Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence

Federal Executive Fellows

Krista London Couture, Office of the Director of National Intelligence/National Counterterrorism Center

With nearly a decade of experience with the U.S. government, Krista London Couture most recently served as a deputy branch chief at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). During her tenure with NCTC, she served a counterterrorism analyst and manager overseeing production. She was also appointed the lead of a major interagency taskforce coordinating efforts to provide information to state, local and tribal (domestic) partners. Prior to this assignment, Couture served in several roles with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. State Department. 

Couture has lived and worked overseas for over 15 years, mainly in Africa and Asia. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in international affairs from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and a master's in criminal justice from Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Commander Robert K. DeBuse, United States Navy

Commander Rob DeBuse, an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) warfare officer, recently served as the head of Navy Expeditionary Requirements Branch on the staff of the chief of naval operations. He has completed four tours in the EOD and diving community over the past 20 years, including command of EOD Mobile Unit FIVE in Guam. His other assignments have been in mine countermeasures and amphibious warfare. He has deployed to Afghanistan, the Arabian Gulf, the Asia Pacific, Africa and Europe. His other shore tour was with the Joint Staff in the Operations Directorate. There he coordinated extensively with joint and combined services, allied and partner nations and interagency partners on counterterrorism, homeland defense and counter-proliferations issues. 

DeBuse graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a bachelor's in chemistry. He also holds a master's in national security affairs and strategic studies from the Naval War College and a master's in business administration from Colorado State University..

Colonel Kenneth P. Ekman, United States Air Force

Colonel Kenneth P. Ekman is a command pilot with 2,500 flying hours in the F-16 and F-22. He recently served as the vice commander of the 49th Wing with Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The wing supports national security objectives by deploying worldwide to support peacetime and wartime contingencies. The wing also provides combat ready airmen, F-22 Raptors and trains MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots and sensor operators. Additionally, the wing delivers basic expeditionary airfield resources and air transportable clinics while providing support to more than 17,000 military and civilian personnel to include the German Air Force Flying Training Center operations.

Colonel Ekman is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and earned his wings at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. He graduated from the Weapons School in 2000 and the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies in 2005. His assignments include Air Force Test Pilot School sailplane instructor, squadron and wing weapons officer, air component strategist, fighter squadron commander and analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Colonel Johnnie L. Johnson, Jr., United States Army

Colonel Johnnie Johnson is a career armor officer in the U.S. Army with over 30 years of service. He recently relinquished command of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division after 28 months, which included a nine month deployment to Kuwait as part of U.S. Army Central Command. During Operation Spartan Shield, the brigade spearheaded partnership efforts and combined training exercises with numerous armies in the region, including those from Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan.  He previously commanded the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division and deployed for 14 months to Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of Multi-national Division – Baghdad during the surge. The battalion was credited with dismantling several of the most dangerous violent extremist networks and bringing stability to one of the most volatile areas of southwest Baghdad. Prior to brigade command, he served as chief of the Commander’s Initiatives Group in the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. Johnson also served as an Armor Branch assignment officer at Army Human Resources Command.

Johnson is a graduate of Upper Iowa University with a Bachelor of Arts in management. He also holds a Master of Science in administration from Central Michigan University and a master's in national security strategy from the National War College.

Commander Gregory D. Knepper, United States Navy

Commander Greg Knepper is a naval aviator who has served as a strike fighter pilot assigned to multiple squadrons and aircraft carriers in support of Operations Southern Watch, the Global War on Terrorism and Iraqi Freedom. Additionally, he has served as an instructor pilot in both the F-14 Tomcat and the FA-18 Hornet Fleet Replacement Squadrons. From 2007 to 2010, he was the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 requirements officer training lead for the commander of the Naval Air Forces. Most recently, Greg served as the maritime and air targeting officer for NATO’s Allied Force Command in Heidelberg, Germany. As a member of the Deployable Joint Staff Element, Knepper served in the Situation Cell, a combined joint operations center, that oversaw NATO efforts in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and Operation Unified Protector in Libya. He was a member of the 2012 NATO Response Force and additionally trained for civil-military engagement in the Operational Liaison & Reconnaissance Team, designed to deploy as initial NATO liaisons to crisis locations.

Knepper earned a master's with distinction in national security affairs and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College and a Bachelor of Science in economics with a minor in political science, cum laude from Boston University, where he was a three-time North Atlantic Conference soccer all-academic honoree. He has accumulated 2,984 flight hours, 240 combat hours and 494 carrier arrestments.

Commander Thomas H. King, United States Coast Guard

Commander Thomas King has served for over 21 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. His most recent assignment was with the Office of Budget and Programs at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., serving as a budget and program reviewer for the Coast Guard’s Engineering and Logistics Directorate. He has served over 10 years at sea on five cutters located in Massachusetts, Alaska and Virginia. He has also served as the Coast Guard liaison officer to the Department of State as the U.S. enforcement expert during multinational engagements.

King holds a master's in marine affairs from the University Of Washington and a master's in joint campaign planning at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is a 1992 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Marx, United States Marine Corps

Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Marx has served over 19 years in the United States Marine Corps. He first served as a logistician and motor transport platoon commander, and then as a pilot flying the AH-1W Super Cobra Attack Helicopter. He has trained in Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Kuwait, Jordan, East Timor and Saudi Arabia. His deployments include: 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa in Japan, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Tsunami Relief Efforts in Indonesia and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Command assignments include commanding Recruiting Station Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and commanding the Inspector-Instructor Staff of 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

Marx graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana with a bachelor's in psychology. He attended National Defense University’s Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy (formally the Industrial College of the Armed Forces), earning a Master of Science in national resource strategy and a graduate certificate for completing the Supply Chain Management Concentration Program.

Colonel Ryoji Shirai, Japan Air Self Defense Force

Colonel Ryoji Shirai was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant of Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) in 1994 upon graduation from the National Defense Academy. He most recently served as supervisor of the Defense Policies and Programs Division’s Air Staff Office in the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

In 1997, Shirai took specialized undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas, and an introduction to fighter fundamentals course at Randolph AFB in Texas. He was later assigned to the 305th Fighter Squadron, Hyakuri AFB and transferred to the Air Development and Test Wing. In 2005, he was assigned to the 204th Fighter Squadron with Hyakuri AFB. From 2006 to 2010, he served as a staff member in the Defense Policies and Programs Division’s Air Staff Office, where he organized the 2006-2007 JASDF fiscal year annual budget plan, organizing programs focused on KC-767 tanker and C-2 cargo and jet training and personnel planning. In 2010, he became commander of the 204th Fighter Squadron.

Shirai holds a bachelor's in aerospace engineering from the National Defense Academy. He is a senior pilot with over 2,100 hours in the T-4, T-38 and F-15J, and he is qualified as a test pilot.