Created in June 2020, MEI’s Defense Leadership Series is a speakers' forum for current and former high-level military and defense leaders from both the United States and the Middle East to discuss the most important policy issues facing the two sides. The Series was inaugurated on June 10 with a conversation with U.S. Marine Corps General and Commander of CENTCOM Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.
In this episode, MEI Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense and Security Program Bilal Y. Saab speaks to Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in U.S. Central Command (NAVCENT), the U.S. Fifth Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces. This conversation will focus on present and future challenges and opportunities facing U.S. maritime goals and plans in the region.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper is the son of a career Army Officer. He is a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and earned a master’s degree in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University. He has also studied national security policy and international relations at Harvard and Tufts Universities.
A career Surface Warfare Officer, he served on guided missile cruisers, guided-missile destroyers, aircraft carriers, and amphibious assault ships. His ship commands include USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS Gettysburg (CG 64). Cooper is particularly proud of the extraordinary men and women with whom he served on sea duty during 9 deployments and 13 real-world operations all around the world. His amazing Sailors in USS Gettysburg earned the Battenberg Cup as the best ship, submarine or aircraft carrier in the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet.
Ashore, he served in a variety of executive, military assistant and special assistant roles in the White House, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters. He also served as principal U.S. Advisor to the Interior Minister of Afghanistan and Director, Surface Warfare Officer assignments (Pers-41).
As a flag officer, he most recently served as commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic. Previous tours include service as Chief of Legislative Affairs, where he led the Navy’s engagement efforts with the U.S. Congress; commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea during the height of tensions on the Korean Peninsula in 2016-2017; and, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7 in Okinawa, Japan, where he led 7th Fleet’s Navy-Marine Corps team on the U.S. military’s first F-35 deployment.
Cooper has been recognized with various personal and unit-level awards including the Distinguished Service Medal and Bronze Star Medal. He is a recipient of the Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Award for Visionary Leadership.