General Joseph L. Votel retired in 2019 as the Commander of the U.S. Central Command – responsible for U.S. and coalition military operations in the Middle East, Levant and Central and South Asia. During his 39 years in the military he commanded special operations and conventional military forces at every level. His career included combat in Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq. Notably he led a 79-member coalition that successfully liberated Iraq and Syria from the Islamic State Caliphate. He preceded his assignment at CENTCOM with service as the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command.
Votel was recognized with the Distinguished Military Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council; the U.S. – Arab Defense Leadership Award from the National Council on U.S. - Arab Relations; the Distinguished Service Award from the National Medal of Honor Society; the SGT James T. Regan Lifetime Achievement Award from the “Lead the Way” Foundation; and the Freedom Award from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
In July of 2019 Votel was announced as the prospective President / CEO of Business Executives for National Security. He is a Strategic Advisor for Sierra Nevada Corporation as well as a non-resident Distinguished Fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA; and an advisor to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, NY. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Service to School – a non-profit organization that helps military veterans transition and win admission to the Nation’s best graduate and undergraduate schools. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Votel is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy and earned Master’s Degrees from the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the Army War College. He is married to Michele and they have two grown sons; a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. The Votels reside in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.