David Berteau, an alumnus of Tulane University, has been serving as the assistant secretary of defense for logistics and material readiness, overseeing the department’s $170 billion logistics operations.
Berteau graduated from Tulane in 1971, a turbulent time during the height of the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement and national student unrest.
“These were really dynamic times to be asking the fundamental question, of ‘Why are we here — in life and at Tulane — and what are we trying to do?’” Berteau said.
These questions helped lead Berteau to a career dedicated to public service. Early in his career, he worked in the Department of Defense under presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Berteau credits his wide-ranging liberal arts education at Tulane for preparing him for his esteemed career. At Tulane, he majored in English and minored in French, philosophy and mathematics.
In December 2014, President Barack Obama nominated Berteau to his current position and the Senate confirmed him. As his decadeslong career has included positions in government, academia, lobbying and think tanks, his advice to Tulane students seeking public service careers is to take the long view.
“I’ve been at this business in Washington for 35 years,” he said. “I get up every morning looking forward to going to work. You have to take the long view if you’re looking to make the planet a better place to live. Your work is never finished. You have to get comfortable with the infinite pursuit of the better life.”