Admiral Joe Sestak
Former 3-star Admiral Joe Sestak is an experienced, independent leader who served in the Navy for 31 years and then as the highest ranking military officer ever elected to Congress when he represented Pennsylvania’s Seventh Congressional District from 2007-2010, during which the National Journal identified him as “at the ideological center of the House.” He commanded an aircraft carrier battle group that conducted combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq with 30 U.S. and allied ships and more than 15,000 sailors and 100 aircraft. Joe served as President Clinton’s Director for Defense Policy on the National Security Council in the White House, the first Director of the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit (Deep Blue) after 9/11, and the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations responsible for the Navy’s five year $350 billion warfare requirements.
In addition to leading a series of operational commands at sea, Joe received a PhD in Political Economy and Government, and a Masters in Public Administration, from Harvard University. But he is most proud of being “Dad” to Alex and the husband of Susan, whom he somehow convinced to marry him.
Born and raised in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, where he attended Cardinal O’Hara High school prior to graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, in 2006 Joe defeated a ten-term incumbent in his home District, which was 55 percent Republican. As a member of both the Armed Services and Education & Labor Committees, and as Vice Chairman of the Small Business Committee, Joe would have ten pieces of bi-partisan legislation signed into law, and a score of amendments. In his first term, he was named the most productive member of his Congressional class by the Majority Leader’s Office. He was also recognized for servicing four times the constituent cases than the average Congressional office, while hosting an average of 15 large summit gatherings in his district each year on key issues.
Joe ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, bucking the entire Democratic Party leadership because he believed Pennsylvanians deserved a leader who would always put their interests first, ahead of party. Against all odds, he overcame a 40 point deficit to win the nomination over a 30-year incumbent, Senator Specter. After the primary, Joe continued to run as the candidate with a pragmatic, independent approach in a Senate election decided by only two points in a year where the party lost the Pennsylvania governor’s race and five Congressional seats by an average of 11 points – all despite being outspent more than any other Senate or Governor’s race (except one) in America that year.
In Congress, Joe championed fiscally accountable “pay-as-you-go” legislation, and passed it. He then advanced educational legislation, from pre-K through retraining; seniors’ quality of life – including protection from abuse -- and veterans’ educational and healthcare expansion. He authored small business legislation for access to start-up capital, tax and regulatory relief, and workforce development. He pursued healthcare issues ranging from pediatric cancer and autism to mental health parity. Chosen to serve on two bi-partisan national security Select Congressional Committees, he worked on refocusing our security force posture toward the Western Pacific, advocating a new emphasis on cyberspace warfare, and reprioritization of defense funding toward non-traditional warfare areas, with a reformed accountable defense procurement system. Joe also supported energy development legislation, from natural gas to renewables, with balanced environmental safeguards and job creation.
Since then, Joe has been teaching courses on Ethical Leadership and on Restoring the American Dream at Carnegie Mellon University and Cheyney University, and is the General Omar N. Bradley Chair in Strategic Leadership, a joint faculty appointment at the United States Army War College, Dickinson College, and the Penn State University Dickinson School of Law and School of International Affairs. Admiral Sestak is active in foreign affairs, education, disaster response, small businesses, energy and the environment, and healthcare, among other issues, through a variety of non-profits and other organizations, including the U.S Department of State.