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Michael Mullen

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Michael Mullen
Mullen in September 2007
Born (1946-10-04) October 4, 1946 (age 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1968–2011
Commands heldChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chief of Naval Operations
United States Naval Forces Europe
Allied Joint Force Command Naples
Vice Chief of Naval Operations
United States Second Fleet
NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic
Cruiser-Destroyer Group Two
George Washington Carrier Battle Group
USS Yorktown (CG-48)
USS Goldsborough (DDG-20)
USS Noxubee (AOG-56)
Battles/warsVietnam War
Gulf War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (6)

Michael Glenn Mullen (born October 4, 1946) is a retired United States Navy admiral who served as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 2007 to September 2011.

Mullen was the 32nd vice chief of Naval Operations from August 2003 to August 2004. He then was the commander of both the U.S. Naval Forces Europe and the Allied Joint Force Command Naples from October 2004 to May 2005. From July 2005 to September 2007, Mullen served as the Navy's 28th chief of Naval Operations.

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen was the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. Armed Forces and diversified the top ranks of the Pentagon.[1] He retired from the Navy after over 42 years of service. Since 2012, Mullen has been a visiting professor at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

Early life and education[edit]

Mullen was born on October 4, 1946, in Los Angeles, the eldest of five children of Mary Jane (Glenn), who worked as an assistant to comedian Jimmy Durante, and Hollywood press agent John Edward "Jack" Mullen.[2][3][4] He attended St. Charles Borromeo Church School in North Hollywood,[5] and graduated from Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks in 1964. Mullen then attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and was classmates with former Commandant of the Marine Corps Michael Hagee, former Chief of Naval Operations Jay L. Johnson, former Secretary of the Navy and Senator from Virginia Jim Webb, National Security Council staff member during the Iran–Contra affair Oliver North, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, and NASA administrator Charles Bolden. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1968.[6]

Along with his congeniality, [he] displayed fine leadership qualities. With his well rounded personality, his enthusiasm, and his desire to do his best, Navy-Air is indeed getting an outstanding officer. -- 1968 Lucky Bag, USNA college yearbook[7]

Naval career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Mullen (seated third from left) at the Pentagon during the September 11 attacks in 2001

As a junior officer, he served in various leadership positions aboard USS Collett (DD-730), USS Blandy (DD-943), USS Fox (CG-33) and USS Sterett (CG-31). He has commanded three ships: the gasoline tanker USS Noxubee (AOG-56), the guided missile destroyer USS Goldsborough (DDG-20), and the guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG-48); and has also commanded Cruiser-Destroyer Group Two from USS George Washington (CVN-73). Mullen's last command at sea was as Commander, U.S. Second Fleet/Commander, NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic (COMSTRIKFLTLANT).

In 1985, Mullen graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, with a Master of Science degree in Operations Research, and in 1991, he attended the six-week Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.[8]

Mullen served as Company Officer and Executive Assistant to the Commandant of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. He also served in the Bureau of Naval Personnel as Director, Chief of Planning and Provisions, Surface Officer Distribution and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on the staff of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation. On the Chief of Naval Operations' staff, Mullen served as Deputy Director and Director of Surface Warfare and as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Resources, Requirements, and Assessments (N8[clarification needed]). He was the 32nd Vice Chief of Naval Operations from August 2003 to October 2004.

Mullen was recognized by his peers in 1987 with the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership skill.[9]

Then-Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mullen with Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter and MCPON Terry D. Scott, February 2006
Mullen awarding U.S. Army captain Gregory Ambrosia the Silver Star at Korengal Outpost, Afghanistan, July 11, 2008
Mullen photographed with President Barack Obama and other members of the U.S. national security team watching the events of Operation Neptune's Spear unfold, on May 1, 2011

As Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Mullen had operational responsibility for NATO missions in the Balkans, Iraq, and the Mediterranean. As Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, he was responsible for providing overall command, operational control, and coordination of U.S. naval forces in the European Command area of responsibility. He assumed these duties on October 8, 2004, and was relieved of them upon his becoming Chief of Naval Operations.

On October 29, 2006, the Honolulu Advertiser published an op-ed by Mullen that defined the concept of the 1,000-ship navy.[10] However Admiral Gary Roughead, Mullen's successor as Chief of Naval Operations, rejected Mullen's concept in favor of a more inclusive vision that includes non-governmental organizations and cooperation with non-allied countries.[11]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff[edit]

On June 8, 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced that he would advise President George W. Bush to nominate Mullen to succeed General Peter Pace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;[12] Bush announced the nomination formally on June 28, 2007.[13]

On August 3, 2007, the United States Senate confirmed Mullen as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[14] Mullen was sworn in on October 1, 2007. Upon taking office, Mullen became the first naval officer to hold the Chairman's position since Admiral William J. Crowe, who served as Chairman prior to the enactment of the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986, and who was the immediate predecessor to Army general and later United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.

During his tenure, he was responsible for the appointment of multiple African-American officers to the highest ranks of the military, including the appointment of General Lloyd Austin, now the first black secretary of defense, as Director of the Joint Staff.[1]

On March 18, 2009, Gates recommended to President Barack Obama that Mullen be re-nominated for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.[15] He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on September 25, 2009[16] and began his second term on October 1, 2009.

On February 2, 2010, Mullen and Gates said that they fully supported President Obama's decision to end the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, which prevented openly gay people from serving in the military. "It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do," Mullen said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. "No matter how I look at the issue...I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution."

2007 Senate testimony regarding the Iraq War[edit]

During Mullen's Senate confirmation hearings for his first term nomination as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen identified political progress in Iraq as a critical component of Iraq policy.[17] He noted that, "there does not appear to be much political progress" in Iraq.[17] He also said, "If [the Iraqis] aren't making progress in [the political] realm, the prospects for movement in a positive direction are not very good. Failure to achieve tangible progress toward [political] reconciliation requires a strategic reassessment."[17] Mullen further told the Senate that the United States needs to "bring as much pressure on [Iraq's political leaders] as [the U.S.] possibly can."[17]

Regarding the length and scope of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, Mullen told the Senate that while he does not envision permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, "vital interests in the region and in Iraq require a pragmatic, long-term commitment that will be measured in years, not months."[17]


In 2010, Mullen said, "The most significant threat to our national security is our debt."[18][19]

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010[edit]

President Obama, United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Admiral Mullen provided the certification required by the Act to Congress on July 22, 2011. Implementation of repeal was completed 60 days later, so that DADT was no longer policy as of September 20, 2011.

Views on use of military force[edit]

In a speech at Kansas State University,[20] Mullen outlined his views about the best application of military force in present times. He characterized most wars, such as World War II, as wars of attrition, where the reduction or elimination of enemy forces signaled victory. He characterized the Cold War as an issue of containment. In characterizing the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he described them as "a fight against a syndicate of Islamic extremists led by al-Qaeda and supported by a host of both state and non-state actors", citing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan as their "epicenter".

Mullen outlined three principles about the "proper use of modern military forces":

  • Military power should not be the last resort of the state: Mullen pointed to the readiness and capacity of military forces to respond to crises as reason to deploy them sooner, rather than later, in response. "We can, merely by our presence, help alter certain behavior."
  • Force should be applied in a precise and principled way: Mullen cites the sacrifice involved in deployment as requiring extreme care. Secondly, Mullen argues that "the battlefield isn't necessarily a field anymore. It's in the minds of the people." He cites General Stanley McChrystal's restriction of night raids[21] I as an example of this principle in action.
  • Policy and strategy should constantly engage with one another: Given that current engagements are open-ended, Mullen posits that military strategy must be more constantly engaged with policy. "...war has never been a set-piece affair. The enemy adapts to your strategy and you adapt to his." He cites the review process which led to the current Afghanistan escalation as a model of engagement between military leaders and policy makers.

During the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, President Trump threatened to order federal troops to quell protests; in opposition, Mullen authored an article published in The Atlantic. Mullen stated, "I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes."[22][23]


President Obama nominated General Martin Dempsey as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Memorial Day 2011. Dempsey had only been sworn in as army chief of staff the previous month. On September 30, 2011, Mullen officially retired from the military when his term as chairman ended.

In December 2012, one year into his retirement, Mullen was in the news again, for having been the target of computer hacking, a situation that led to subsequent FBI investigations.[24] In 2013, Mullen joined the board of General Motors.[25]

On July 11, 2013, Mullen joined the Board of Directors of Sprint Nextel Corp directly after a buyout from SoftBank, one of Japan's largest cellular companies.[26] In 2016, Mullen joined the Advisory Board of Afiniti, an American unicorn big data and artificial intelligence business.[27]

Mullen was vetted by Michael Bloomberg to be his running mate in the 2016 presidential election, but Bloomberg decided against running.[28]

In an interview with ABC News on December 31, 2017, Mullen stated his belief that the United States was close to a nuclear war with North Korea.[29]

On May 22, 2024, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced that DDG 144, a Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, would be named USS Michael G. Mullen in his honor. [30]

Dates of rank[edit]

Ensign Lieutenant (junior grade) Lieutenant Lieutenant commander Commander Captain
O-1 O-2 O-3 O-4 O-5 O-6
June 5, 1968 June 5, 1969 July 1, 1971 October 1, 1977 June 1, 1983 September 1, 1989
Rear admiral (lower half) Rear admiral Vice admiral Admiral
O-7 O-8 O-9 O-10
April 1, 1996 March 5, 1998 September 21, 2000 August 28, 2003


Military awards[edit]

Admiral Mullen's medals as of May 17, 2007

United States military decorations[33][edit]

Ribbon Description Notes
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Distinguished Service Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters
Gold star
Navy Distinguished Service Medal with one gold award star
Ribbon of the DSSM Defense Superior Service Medal
Silver star
Legion of Merit with one silver award star
Ribbon of the MSM Meritorious Service Medal
Ribbon of the NMCCM Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Ribbon of the NMCAM Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Ribbon of the NUC Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon
Ribbon of the NMUC Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon
Ribbon of the USN – Battle E Navy "E" Ribbon with Wreathed Battle E device
Ribbon of the NEM Navy Expeditionary Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars
Ribbon of the AFEM Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze star
Ribbon of the GWTSM Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Bronze star
Humanitarian Service Medal with one bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three bronze stars
Bronze star
Navy Overseas Service Ribbon with one bronze star

Non-U.S. decorations[edit]

Ribbon Issuing nation/organisation Description Date awarded Notes
NOM Republic of Chile National Order of Merit (Commander)[34]
Ribbon of the Grand Officer of the Order of Merit Republic of Italy Order of Merit of the Italian Republic[33] April 14, 2007
Ribbon of the Legion of Honor, Knight degree French Republic National Order of the Legion of Honour[33] May 12, 2007
Medal of the Order of Australia Commonwealth of Australia Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia (Military Division)[35] November 5, 2010 For distinguished service to the military relationship between Australia and the US as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US
Ribbon of the Federal Cross of Merit Federal Republic of Germany Federal Cross of Merit[36] June 9, 2011 For concern for German soldiers, his role in strengthening the close German-American friendship, and his services to the Federal Republic of Germany
Ribbon of the VGC Republic of Vietnam Vietnam Gallantry Cross (device(s) unknown)
Ribbon of the VCAM Republic of Vietnam Vietnam Civil Actions Medal 1st Class
Ribbon of the Meritorious Service Cross Canada Meritorious Service Cross[37] 2013
Japan Order of the Rising Sun, 1st class
Ribbon of the VGC Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Ribbon[33]
Ribbon of the VCAM Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation Ribbon[33]
NATO NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia[33]
Republic of Vietnam Vietnam Campaign Medal


Badge Description
Navy Surface Warfare Badge (Officer)
Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

Other awards[edit]

In 1987, Mullen was awarded the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership.[9] In 2009 the U.S. veterans group Soldier On awarded Admiral Mullen the first Soldier On Award, created for them by sculptor Andrew DeVries.[38] The Soldier On Award recognizes individuals whose leadership and actions have advanced the goal of ending veteran homelessness.[39]

In 2010, Mullen was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia.[40]

An auditorium was dedicated in his name March 1, 2012, before a graduation ceremony at the Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island.[41]

In 2024, the USS Michael G. Mullen was named after him due to him being a, "visionary leader in the mold of the greatest naval leaders that came before."[42]

Personal life[edit]

Deborah Mullen, Anna Kournikova, and Michael Mullen hosting the USO Holiday Troop Visit, 2009

Mullen is married to Deborah and together they have two sons, John "JMuls" Mullen and Michael Edward Mullen.[33]


  1. ^ a b Cooper, Helene (December 9, 2020). "'Is Austin on Your List?': Biden's Pentagon Pick Rose Despite Barriers to Diversity". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 10, 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  2. ^ Huey-Burns, Caitlin (March 3, 2011). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Mike Mullen". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  3. ^ "Person Details for Michael Glenn Mullen, 'California Birth Index, 1905–1995'". FamilySearch.
  4. ^ "Person Details for John Edward Mullen, 'California, County Marriages, 1850–1952'". FamilySearch.
  5. ^ Dowd, Maureen (February 3, 2010). "Defending the Long Gay Line". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  6. ^ Per Mike Mullen, in appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, June 13, 2011
  7. ^ The Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Eight Lucky Bag. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Academy. p. 164.
  8. ^ "At Ease – Alumni – Harvard Business School". alumni.hbs.edu. June 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Officers Honored With Prestigious Stockdale Award", U.S. Navy official website, November 15, 2006
  10. ^ "COMMENTARY:We Can't Do It Alone" (PDF). navy.mil. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  11. ^ Clark, Colin Land Forces Will Fade, Navy Rise Archived May 30, 2015, at the Wayback Machine DOD Buzz, October 13, 2010
  12. ^ "Pace leaving as Joint Chiefs chairman". CNN. June 8, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  13. ^ "President Bush Nominates Admiral Michael Mullen and General James Cartwright to Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" (Press release). White House Press Secretary. June 28, 2007. Retrieved July 20, 2007.
  14. ^ "Senate confirms Mullen as new military chief". Reuters. August 4, 2007. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  15. ^ "Defense.gov News Article: Gates Recommends New Terms, Positions for Senior Officers". defenselink.mil.
  16. ^ "Mullen Confirmed to Second Term as Joint Chiefs Chairman". SENATUS. September 25, 2009. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  17. ^ a b c d e "Nominee Mullen: Little political progress in Iraq". USA Today. August 1, 2007. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  18. ^ "Mullen: Debt is top national security threat - CNN.com". www.cnn.com. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  19. ^ Brannen, Kate (December 6, 2012). "Mullen focuses on debt as threat". POLITICO. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  20. ^ Mullen, Mike. Landon Lecture Series Remarks Archived March 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, March 3, 2010, Kansas State University.
  21. ^ Jim Garamone (July 6, 2009). "Directive Re-emphasizes Protecting Afghan Civilians". American Forces Press Service. U.S. Department of Defense. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2022. and "Tactical Directive" (PDF). NATO/International Security Assistance Force. July 6, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 15, 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  22. ^ Mullen, Mike (June 2, 2020). "I Cannot Remain Silent, Our fellow citizens are not the enemy, and must never become so". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 2, 2020. I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes.
  23. ^ Nyce, Caroline (June 2, 2020). "The Atlantic Daily: Trump's Photo Op". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 2, 2020. I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes.
  24. ^ Hackers Hit Ex-Military Head December 5, 2012
  25. ^ "Former Joint Chiefs chair Mullen joins GM board". Army Times. Associated Press. January 31, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
  26. ^ "Sprint and SoftBank Announce Completion of Merger". Sprint.com. July 10, 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
  27. ^ "Princess Beatrice wins her first high-profile client as a business matchmaker". The Telegraph. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  28. ^ "Michael Bloomberg Says He Won't Run for President". The New York Times. March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  29. ^ "US closer than ever to 'nuclear war with North Korea': Former Joint Chiefs head". ABC News. December 31, 2017. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  30. ^ Mongilio, Heather (May 22, 2024). "SECNAV Del Toro Names New Destroyers for Former SECNAV Danzig, CJCS Mullen". USNI News. USNI News. Retrieved May 22, 2024.
  31. ^ "17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Glenn Mullen". Official Website of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  32. ^ The Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1949–2012 (PDF) (2 ed.). Joint History Office. October 27, 2012. p. 242. ISBN 978-1480200203.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g "Statement of Senator John Warner" (PDF). Nominations of Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN, for reappointment to the grade of Admiral and to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. James E. Cartwright, USMC, for reappointment to the grade of General and to be Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Committee on Armed Services, US Senate. July 31, 2007. pp. 903–905. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  34. ^ "Photograph : Mullen". Chile-usa.org. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  35. ^ "MULLEN, Michael Glenn AO". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. November 5, 2010.
  36. ^ "Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen Received the German Federal Cross of Merit". Archive of Selected Past Events. U.S. Department of State – Diplomatic Mission to Germany. June 9, 2011. Archived from the original on November 5, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  37. ^ "The Governor General of Canada > Find a Recipient". gg.ca.
  38. ^ Mike Plaisance, The Republican, October 30, 2009
  39. ^ "Soldier On". Wesoldieron.org. Archived from the original on May 14, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  40. ^ "Admiral Michael Mullen USN appointed Honorary Officer in the Order of Australia". November 7, 2010. Archived from the original on July 9, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  41. ^ Navy Times (March 7, 2012). "Mullen honored at SWO School". Gannett Government Media Corp. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
  42. ^ Mongilio, Heather (May 22, 2024). "SECNAV Del Toro Names New Destroyers for Former SECNAV Danzig, CJCS Mullen". USNI News. Retrieved May 23, 2024.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Vice Chief of Naval Operations
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander of United States Naval Forces Europe
Succeeded by
Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples
Preceded by Chief of Naval Operations
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2005–2007) Order of precedence of the United States
as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2007–2011)
Succeeded byas former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2011–2015)