General (ret.) Joseph L. Votel is a Senior Fellow with Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

General Votel also serves as President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security (BENS) – a national, nonprofit comprised of senior business and industry executives who volunteer their time and expertise to assist the U.S. national security community.

Before joining BENS, Gen. Votel served as 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. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

A 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy, Votel earned masters’ degrees from the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the Army War College.  He and his wife, Michele, reside in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. They have two grown sons, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter.