Lieutenant General Michael T. Plehn, USAF

17th President

Lieutenant General Mike Plehn is the 17th President of the National Defense University. As President of NDU, he oversees its five component colleges that offer graduate-level degrees and certifications in joint professional military education to over 2,000 U.S. military officers, civilian government officials, international military officers and industry partners annually.

Raised in an Army family, he graduated from Miami Southridge Senior High School in 1983 and attended the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with Military Distinction and a degree in Astronautical Engineering in 1988. He is a Distinguished Graduate of Squadron Officer School as well as the College of Naval Command and Staff, where he received a Master’s Degree with Highest Distinction in National Security and Strategic Studies. He also holds a Master of Airpower Art and Science degree from the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, as well as a Master of Aerospace Science degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Lt Gen Plehn has extensive experience in joint, interagency, and special operations, including: Middle East Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, and four tours at the Combatant Command level to include U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command, and twice at U.S. Southern Command, where he was most recently the Military Deputy Commander. He also served on the Air Staff in Strategy and Policy and as the speechwriter to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Lt Gen Plehn is a master navigator with 2,200 flight hours in the AC-130H, AC-130U, U-28, MQ-1B, MQ-9, and F-16D. He has more than 350 combat hours supporting operations over Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He has commanded special operations units at the squadron, group, and wing levels, and was formerly the Deputy Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. 

His awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal with 4 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Gallant Unit Citation, and the Medal for Distinguished Service to the Colombian Military Forces.

An Eagle Scout and avid reader, he speaks passable Spanish. In their quiet time, Mike and his wife enjoy watching ice hockey and providing staff assistance to their two cats.