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Dirk van der Vaart, MBA

Adjunct Faculty, Graduate Program in Business and Leadership


BA, Journalism and Political Science, Messiah College
MBA, International Business, The George Washington University

Classes I teach

LEAD 550 Organizational Effectiveness
LEAD 540 Followership, Teamwork and Group Dynamics


Dirk W. van der Vaart is a dynamic executive leader and coach who specializes in the development and execution of rapid-growth strategies for the Defense and Homeland Security industry.

By combining depth of experience gained over two decades in the industry with practical expertise earned by leading from the front, Dirk guides emerging technology and service companies to success in the security sector. Throughout his career, van der Vaart has taken start-ups to successful exits, launched new products within existing technology suites and shepherded new business units to profitability. He has expertise in international defense markets, with experience in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Latin America. He also has specialized experience in Foreign Ownership and Controlling Interest (FOCI) mitigation strategies required for multinational firms operating the US Defense and Intelligence sector.

Dirk is currently co-founder and CEO of Aether, a deep tech company commercializing dual-use defense technology into the clean tech ecosystem. Additionally, Dirk is owner and President of RiverKnife Solutions Group, an executive advisory and leadership development practice.

Dirk brings more than 25 years of experience in the defense and security industry, and has served in operations and business development roles throughout his career, including overseas projects in more than 22 countries.

Dirk served as President of Ultra Intelligence Communications, providing cryptographic solutions for military IoT infrastructure. He previously served as President of GardaWorld Government Services, where he provided the US Govt with specialized security and logistics services in high threat environments.

He also served as VP of Business Development and Strategy at GLOBAL Integrated Security (USA) LLC and previously, was the Business Development Executive for Raytheon’s Global Security Solutions (GSS) unit responsible for growing security business within the Combatant Commands (COCOMs), foreign affairs and homeland security communities.

Prior to Raytheon, Dirk served as vice president and general manager for an Israeli start-up in the tactical radar segment where he established and managed the company’s U.S. subsidiary and oversaw both strategic development and day-to-day operations. He was also vice president of National Security Business at American Systems and vice president of Homeland Security at ManTech; and served as President of a JV doing specialized security work in Iraq where he lived in Baghdad from late ’03 through ’04.

Before entering the defense industry, van der Vaart served 11 years as a special operations officer in the Intelligence Community and was also a Port Security officer in the Coast Guard Reserve.

He is fluent in Italian, Dutch, French, German and Spanish; he is currently studying Hebrew and Arabic.