General Counsel of the Navy

3/12/2010 - Present

The Honorable Paul L. Oostburg Sanz

The Honorable Paul L. Oostburg Sanz


Paul L. Oostburg Sanz became the 22nd General Counsel of the United States Department of the Navy on March 12, 2010.  As the General Counsel of the Navy, Oostburg Sanz is the Department’s Chief Legal Officer.  He leads nearly 1000 civilian and uniformed attorneys and staff in 140 offices worldwide, assists in the oversight of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and advises senior Navy and Marine Corps officials on litigation, acquisition, contractual, fiscal, environmental, property, personnel, legislative, ethics, and intelligence law matters.  The Office of the General Counsel of the Navy provides legal advice to the Secretary of the Navy, the Under Secretary of the Navy, the Assistant Secretaries of the Navy and their staffs, and the multiple components of the Department, to include the Navy and the Marine Corps, in the obligation of an annual budget of over $160 billion and the management of over 900,000 service members and civilians.  Additionally, in coordination with the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, he ensures that the intelligence, intelligence-related, and sensitive activities of the Department are conducted in a legal manner.  As General Counsel, he is also the senior ethics officer, oversees the Suspending and Debarring Official on acquisition matters, and manages the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program for the Department of the Navy.

From March 20, 2013, to September 30, 2014, Oostburg Sanz, by appointment of the Secretary of Defense, was the Interim Convening Authority for Military Commissions and the Interim Director of the Office of Military Commissions (OMC).  Oostburg Sanz served in these positions while also serving as the General Counsel of the Navy.  As Convening Authority, he convened military commissions, referred charges to trial, approved proposed plea agreements, and was responsible for reviewing records of trial, providing an accused with the opportunity for clemency before taking action on the findings and sentence of a military commission, and overseeing all resourcing and logistical support for OMC operations.  He also oversaw an operation of more than 290 civilian and military personnel, with an annual operating budget of over $80 million.

From January 2007 until his appointment as General Counsel of the Navy, Oostburg Sanz served as the General Counsel for the Committee on Armed Services in the United States House of Representatives (HASC).  As the Senior Legal Advisor to the Chairman of the Committee and its 61 other members, he provided legal counsel on an expansive range of national defense issues, including the final drafting and passage of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.  Oostburg Sanz was also instrumental in drafting, and the passage of, the Military Commissions Act of 2009.  Prior to his work on the HASC, he served as the democratic Deputy Chief Counsel for the Committee on International Relations in the United States House of Representatives (HIRC).  In this position, he provided legal expertise to the committee’s Ranking Member on legislation and issues related to the Western Hemisphere, foreign assistance, and non-military security assistance.  At HIRC, Oostburg Sanz provided critical policy advice and counsel regarding the legislation establishing the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Before joining the HIRC, Oostburg Sanz clerked for Judge José Fusté in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico; conducted political party training in South Africa during its first-ever, all inclusive national elections, as a Project Officer for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.  He has also worked on judicial reform in Mozambique and the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers in Liberia.

Oostburg Sanz earned a Bachelor’s Degree magna cum laude from the Walsh School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University, a Master in Public Affairs Degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School (HLS).  During his time at HLS, he provided legal services to the indigent through the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and was a Teaching Fellow on international relations at Harvard University.


Updated: 31 October 2014