Who are we?

Out in National Security (ONS) is a group of national security professionals leveraging our professional networks and individual passion to expand opportunity for current and future colleagues. Merging activism and education, ONS speaks fearlessly in defense of LGBTQIA+ rights, connects like-minded national security practitioners, advances American interests, and improves American security. Defined by principles rather than party, ONS welcomes those with any, or no, political affiliation. As a 501c(3), ONS depends on the support of grants and gifts to grow our community and capability.

What do we value?

Out in National Security is driven by two core principles. We select opportunities and make organizational decisions with these values in mind.

  1. We are developing an organization that values equality of opportunity. ONS is a flat organization that rejects hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy. Instead, we aim to work across professional specialties and status valuing ideas, initiative, and energy. ONS leaders facilitate rather than govern. We advance the interest of all LGBTQIA+ national security professionals.
  2. We value meaningful outcomes improving the lives and careers LGBTQIA+ national security practitioners. In our professional and personal lives, we are biased towards action over rhetoric. In the past, LGBTQIA+ professionals shaped the American national security landscape behind a veil of prejudice, secrecy, and a social climate preventing us from expressing our authentic selves. ONS pursues outcomes and goals that positively and measurably impact the lives of today’s and tomorrow’s LGBTQIA+ national security practitioners.

We are:

Headshot for Luke Schleusener

Luke Schleusener, President

Speechwriter to the Secretary of Defense
Department of Defense, 2012-17

National Security Associate
Office of Presidential Personnel, The White House, 2011-12

Mr. Schleusener is a Co-Founder and the President of Out in National Security and a Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project. He served on the speechwriting staff of Secretaries of Defense Panetta, Hagel, and Carter from 2012 to 2017. Previous to which, he worked in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel from 2011 to 2012. He worked on President Obama’s campaign in 2008.

He previously served on the Board of No One Left Behind, a 501(c)3 that serves Special Immigration Visa holders. He holds an A.M. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. He was a Zemsky Scholar of Arabic at Hebrew University in 2010, and attended the American University of Cairo.
Shawn Skelly Headshot

Shawn Skelly, Vice-President

Commissioner
National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, 2017-2020

Executive Secretary
Department of Transportation, 2016-17

Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for AT&L Department of Defense, 2013-16

Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Ms. Shawn Skelly is a Co-Founder of Out in National Security and served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for 20 years as a Naval Flight Officer, retiring with the rank of Commander. After a period in industry with ITT Exelis, she joined the Obama Administration in 2013, as the first transgender veteran to be appointed by a President of the United States. She first served as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the U.S. Department of Defense, and ultimately as the Director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat at the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2017, President Obama appointed Shawn to serve as a Commissioner on the newly established National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.  Shawn was recognized as one of a group of transgender veterans in the 2017 OUT100.

Headshot for Rusty Pickens

Rusty Pickens, Secretary/Treasurer

Senior Advisor for Digital Platforms 
Department of State, 2015-17

Acting Director for New Media
The White House, 2011-15

Mr. Pickens is a Co-Founder Out in National Security. He served as Senior Advisor for Digital Platforms at the U.S. Department of State, and former Acting Director for New Media Technologies at the White House, where he led teams who operated cloud platforms for the Obama Administration to increase public engagement, improve user experience, enhance staff productivity, and heighten security posture. During this time, Rusty created new systems for and built new teams to lead Whitehouse.gov, the Presidential correspondence system, the We The People petitions system, the White House Appointment Center, and the U.S. Embassy contact management systems.

Rusty's two decades of leadership experience aligning organizational vision with technology strategy across top federal agencies and start-up environments included the Federal Salesforce Community of Excellence, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee, Obama for America 2008, and the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.