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Joseph D. Kernan

Former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence


The Honorable Joseph D. Kernan, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy, retired,  served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)) from November 2017 through Nov. 10, 2020. He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate in November 2017.

As the USD(I), Mr. Kernan was the principal intelligence, counterintelligence and security advisor to the Secretary of Defense (SecDef), and the SecDef’s principal representative to the Intelligence Community. He also was dual-hatted as the Director of Defense Intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and reported to the DNI in that capacity. He exercised authority, direction, and control on behalf of the SecDef over the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Defense Security Service. Mr. Kernan established policy and priorities; and oversaw the Defense Intelligence Enterprise, consisting of more than 110,000 component employees, and an annual budget of over $54B. This included the Military Intelligence Program, the Defense portion of the National Intelligence Program and the Battlespace Awareness portfolio.

Prior to serving as the USD(I), Mr. Kernan served in a variety of positions from 2013-2017, including: Board Director and Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Marketing for SAP National Security Services; Advisor for JLM Companies; Chairman of NS2 Serves, a Non-profit training and employment program for veterans; and Board member for the National Navy SEAL Museum and The Mission Continues.

After graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1977, Mr. Kernan served as a Surface Warfare Officer until 1981 and as Naval Special Warfare Officer until his military retirement in 2013. Over the course of his career, he commanded SEAL Team TWO, the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, the Naval Special Warfare Command, and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet. He also served as Senior Military Assistant to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and as the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Southern Command.