation capability out of a particular space vehicle or solving tactical problems within squadron-sized units. 

One of the big transitions you have to make as a career officer is learning how to think both tactically and strategically. 

I really wanted to broaden that perspective at the Kennedy School and get a look at how people in other disciplines conceptualize and solve problems. I’m a career military space officer—I approach every problem with a certain analytic plan incentivized by the environment we work in. I needed exposure to diverse perspectives from a broad set of backgrounds to think about problems in a more complex, analytical way and solve bigger problems rather than tactical ones. 


Who or what made an impression on you during your time at HKS? 

Two things in particular. I cross-registered into a class at MIT called Causes of War: Theory and Method that explored whether there might be something we can do before conflict breaks out. That course exposed me to statistical tools used by political scientists and got me thinking about how we measure war as a dependent variable and the independent variables that may or may not influence its outcome. It was an interesting, strategic, systematic view and very different from “how do you win a battle or individual engagement”-type thinking, which is where a lot of our focus has been. 

And at HKS, Professor [Fredrik] Logevall and his work in applied history has been a mind opener for me. I come from an environment where things are very mechanistic—if I do X, Y is the result, and because Y is the result, I can predict outcome Z. Logevall and his applied history initiative at the Belfer Center has given me a greater appreciation for the nuance, complexity, and uncertainty that aligns with how the world actually works—and the tools to think it through at a practical level when solving big, ambiguous, complex problems. That’s what I'm really interested in.


Brian Goodman with his wife, Kendra, and their two children, AJ and Katie, by the HKS Courtyard.

What about your classmates—what did you learn from them?

All kinds of things. 

From my military peers, I learned there’s an appropriate way to focus passion and discipline in an academic setting. I’ve been given the opportunity to study with U.S. Army Rangers, frontline special operators, people who’ve commanded U.S. Coast Guard boats—they have different leadership styles and different responses to the pressures of military service. I learned a lot from them. 

My other big takeaway is from the international students. As a military guy, I'm more or less surrounded by Americans all the time. We do our best to incorporate our strategic partners and allies, but it’s always difficult. Here, I was able to make friends with people from Brazil, Pakistan, Israel, and parts of Asia and Africa. Getting to experience those different cultures—and the different perspectives and prerogatives of those cultures—made me feel more connected to the world and the rest of humanity. 

Being able to interact with a range of sociopolitical views—super progressive or super conservative—in an open and compelling way was also meaningful for me. I articulated some of my baseline ideas and exposed them to the scrutiny of my intelligent, accomplished peers and then evolved my own thinking. It was an absolute blessing.


What surprised you during your time at HKS?

I’m surprised by how sad I’m going to leave. 

I usually approach work as work. I wasn’t coming here expecting to make deep friendships. I have my family here—my wife and my kids—I’m only here for a year, I live an hour away. 

Nevertheless, I was really surprised by the group of friends I made and how much I appreciate them for their balanced perspectives, the way they challenge me, and who they are. I invite them out to the [U.S. Air Force] base for barbecues once a month and we talk about all the things you couldn’t talk about in public—all the controversial topics. This particular group of friends are incredibly thought provoking, nuanced, intelligent, and open minded, while at the same time deeply passionate about their convictions. 

For a lack of a better term, I fell in love with these folks.

“Being able to interact with a range of sociopolitical an open and compelling way was meaningful for me. I articulated my baseline ideas and exposed them to the scrutiny of my intelligent, accomplished peers and then evolved my own thinking.”

Brian Goodman MC/MPA 2024

What will you do after graduation? How do you plan to apply your HKS degree?

I’m going to the U.S. Air Force’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies where I’ll do a one-year graduate program in military strategy—this is the Air Force's high-intensity school to produce military strategists. 

Taking the lessons from the Kennedy School to become a more competent, better equipped military strategist is exactly what I want to do. The synthesis of the curriculum at HKS and at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies to develop operational and campaign plans for military operations, especially in space, is what I'm called to do.


What does public service mean to you?

For me, service is about taking personal responsibility for something valuable. 

The world is an inherently dangerous, very precarious place. It takes a lot of intentional effort to bring forth from that landscape the things we in developed countries with advanced economies often take for granted—medicine and vaccines, the opportunity to get an education, and diligent pursuit of truth. 

The necessary condition for these things to emerge is peace and stability, which is oftentimes won through strength. When I look at history, strength is stabilizing, and weakness is provocative. On the world stage when liberal democracies show weakness, totalitarian despots take the reins and terrible things happen. My personal service is to take some responsibility for making sure that doesn't happen. In my life, it’s manifested as military service, which is one way an individual can shoulder the load. 

It doesn't have to be just military service by any means. 

I’m continually impressed by everyone at the Kennedy School who connects service to democracy, for example, and nested under it, this idea that every human being is inherently worthwhile, has inviolable rights, and has a voice. We’re all going to step up, take some responsibility, and go back to wherever we’re from to champion that idea. 

Portraits by Lydia Rosenberg. Image provided by Brian Goodman.

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