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 with Florida Congressman Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret. This conversation will focus on U.S. Middle East policy under the Biden administration.
Congressman Mike Waltz represents Florida’s 6th congressional district as a proud Florida native, a Colonel in the National Guard, a combat-decorated Green Beret, former White House and Pentagon policy advisor, small business owner and a proud father.
Mike has served his country his entire life. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute, has served over 24 years in the U.S. Army, and is presently serving in the National Guard. After being commissioned as an Army lieutenant, Mike graduated Ranger School and was then selected for the elite Green Berets, serving worldwide as a decorated Special Forces officer with multiple combat tours in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. For his actions in combat, Mike was awarded 4 Bronze Stars and 2 with valor. He is the first Green Beret to be elected to Congress.
Mike’s servant leadership continued in the Pentagon as a defense policy director for Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates. Mike then went on to serve in the White House as Vice President Dick Cheney's counterterrorism advisor, where he saw the difficult decisions the President and his Cabinet must make to protect our national security firsthand. Mike’s position in the White House was unique, as he advised the Bush administration on policy he actually carried out in the military.
Following his time in the White House, Mike then co-founded a small business which grew to over 400 employees and was listed on the Inc. 500, a ranking index of the fastest-growing private companies in America.