Special Operations and Low Intensity Combat: Who is Michael Vickers?

Sunday, November 21, 2010
Michael G. “Mike” Vickers has served as assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities since July 2007, having originally been selected by President George W. Bush for the position and reappointed by President Barack Obama in February 2009.
In this role, Vickers oversees the multi-agency Technical Support Working Group and serves as the senior civilian advisor to the Secretary of Defense on the operational employment and capabilities of special operations forces. He is also the senior civilian adviser on counterterrorism, irregular warfare and special activities. 
Born in California in1953, the son of a carpenter, Vickers received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alabama.
Vickers enlisted in the U.S. Army Special Forces in 1973, and over the next ten years served as both as a non-commissioned officer and as a commissioned officer. He trained with the Navy SEALs to become a combat diver and spent a year with the British Special Air Service. He also trained for guerrilla warfare against the Soviet Union, including having to parachute into enemy territory with a small nuclear weapon strapped to his leg.
In 1983, succumbing to the “impulsiveness of youth,” he quit the Army and joined the CIA as a paramilitary officer.  During his three years with the CIA, he took part in the invasion of Grenada, was part of a team that hunted for the group that bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, and was involved in a still-secret mission in Honduras.  
After leaving the CIA, Vickers returned to school, earning an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1988. Later he added a PhD in international relations/strategic studies from Johns Hopkins University.
In 1984, despite being only 31 years old, Vickers was chosen to be the principal strategist for the CIA’s covert action in Afghanistan that armed the mujahideen to undermine the Soviet occupation. He oversaw a budget of $2 billion (in current dollars) and provided the anti-Soviet forces (including the Taliban) with such weapons as AK-47 assault rifles with millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and Stinger missiles.
From 1997 to 2007, Vickers served as senior vice president for strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
Vickers has been described as being a skilled strategist who is both creative and pragmatic. “He tends to think like a gangster,” former senior defense planner Jim Thomas told The Washington Post. “He can understand trends, then change the rules of the game so they are advantageous for your side.”
Vickers, who speaks Spanish, Russian and Czech, was portrayed in the 2007 film Charlie Wilson’s War by Christopher Denham. He and his wife have five daughters.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Michael G. Vickers Biography (Department of Defense)
Michael G. Vickers (WhoRunsGov)
Interview with Michael G. Vickers (Special Operations Technology)
Sorry, Charlie. This Is Michael Vickers's War. (by Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post)


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