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Joe Benkert joined The Cohen Group in September 2009 after a career of public service as a Navy officer, a civil servant, and a Senate-confirmed political appointee.
Most recently, he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Security Affairs, having been confirmed by the Senate to that position in July 2008, and was asked to stay on to help facilitate the transition to a new administration until July 2009. Prior to his confirmation as Assistant Secretary, Mr. Benkert served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Security Affairs. In these positions, he was responsible for a broad range of defense-related issues including building the capability of U.S. partners and allies; security cooperation and foreign military sales; technology security policy and export control matters; counternarcotics, counter proliferation and countering global threats; detainee affairs; and POW/MIA issues. His responsibilities included oversight of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the Defense Technology Security Administration. During his tenure as Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, he oversaw several sensitive nonproliferation projects; led a successful effort to produce NATO’s first comprehensive policy on preventing WMD proliferation and CBRN defense in over fifteen years; substantially improved the responsiveness of the foreign military sales system for Iraq during a critical period in training and equipping Iraqi forces; helped substantially expand Department of Defense authorities and funding for security cooperation; and led the Department’s involvement in numerous complex cases before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Mr. Benkert’s previous civilian service included Deputy Director and Director of the Defense Reconstruction Support Office and its predecessor, the Defense Support Office – Iraq. In this role, he was involved in stabilization and reconstruction activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to this appointment, he served as the Deputy and Chief of Operations for the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Washington office. Before that, he was Chief of Staff for the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
Prior to his civilian service, Mr. Benkert was a career Navy officer with extensive experience both in command at sea and in national security policy formulation and implementation in Washington. He commanded two destroyer squadrons; a guided missile cruiser, USS Josephus Daniels; and a frigate, USS McCloy. He was the Executive Director of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel, an advisory group for the Navy’s senior uniformed leader; and served in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy both as a senior military assistant and as the Director of European Policy. He retired as a Navy Captain in 2003 and began his civilian career.
Mr. Benkert graduated with distinction from the United States Naval Academy and received a Master of Public Policy degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
He serves on the Board of Directors of International Relief & Development Inc., a major implementer of U.S. foreign assistance and a leader in the international stabilization and development community.