John T. Oliver, Ph.D.

Senior Ocean Policy Advisor

U.S. Coast Guard





Dr. John T. Oliver was born in Faribault, Minnesota.  In 1973, he graduated from Stanford University with an undergraduate degree in German Studies.  After attending Stanford on a Naval ROTC scholarship, he immediately received a commission as a line ensign in the surface Navy.

He served as operations officer and navigator on board USS HUNLEY (AS-31) from June 1973 through December 1974.  During this period HUNLEY completed a major overhaul and moved from Bremerton, Washington, to Charleston, South Carolina.  He then served as damage control assistant/repair officer on USS BRUMBY (FF-1044) from January 1975 through January 1977.  During this period BRUMBY made several deployments, including a UNITAS cruise around South America and several fleet exercises in the North Atlantic and European waters.

While serving at Navy Manpower and Material Analysis Center, Pacific (1977-1978), Dr. Oliver began attending law school in the evening division at the University of San Diego School of Law.  The Navy selected him for the funded Law Education Program in 1978.  In December 1980, he graduated from the University of Washington School of Law, where he was an editor on the Washington Law Review and selected for the Order of the Coif.  After admission to the Washington and California State bars, he was assigned to Naval Legal Service Office, San Francisco, where he worked from May 1981 through April 1984.  There he served as Department Head, Command Services, Legal Assistance, and Civil Law (Claims), and as Senior Defense Counsel.

From 1984 to 1986, Dr. Oliver was assigned as an attorney in the Military Affairs Branch in the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Administrative Law).  He received an LL.M. degree in International Law through the Navy’s post-graduate education program from the University of Virginia School of Law in May 1987.  Upon defending his doctoral thesis after 6 years of additional work, he received a doctorate (S.J.D.) in International and Ocean Law from the University of Virginia in May 1993.

From May 1987 until late 1990, Dr. Oliver served in the Pentagon as the Ocean Policy Specialist on the Joint Staff.  He was then assigned as the Executive Officer and, later, served as Commanding Officer, Naval Legal Service Office, Newport.  He also taught international law, law of the sea, law of war, and rules of engagement at the Naval War College between 1991 and 1993.  In May 1993, Captain Oliver began serving as the Deputy Division Director for the International Law Division, and Head, Law of the Sea Branch, in the office of the Judge Advocate General.  Early in 1994, he began serving as the Deputy Assistant Judge Advocate General (International Law) and filled a key policy position as the Acting DoD Representative for Ocean Policy Affairs (DoD REPOPA).

From September 1994 through May 1996, Dr. Oliver served as the Deputy Assistant Judge Advocate General (Administrative Law).  In June 1996, he began serving as an appellate judge on the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.  Beginning in June 1999, then Captain Oliver served as the Officer in Charge, U.S. Sending State Office for Italy, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.  In June 2002, he returned to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, where he served as Chief Judge and completed 30 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy in July 2003.  He is now serving as the Senior Ocean Policy and Programs Advisor at Headquarters, U.S. Coast Guard.  He and his wife of nearly 38 years, Patricia Farrell (Tish) Oliver, reside in Alexandria, Virginia.  They have eight much-cherished children and grandchildren.

Dr. Oliver and his family are active in their church community at the Fort Belvoir Chapel.  He works with Olive Branch International and Christian Legal Aid for the District of Columbia.  He enjoys refereeing soccer, cycling, playing volleyball, and hiking.