Joseph W. Ralston

Distinguished Senior Adviser (Non-resident)
Associated Programs: International Security Program

Gen. Joseph Ralston (USAF, Ret.) was named a distinguished senior adviser at CSIS in March 2003. Gen. Ralston served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe from May 3, 2000, until March 1, 2003 and in that position was the overall commander of approximately 65,000 troops from 39 NATO and other nations participating in ongoing operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. As head of the U.S. European Command, he was responsible for all U.S. military activities in 89 countries and territories covering more than 13 million square miles of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and involving the activities of all U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps forces operating within its area of responsibility. Ralston entered the U.S. Air Force in 1965 through the ROTC program. His career in the Armed Services includes operational command at squadron, wing, numbered air force, and major command, as well as various influential staff and management positions at every level of the Air Force. He was closely involved with building the U.S. Air Force of the 21st century, in a variety of positions related to requirements and acquisitions. Prior to assuming his position as Supreme Allied Commander, Ralston served as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1996 to 2000. In this capacity, he was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation's second-highest-ranking military officer. Among his previous assignments, Ralston served as commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base; deputy chief of staff for plans and operations, U.S. Air Force; commander of the Alaskan Command and director of operational requirements in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, U.S. Air Force. Ralston received his B.A. in chemistry from Miami University of Ohio (1965) and his M.A. in personnel management from Central Michigan University (1976). He also attended the Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, National War College, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. A highly decorated command pilot, with more than 2,500 flying hours, including 147 combat missions over Laos and North Vietnam, Ralston received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 19 oak leaf clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters.