Mark Brunner is a senior advisor at the South Asia Center. He joined The Cohen Group after serving as the Senior Advisor to Senator Mark Warner of Virginia from 2009 to 2015 following a 20-year career in the United States Navy where he served as a Navy pilot. During his tenure in the Navy, he also served on the staff of the NATO Military Committee, as the Defense Policy Advisor at the US Mission to the European Union, and as the Military Legislative Assistant and Defense Fellow to Senator John Warner.
As Senior Advisor, Mr. Brunner was Senator Warner’s principal counselor on defense, foreign policy, and energy issues. He also served as the Director of the Senate India Caucus during Senator Warner’s tenure as the Caucus Co-Chair. During this time, Mr. Brunner was instrumental in growing the Caucus to become the largest country caucus in the US Senate, and refocusing its efforts to address issues of importance for US-India foreign policy and business-to-business relationships. He created a partnership between the National Basketball Association and the India Caucus to bring basketball to India, and developed a landmark agreement, signed by the Indian government, American community colleges, and private sector foundations to construct new schools in India for vocational skills training.
Mr. Brunner co-led the creation of a National Commission on Energy Efficiency, and he served as Senator Warner’s designated representative to the commission, which produced a blueprint to double US energy productivity by 2030. The plan was endorsed by President Obama in the 2013 State of the Union address, and he was recognized as an “Energy Hero” by the Alliance to Save Energy and inducted into the Energy Efficiency Hall of Fame. He led the Virginia Congressional delegation’s defense policy efforts with a bipartisan approach to promote a Virginia defense industry that receives over $50 billion in annual Pentagon spending. Mr. Brunner created a comprehensive plan to reform Arlington National Cemetery by forming a private sector task force that provided a pro bono assessment of the technology challenges at Arlington. He was recognized with Northern Virginia Technology Council’s “Chairman’s Award” for this innovative solution.
Prior to working for Senator Warner, Mr. Brunner served for 20 years in the Navy, retiring at the rank of Commander. He flew several types of aircraft and helicopters, deploying multiple times on ships including the USS CONSTELLATION (CV-64) to the Arabian Gulf, where he led the first H-60B Seahawk armed helicopter deployment on an aircraft carrier. During his last Arabian Gulf deployment, he flew over 50 combat zone missions, including many low-altitude flights at night with US Navy SEALS intercepting Iraqi vessels. Later in his Navy career, he served as the Military Legislative Assistant and Legislative Fellow for the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner, and as one of the Navy’s senior representatives to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for aviation funding and all classified programs.
A recognized leader in technology and cybersecurity, he drafted legislative provisions adopted in the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) and was appointed by the Governor of Virginia to serve as the Special Advisor to the Virginia Commission on Cybersecurity. He co-led a US Senate Task Force that convened federal agency CIO’s and top technology companies to develop innovative practices for the government to rapidly procure advanced commercial technology.
Mr. Brunner currently serves on the Advisory Boards of the US Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, The College of William & Mary Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic, and BlueCat Networks. He earned a BA in Political Science from Tulane University, an MA in National Security Affairs from Georgetown University (highest honors), and is currently pursuing a PhD. He also was awarded the US Navy’s Superior Public Service Award by the Secretary of the Navy.