Inhofe, Punaro take NDIA's top honors

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Arnold Punaro 2018 awardees: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) will receive the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award, and defense stalwart Arnold Punaro will receive the James Forrestal Industry Leadership Award.

ARLINGTON, VA -- The National Defense Industrial Association announces the 2018 recipients of its highest honors: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award, and defense icon Arnold Punaro for the James Forrestal Industry Leadership Award.

Both will be honored April 18 at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, VA: Inhofe during the annual Eisenhower Award dinner, and Punaro during the NDIA board luncheon.

Inhofe has been a champion for military installations, particularly in Oklahoma, and has traveled overseas frequently to visit U.S. troops in battle zones and at bases and to meet with America’s allies. He’s fought to fix funding shortfalls in defense spending, and especially to protect and advance missile defense systems. Inhofe was among senators who sought $100 million for rapid development and deployment of kinetic Boost Phase missile defense technology, citing rising threats from North Korea.

An Army veteran, Inhofe is the senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He’s also on the Senate committees on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Inhofe was elected to the Senate in 1994 after a time in the House of Representatives for Oklahoma’s 1st district. Also, in his career, Inhofe was the 32nd mayor of Tulsa.

Punaro is chief executive officer of The Punaro Group LLC of Washington, a consulting firm he founded in 2010 that guides businesses through the federal marketplace. Defense News recognized him as one of the 100 most influential people in U.S. defense. Punaro also served as NDIA board chairman and is chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board.

Punaro’s defense career began in 1968 with the Marine Corps. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and served in the Vietnam War as an infantry platoon commander, during which he earned a Bronze Star for Valor and a Purple Heart. He holds more than 20 military awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal. He retired from the Marines as a major general. 

After the military, for nearly 25 years, Punaro served Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) as his director of national security affairs. He was also staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee for eight years and staff director for the minority for five years. From the Senate, Punaro joined Science Applications International Corp., serving as a senior vice president, then executive vice president until 2010. Punaro also is author of the 2016 book, “On War and Politics: The Battlefield Inside Washington’s Beltway.”

The Eisenhower award is NDIA’s highest honor. Founded in 1979, the award is given each year to an American citizen who exemplifies the 34th U.S. president’s contribution to a strong national security, a robust defense industrial base and unwavering support of warfighters. 

Founded in 1954, the James Forrestal Industry Leadership Award is named for the former secretary of the Navy and of Defense who supported a strong defense industrial base. The annual award is given to a defense industry executive who best reflects Forrestal’s vision.

About NDIA

The National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) is America's leading defense industry association promoting national security. NDIA provides a legal and ethical forum for the exchange of information between industry and government on national security issues. NDIA and its members foster the development of the most innovative and superior equipment, training, and support for warfighters and first responders through its divisions, local chapters, affiliated associations, and events. For more information, visit