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Rick "Ozzie" Nelson  

Director, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program and Senior Fellow, International Security Program

Rick “Ozzie” Nelson is a former Navy helicopter pilot with over twenty years operational and intelligence experience, including assignments at the National Security Council and the National Counterterrorism Center. He recently served in Afghanistan. He is a senior fellow in the CSIS International Security Program, where he focuses on counterterrorism, homeland security, and defense-related issues. He joined CSIS in September 2009, after retiring from the U.S. Navy, where he served in a variety of senior policy and operational positions. His last military assignment was with the Joint Special Operations Command. In 2005, he was selected to serve as an inaugural member in the National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC) Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning. Prior to his assignment at NCTC, Nelson served as associate director for maritime security in the Office of Combating Terrorism on the National Security Council staff at the White House, where he led the development of the National Strategy for Maritime Security. Other career assignments have included counterterrorism team leader in Deep Blue, the navy’s operational think tank created after September 11; navy legislative fellow for Senator Edward M. Kennedy; assistant aviation officer community manager; and flag aide in Okinawa, Japan, to the commander of naval amphibious forces in the Western Pacific. He is operationally trained in naval helicopter strike warfare in the SH-60B Seahawk and SH-2F Seasprite helicopters, and he has deployed around the world and flown in support of numerous operations. Nelson graduated from the George Washington University in 1989 with a B.A. in political science, holds an M.A. in national security studies from Georgetown University, and is a graduate of the Naval War College. He is an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University, where he teaches courses on homeland security and counterterrorism. He is also a frequent contributor to many media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, CBS, CNN, and ABC, among others.

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