Arnold Punaro is chief executive officer of The Punaro Group, LLC, a Washington-based firm he founded in 2010 specializing in federal budget and market analysis, business strategy and capture, acquisition due diligence, government relations, communications, sensitive operations, business risk analysis and compliance, and crisis management. He consults for a broad array of Fortune 100 companies and has been recognized by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential individuals in U.S. Defense. He also leads Punaro Capital, LLC, a firm specializing in national security investments, and Punaro Press, LLC, a company that specializes in national security publications.
In November 2015, Mr. Punaro completed a four-year term, first as Vice-Chairman, then as Chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association, the country’s largest defense industry association with over 1,800 corporate and nearly 70,000 individual members. As NDIA Chairman Emeritus, he served as Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee from 2015 to 2018. He served another two-year term as Vice- Chairman beginning in October 2018, completed another two-year term as Chairman in October 2022, and now serves as Chairman Emeritus.
From September 2011 to February 2021, he was Chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board which serves as an independent advisor to the Secretary of Defense on Reserve and National Guard matters. He was reappointed Chairman of the RFPB in 2022 by Secretary Lloyd Austin following his Zero Base Review. He served on the Defense Business Board (DBB) as a founding member at its inception in 2002 until 2013. He resumed serving on the DBB from 2015 until January 2021. In 2020, he co-chaired a congressionally- mandated independent study for the Secretary of Defense titled the “Assessment of Responsibilities and Authorities of the Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense.”
From 2005 to 2008, he was the Chairman of the Independent Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. He also served as a task force member for the U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Regional Security in 2008, a Commissioner on the Independent Commission on the Iraqi Security Force in 2007, Deputy Executive Director of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century from 1998 to 2001, and chaired the Defense Reform Task Force for Secretary of Defense William Cohen in 1997.
As an executive vice president at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) from 1997 to 2010, at the time a $10 billion company, Mr. Punaro served as a sector manager, deputy president of the Federal Business Segment, and led SAIC’s Corporate Business Development organization. He was the senior corporate official responsible for SAIC’s government affairs, worldwide communications and support operations, to include crisis and risk management, as well as general manager of their Washington operations and supervisor of SAIC’s corporate Small and Disadvantaged Business office.
From 1973 to 1997, Mr. Punaro worked for Senator Sam Nunn in national security matters. He served as his director of National Security Affairs and then as Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee (eight years) and Staff Director for the Minority (five years). In his work with Senator Nunn and the Senate Armed Services Committee, he was involved in the formulation of all major defense and intelligence legislation, the oversight and review of all policy and programs, and civilian and military nominations.
A retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General, he served as the Director of the Marine Corps Reserve, Deputy Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command (Mobilization), and for three years as the Commanding General of the 4th Marine Division. Other assignments were Commanding General, Marine Corps Mobilization Command, and Deputy Commander, Marine Forces Reserve. In December 1990, he was mobilized for Operation Desert Shield. In December 1993, he completed a tour of active duty as Commander of Joint Task Force Provide Promise (Forward) in the former Yugoslavia. He was mobilized for a third time in May 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served on active duty as an Infantry Platoon Commander in Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart.
He is on the Board of Advisors for the Center for a New American Security, a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and on the Advisory Council of the Atlantic Council Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. He serves on the non-profit boards of the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs and the Georgia Institute of Technology Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. He has served on other non-profit boards, including the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, Chairman of the Board of the Tragedy Assistant Programs for Survivors, the Wolf Trap Foundation Board, and as a visiting scholar for the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Mr. Punaro is the recipient of numerous recognitions including the Secretary of Defense “Medal for Distinguished Public Service” and three awards of the Secretary of Defense “Medal for Exceptional Public Service.” He received the Marine Corps League’s “Iron Mike Award” in 1993 for “exceptionally outstanding service” and “unwavering commitment” for over 20 years to “ensuring a strong national defense.” He has received the Air Force Association’s “Exceptional Service Award,” the National Guard “Minuteman Award,” the Army’s “Meritorious Public Service Medal,” and the Secretary of the Army “Public Service Award,” the Reserve Officers Association’s “Minuteman of the Year Award,” the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation “Commandants’ Award,” CAUSE’s Jack London Award, the NDIA Forrestal Award for industry leadership, and was the recipient of the SAIC’s “Founders Award” and two special CEO awards. He has over 20 military awards and decorations to include the Distinguished Service Medal as well as numerous civic awards.
He has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Georgia and a Master of Arts degree from Georgetown University, the latter in national security studies. He was on the Adjunct Faculty of the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University for ten years where he taught an annual graduate level course entitled “National Security Decision Making.”
He is the author of “On War and Politics: The Battlefield Inside Washington’s Beltway,” published by the Naval Institute Press in October 2016, and “The Ever-Shrinking Fighting Force,” published in July 2021 by Punaro Press.