Mark Wilkins joins the Perry Center after nearly four years spent working with OSD Policy’s Defense Institution Reform Initiative (DIRI). He first served as the DIRI Latin American Program Manager, coordinating the development of four programs in the Western Hemisphere to help partners develop accountable, professional, and transparent defense establishments that can manage, sustain, and employ their forces. Currently, he serves as the Guatemala DIRI Country Project Manager, coordinating DOD efforts in support of Guatemalan plans to reform and modernize defense sector governance and bring modern business practices to the Ministry of Defense. He also worked as a Senior Mentor and Instructor for the Joint Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Skills Sustainment Program, an OSD initiative that supports the role of senior FAOs at the highest levels of USG policy formulation and execution, with the goal of raising their competence and situational awareness.
In 2010, then–Colonel Wilkins retired from the US Army after 30 years of service, having served as a FAO in a wide variety of senior policy, security assistance, and intelligence positions in the Western Hemisphere, including Chief, Americas Division, J-5, The Joint Staff; Defense and Army Attaché in Bogota, Colombia, and Quito, Ecuador; and Military Assistance Group Commander in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. He also served in Panama as the Director of Intelligence (J-2) for US Special Operations Forces in Latin America, various other tactical and strategic military intelligence postings, and participated in US military operations in Central America in the early 1980s.
COL (ret.) Wilkins’ education includes an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Florida and a BA in Political Science from Western Carolina University. His educational background also includes the Venezuelan Guardia Nacional Command and Staff School and numerous other US military joint and service schools. He spent most of his youth in Costa Rica, graduating in 1976 from the Country Day School in San Jose. He speaks fluent Spanish.
His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal (two awards), the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), the Army Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), and US, Venezuelan, and Guatemalan parachutist badges. He is also the recipient of distinguished defense awards from the governments of Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.