John Cotton graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1973 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, earned his wings in October 1974 and became a third generation pilot. His father was also a Naval Aviator and his grandfather flew with the Lafayette Flying Corps in World War I.

Accumulating over 15,000 flight hours as a Navy and commercial pilot, his global joint experience includes assignments as a light attack, reconnaissance, strike fighter and adversary pilot, and command leadership positions of an FA-18 squadron, Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, and the Pentagon Navy Command Center. He most recently served in the Pentagon from 2003-2008 as Chief of Navy Reserve and Commander Navy Reserve Force, and from 2008-2013, he worked for DRS Technologies as a Corporate Senior Vice President.

Previous Flag Officer assignments include Deputy Commander, Joint Task Force Southwest Asia; Deputy Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Warfare Requirements and Programs; and member of the Secretary of Defense Reserve Forces Policy Board. He is a graduate of many military and civilian senior executive leadership and business programs, and personal awards include the Navy Distinguished Service, Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service Medals.

He is currently a defense and security consultant, and serves as a civilian member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board, a Senior Fellow at the Joint Forces Staff College, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation.