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Michael Glenn Mullen, AO, MSC[1] (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 1, 2007, to September 30, 2011.

Michael Mullen
Michael Mullen, CJCS, official photo portrait, 2007.jpg
Born (1946-10-04) October 4, 1946 (age 72)
Los Angeles County, California, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1968–2011
Commands heldChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chief of Naval Operations
U.S. Naval Forces Europe
Allied Joint Force Command Naples
Vice Chief of Naval Operations
U.S. 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)

Mullen previously served as the Navy's 28th Chief of Naval Operations from July 22, 2005, to September 29, 2007. He was only the third officer in the Navy's history to be appointed to four different four-star assignments;[2] the other appointments being the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples from October 2004 to May 2005, and as the 32nd Vice Chief of Naval Operations from August 2003 to August 2004. As Chairman, Mullen was the highest-ranking officer in the United States Armed Forces. He retired from the Navy after over 42 years of service. Since 2012, Mullen has been a visiting professor at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.


Early life and educationEdit

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.[3][4][5] He attended St. Charles Borromeo Church School in North Hollywood ,[6] 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.[7]

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[8]


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 U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, with a Master of Science degree in Operations Research, and in 1991, he attended the six-week Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.[9]

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.

Mike Mullen is interviewed by Journalist 1st Class Tony Sisti assigned to Navy Marine Corps News (NMCN) at Naval Media Center Anacostia, July 26, 2005

He was recognized by his peers in 1987 with the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership skill.[10] He is one of 53 naval officers to be recognized by this award since its inception in 1980.

Then-Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mullen with Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter and MCPON Terry D. Scott, February 2006
President George W. Bush (at lectern) announces the nominations of Mullen (second from left) and James Cartwright (far left) to be Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively, on June 28, 2007, at the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
Mullen speaking at a State Department event, 2011
Mullen (left) with Rear-Admiral Ronnie Tay, Chief of the Republic of Singapore Navy, in 2007
Mullen awarding U.S. Army captain Gregory Ambrosia the Silver Star at Korengal Outpost, Afghanistan, July 11, 2008
Mullen poses with a member of the U.S. Air Force during a USO visit to Southwest Asia, March 2010
Mullen photographed with President 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.[11] 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.[12]

Joint Chiefs of StaffEdit

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;[13] Bush announced the nomination formally on June 28, 2007.[14]

On August 3, 2007, the U.S. Senate confirmed Mullen as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[15] 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.

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.[16] He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on September 25, 2009[17] 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 WarEdit

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.[18] He noted that, "there does not appear to be much political progress" in Iraq.[18] 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."[18] 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."[18]

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."[18]

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010Edit

President Obama, Secretary of Defense 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 forceEdit

In a speech at Kansas State University,[19] 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 McChrystal's restriction of night raids 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.


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.[20] In 2013, Mullen joined the board of General Motors.[21]

On July 11, 2013, Mullen was put on the Board of Directors of Sprint Nextel Corp directly after a buyout from SoftBank, one of Japan's largest cellular companies.[22] In 2016, Mullen joined the Advisory Board of Afiniti, an American unicorn big data and artificial intelligence business.[23]

Mullen was vetted by Michael Bloomberg to be his running mate in the 2016 presidential election, but Bloomberg decided against running.[24]

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.[25]

Military awardsEdit

Admiral Mullen's medals as of May 17, 2007

U.S. military decorations[26]Edit

Ribbon Description Notes
Defense Distinguished Service Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters
Navy Distinguished Service Medal with one gold award star
  Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit with one silver award star
  Meritorious Service Medal
  Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
  Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
  Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon
  Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon
  Navy "E" Ribbon with Wreathed Battle E device
  Navy Expeditionary Medal
National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars
  Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze star
  Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal with one bronze star
Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three bronze stars
Navy Overseas Service Ribbon with one bronze star

Non-U.S. decorationsEdit

Ribbon Issuing nation/organisation Description Date awarded Notes
  Republic of Chile National Order of Merit (Commander)[27]
  Republic of Italy Order of Merit of the Italian Republic[26] April 14, 2007
  French Republic National Order of the Legion of Honour[26] May 12, 2007
  Commonwealth of Australia Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia (Military Division)[28] November 5, 2010 For distinguished service to the military relationship between Australia and the USA as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USA
  Federal Republic of Germany Federal Cross of Merit[29] 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
  Republic of Vietnam Vietnam Gallantry Cross (device(s) unknown)
  Republic of Vietnam Vietnam Civil Actions Medal 1st Class
  Canada Meritorious Service Cross[1] 2013
  Japan Order of the Rising Sun, 1st class
  Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Ribbon[26]
  Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation Ribbon[26]
  NATO NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia[26]
  Republic of Vietnam Vietnam Campaign Medal


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

Other awardsEdit

In 1987, Mullen was awarded the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership.[10] In 2009 the U.S. veterans group Soldier On awarded Admiral Mullen the first Soldier On Award, created for them by sculptor Andrew DeVries.[30] The Soldier On Award recognizes individuals whose leadership and actions have advanced the goal of ending veteran homelessness.[31]

In 2010, he was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia.[32]

An auditorium was dedicated in his name March 1, 2012, before a graduation ceremony at the Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island.[33]

Personal lifeEdit

Mike Mullen (as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec 20, 2009). Mullen and his wife Deborah are hosting the USO Holiday Troop Visit with tennis star Anna Kournikova, comedian Dave Attell, tennis coach Nicholas Bollettiere and musician Billy Ray Cyrus visiting troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany.

Mullen is married to Deborah and together they have two sons, John “JMuls” Mullen and Michael Edward Mullen. Both attended the US Naval Academy.[26]


  1. ^ a b "The Governor General of Canada > Find a Recipient".
  2. ^ The other two Navy officers being Admiral Thomas H. Moorer and Admiral William J. Fallon.
  3. ^ Huey-Burns, Caitlin (March 3, 2011). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Mike Mullen". US News & World Report. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  4. ^ "Person Details for Michael Glenn Mullen, 'California Birth Index, 1905–1995'". FamilySearch.
  5. ^ "Person Details for John Edward Mullen, 'California, County Marriages, 1850–1952'". FamilySearch.
  6. ^ Dowd, Maureen (February 3, 2010). "Defending the Long Gay Line". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  7. ^ Per Mike Mullen, in appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, June 13, 2011
  8. ^ The Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Eight Lucky Bag. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Academy. p. 164.
  9. ^ "At Ease - Alumni - Harvard Business School". Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Officers Honored With Prestigious Stockdale Award", U.S. Navy official website, November 15, 2006
  11. ^ "COMMENTARY:We Can't Do It Alone" (PDF). Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  12. ^ Clark, Colin Land Forces Will Fade, Navy Rise DOD Buzz, October 13, 2010
  13. ^ "Pace leaving as Joint Chiefs chairman". CNN. June 8, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ "Senate confirms Mullen as new military chief". Reuters. August 4, 2007. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  16. ^ " News Article: Gates Recommends New Terms, Positions for Senior Officers".
  17. ^ "Mullen Confirmed to Second Term as Joint Chiefs Chairman". SENATUS. September 25, 2009. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  18. ^ a b c d e "Nominee Mullen: Little political progress in Iraq". USA Today. August 1, 2007. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  19. ^ Mullen, Mike. Landon Lecture Series Remarks Archived March 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, March 3, 2010, Kansas State University.
  20. ^ Hackers Hit Ex-Military Head December 5, 2012
  21. ^ "Former Joint Chiefs chair Mullen joins GM board". Army Times. Associated Press. January 31, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
  22. ^ "Sprint and SoftBank Announce Completion of Merger". July 10, 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
  23. ^ "Princess Beatrice wins her first high-profile client as a business matchmaker". The Telegraph. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  24. ^ "Michael Bloomberg Says He Won't Run for President". The New York Times. March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  25. ^ News, A. B. C. (December 31, 2017). "US closer than ever to 'nuclear war with North Korea': Former Joint Chiefs head". ABC News. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ "Photograph : Mullen". Retrieved October 25, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ "MULLEN, Michael Glenn AO". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. November 5, 2010.
  29. ^ "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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  30. ^ Mike Plaisance, The Republican, October 30, 2009
  31. ^ "Soldier On". Archived from the original on May 14, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  32. ^ "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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  33. ^ Navy Times (March 7, 2012). "Mullen honored at SWO School". Gannett Government Media Corp. Retrieved April 27, 2012.

External linksEdit