WASHINGTON ― Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper has joined the Washington-based venture capital firm Red Cell Partners as a partner and chairman of its national security practice, the firm announced Wednesday.

The firm said Esper will lead its activities investing in and building new businesses in the areas of defense, cybersecurity, international affairs, space and aerospace. He joins the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who serves as an operating partner in the national security practice.

Esper is also on the board of directors at Los Angeles-based startup Epirus, which was co-founded by Red Cell founding partner and CEO Grant Verstandig. In a statement, Verstandig hailed Esper as “an accomplished and visionary leader whose appointment comes at a pivotal point in Red Cell’s evolution.”

Formerly a lead government relations executive at Raytheon and longtime congressional staffer, Esper served as Army secretary under then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and early 2019, and later as defense secretary. Esper was known for a “night court” budgeting process that took a hard look at legacy programs and cut a number of them, refocusing funds on efforts to challenge China and Russia.

Trump fired the West Point graduate and Gulf War veteran in a tweet after the November 2020 election. Esper was then the third man to exit the top job at the Pentagon during the administration, following Jim Mattis and, in an acting capacity, Patrick Shanahan.

Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.

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