Vice Admiral Joe Kernan, USN (Ret.)


Former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security

Vice Admiral Joseph D. Kernan, USN (Ret.) served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security (USD(I&S)) from 2017 to 2020 following unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate in November 2017.

As USD(I&S), Joe was the principal intelligence, counterintelligence and security advisor to the Secretary of Defense, as well as the Secretary’s principal representative to the Intelligence Community. He was dual hatted as the Director of Defense Intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in which capacity he reported to the Director of National Intelligence. He exercised authority, direction, and control on behalf of the Secretary of Defense over the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. Joe established policy and priorities and oversaw the Defense Intelligence Enterprise, consisting of more than 110,000 employees and an annual budget of over $54 billion. 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&S), Joe held a variety of positions from 2013 to 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.

In addition to his work at WestExec, he is currently a Business Development Executive with SAP National Security Services, facilitating the adoption and integration of commercial technologies in support of enterprise digital modernization and security practices across government.

After graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1977, Joe 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. Fourth Fleet/U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command. He also served as Senior Military Assistant to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and as the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Southern Command.