31st SQA Annual Meeting and Quality College | Keynote Speaker

Commander Kirk Lippold, USN (Ret.)


Legendary Commander of USS Cole and Author of Front Burner

Commander Kirk Lippold, USN (Ret.) was the Commanding Officer of the USS Cole when it came under a suicide terrorist attack by al Qaeda in the port of Aden, Yemen. During his command, he and his crew distinguished themselves by saving the American war ship from sinking. This event is widely recognized as one of the most brazen acts of terrorism by al Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001. With this unique and invaluable experience, Commander Lippold has briefed over 6,000 military officers, 2,000 federal and state law enforcement officers, and given over 300 presentations on this seminal event in the war on terrorism.

Commander Kirk Lippold's assignments prior to the USS Cole included Executive Officer of USS SHILOH, an Aegis-class guided missile cruiser. His department head tour was unique in his assignment to the crew that commissioned USS Arleigh Burke, the Navy's first Aegis guided missile destroyer where he served as the Operations Officer responsible for crew’s training and combat readiness.  He had two division officer assignments, which included a tour on USS Yorktown, an Aegis class guided missile cruiser. There, he completed a lengthy seven and a half month deployment to the Mediterranean, where he participated in the Achille Lauro aircraft seizure, Black Sea Freedom of Navigation operations against the Soviet Union, and Attain III combat operations in the Gulf of Sidra off Libya that followed several Libyan sponsored terrorist attacks in Europe. His initial division officer tour was in USS Fairfax County, a tank landing ship, where he completed a deployment to Beirut, Lebanon, in support of the US Marine Corps and the Multinational Peacekeeping Force when terrorists attacked the American Embassy and severely damaged it.

Commander Kirk Lippold is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and received his commission in the Navy in 1981. He attended the Navy Postgraduate School from 1987 to 1989 where he received a Masters of Science in Systems Engineering (Joint Command, Control and Communications). He is a 1994 graduate of the United States Army Command and General Staff College and is also a 2001 graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College. He has also served as the Administrative Aide to the Secretary of the Navy. He recently served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Directorate for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5), where he was instrumental in crafting detainee policy for the war on terrorism during its initial stages following the 9/11 attacks. His last assignment was in the International Strategy Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (N5IS).

Commander Kirk Lippold's personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (three awards), Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Commendation Medal (two awards), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal (two awards), in addition to various campaign and service ribbons.

Currently, Commander Lippold is the president of Lippold Strategies, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in executive leadership development, strategic planning and training programs, and crisis management. Additionally, he serves as Senior Vice President for military policy and strategic development at the public affairs firm Phillip Stutts & Co. He is also the author of Front Burner – Al Qaeda’s Attack on the USS Cole, which recounts the story of Al Qaeda's bombing of his ship on and the continuing ramifications for the war on terror.

He recently served on the Board of Directors for Military Families United and is a member of the Board of Advisors for Halo Maritime Defense Systems and the National Security Roundtable.