Established in 1983, CENTCOM has been militarily involved in the Middle East for more than three and a half decades. As America’s chief instrument of military power and vehicle of security cooperation in the region, the organization definitely has a full plate. Today, it is in the process of adjusting to a new U.S. National Defense Strategy (NDS) that identifies the great power competition as a top U.S. foreign policy priority while ensuring the security of regional allies and partners.
How is CENTCOM balancing between the NDS and the exigencies of regional security? What is the future of the organization in the region? Will its presence be reduced?
To answer these questions and many others, the Middle East Institute (MEI)’s Defense and Security Program, run by Senior Fellow Bilal Y. Saab, is honored to host a conversation with CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. MEI President Paul Salem will moderate the conversation.
This speaking engagement is the inaugural event of MEI's Defense Leadership Series, 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. This virtual event will be broadcast live on this web page. Register using the link above to view this livestream and receive updates from MEI’s Defense and Security program.
Biography: Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie
General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr. is the Commander of United States Central Command. He has commanded at the platoon, company, battalion, Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and component levels. As a LtCol, he commanded First Battalion, Sixth Marines. As the Commanding Officer of the 22d MEU (SOC), he led the MEU on combat deployments to Afghanistan in 2004 and Iraq in 2005-06. In 2006-07 he served as the Military Secretary to the 33rd and 34th Commandants of the Marine Corps. In July 2007, upon promotion to BGen, he served on the Joint Staff as a Deputy Director of Operations within the National Military Command Center. In June 2008, he was selected by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be the Director of the Chairman's New Administration Transition Team (CNATT). In this capacity, he coordinated the efforts of the Joint Staff and the combatant commands in preparing for and executing a wartime transition of administrations.
In June 2009, he reported to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan to serve as the Deputy to the Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS) for Stability. Upon his return from Afghanistan, in July 2010 he was assigned as the Director, Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J-5) for the U.S. Central Command. In August 2012, he reported to Headquarters Marine Corps to serve as the Marine Corps Representative to the Quadrennial Defense Review. In June 2014, he was promoted to LtGen and assumed command of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command. In October 2015, he was assigned to the Joint Staff to serve as the Director, J-5, Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff. In July 2017, he was named the Director, Joint Staff. Gen McKenzie was promoted to his current rank and assumed command of U.S. Central Command in March 2019.