University of South Florida


Gen. Frank McKenzie

Former chief of U.S. Central Command to lead the University of South Florida’s new Global and National Security Institute

The University of South Florida (USF) today announced the creation of the Global and National Security Institute, an initiative designed to further place the state of Florida at the forefront of addressing critical issues facing the nation in sectors such as defense, economic and political security, health and human security and infrastructure and environmental security.

The institute will be led by executive director Kenneth F. “Frank” McKenzie, retired Marine Corps general and former chief of U.S. Central Command, who brings extensive leadership skills and a decades-long military and international security background to the position.

Through the institute, USF is uniquely positioned to support global and national security partnerships, given its academic and research expertise in related fields, combined with proximity to Special Operations Command and Central Command located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Bay, and other military sites across the state.

“The Global and National Security Institute aligns with the University of South Florida’s core mission of being in direct service of its communities and addressing regional and national challenges,” USF President Rhea Law said. “I am pleased to announce the appointment of Gen. McKenzie as its executive director. Through the work of the institute, he will play a critical role in creating partnerships to build a prosperous and sustainable future for our regional communities, the state of Florida and beyond while building upon the university’s long-standing commitment to veterans.”

McKenzie will provide strategic vision and operational oversight for the institute while working alongside industry and faculty and leaders from the colleges of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, Behavioral and Community Sciences, the Muma College of Business and Marine Science to leverage expertise in applied engineering, technology, cybersecurity, policy development, and human and social dynamics to help shape the institute.

The institute’s goals include:

  • Advising state, county and municipal government, along with corporate entities, on policy matters, best practices and risk assessments related to global and national security to help protect essential infrastructure critical to Florida’s economy, including communications, energy, financial, water and transportation (ports, roads and rail).
  • Discovering innovative solutions by expanding faculty research clusters in global and national security.
  • Providing the educational tools to develop the next generation of security professionals by building upon existing cybersecurity, intelligence studies, criminology, and analytics programs, expanding specialized certificate programs, professional development and upskilling.
  • Supporting increased federal and corporate grant awards in global and national security.
  • Publishing actionable policy briefs associated with threats to global and national security with relevance to the state of Florida.
    Advancing the strategic growth of USF’s Institute for Applied Engineering to evolve into Florida’s first University Affiliated Research Center (UARC).  There are 14 UARCs in the United States, with the closest located in Georgia.
  • Establishing a nationally and internationally prominent board of advisors and affiliated network to help guide, communicate and evaluate the Institute’s work.

In the new role, McKenzie will also take over the leadership of Cyber Florida from Mike McConnell, who served as its executive director since 2020.  McConnell, who also previously served as chair of Cyber Florida’s Board of Advisors, has decided to retire at the end of June.

McKenzie will continue to grow Cyber Florida’s successful work with all 12 public universities in Florida and private industry, government and the military to build partnerships and develop programs that address the most pressing cybersecurity needs.

“I look forward to establishing the Global and National Security Institute at the University of South Florida, and working with our faculty experts, college leadership and industry partners. Using an interdisciplinary approach, our focus will be to integrate national security and defense policy with human and social behavior issues, engineering and technology,” McKenzie said. “At the same time, we have significant opportunities to build upon the positive momentum established by Vice Admiral McConnell for Cyber Florida to strengthen Florida’s cybersecurity industry.”

McKenzie’s distinguished career spans over 40 years and has focused on international and foreign security issues. He retired from active duty in April 2022 after commanding U.S. Central Command since March 2019. 

He is a 1979 graduate of The Citadel and was commissioned into the Marine Corps and trained as an infantry officer upon earning his degree. He has a master's degree in teaching with a concentration in history. Other high-level assignments include duty as the director of the Joint Staff and as the director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy for the Joint Staff. Last month he joined the International Advisory Board of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

A complete bio is available here.

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