top of page
Line Concept Level 3 page 2.PNG
Research Fellows

The Williams Foundation brings together experts academia and military from all over the world who provide the highest quality research, policy recommendations, and analysis on a full range of public policy issues. We thank them for their support of the Foundation and their contribution to our goals.

Air Vice Marshal John Blackburn AO (Retd)


John retired from the Royal Australian Air Force in 2008 as the Deputy Chief of the Air Force following a career as an F/A-18 fighter pilot, test pilot and strategic planner. His senior posts included Commander of the Integrated Area Defence System located in Malaysia, commanding a multinational headquarters established to effect the Five Power Defence Arrangements, and Head of Strategic Policy in the Defence Headquarters.  In his RAAF Reserve role, he supported the Chief of Air Force in the design of Plan Jericho in 2014, and served as the team mentor until December 2015, before supporting the VCDF Staffs on Plan Aurora. 

John is now a consultant in the fields of Defence and National Security and the Chair of the Institute for integrated Economic Research - Australia.   His pro-bono roles have included being the Chairman of the Kokoda Foundation Board (now the Institute For Regional Security (IFRS)), and the Deputy Chairman of the Williams Foundation Board. He is currently a Fellow of the Williams Foundation, the IFRS and the Australian Institute of Energy.  He has written and spoken on Energy Security, Economic Security, Integrated Air and Missile Defence, the 5th Gen Air Force, Cyber Security, Space Policy, Defence Logistics, Defence White Papers and Fuel Security.  He holds a Masters of Arts and a Master of Defence Studies.

Dr Robbin Laird


A long-time analyst of global defense issues, Dr Laird has worked in the U.S. government and several think tanks, including the Center for Naval Analysis and the Institute for Defense Analysis.

He is a Columbia University alumni, where he taught and worked for several years at the Research Institute of International Change, a think tank founded by Dr. Brzezinski. He is a frequent op-ed contributor to the defense press, and has written several books on international security issues.

Dr Laird has taught at Columbia University, Queens College, Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University. He has received various academic research grants as well from various foundations, including the Thyssen Foundation, the United States Institute for Peace, etc.

Dr Laird has worked for many elements of the U.S. government and with think tanks such as The Center for Defense Analysis and the Institute for Defense Analysis.


He is a member of the Board of Contributors of Breaking Defense and publishes there on a regular basis. He is a regular contributor to Front Line Defence as well.

He is a frequent visitor to Australia where he works with The Williams Foundation in supporting their seminars on the transformation of the Australian Defence Force.

He is also based in Paris, France where he regularly travels throughout Europe and conducts interviews and talks with leading policy makers in the region.

Dr Alan Stephens OAM


Alan Stephens is a visiting fellow at UNSW Canberra and a fellow of the Sir Richard Williams Foundation. Previously he has been a senior lecturer at UNSW Canberra, an advisor in Federal Parliament on foreign affairs and defence, the official RAAF historian, and an RAAF pilot.

Dr Stephens has lectured and published extensively, and his work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He was awarded the OAM in 2008 for his contribution to Australian air power history and strategy.

John Conway


John is the owner and Managing Director of Felix, an independent company providing specialist capability development and operational analysis services to Defence since 2017. He is the Publisher of the Australian Defence Business Review (ADBR), an independent platform established to enable communication across Defence, industry, academia, and Government. He was previously a business development and strategy executive with Raytheon Australia specialising in air combat integration, electronic warfare, advanced weapons systems, test and training ranges, and integrated air and missile defence.

John retired from the Royal Air Force as a Group Captain in 2010 having served 24 years in a number flying, staff and senior command roles. His operational experience on F4 Phantom and Tornado F3 aircraft included Cold War Europe, the South Atlantic, the Balkans, and the Middle East. He commanded the United Kingdom’s largest Permanent Joint Operating Base at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus between 2005 and 2008 enabling the airbridge into Iraq and Afghanistan, and supporting strategic ISR operations in the eastern Mediterranean. He attended the United States Marine Corps Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course and the Australian Advanced Command and Staff Course.

bottom of page