Vice Admiral, JAG Corps, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs
LL.M., Georgetown University Law Center (International and Comparative Law)
J.D., University of Michigan
B.S., United States Naval Academy
Vice Admiral (Ret.) James W. Houck is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. He joined Penn State in 2012 after a 32-year career in the United States Navy, beginning as a qualified destroyer officer of the deck and culminating in appointment as the 41st Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy. From 2013-2017, he served as the interim dean of the unified Dickinson School of Law and the School of International Affairs, as well as interim dean of Penn State Law in University Park for the school’s first two years. He served a second term as interim dean of Penn State Law in University Park and the School of International Affairs from 2021-2022. As a member of the Penn State Law and School of International Affairs faculty, he focuses on national security law, international law, law of the sea, law of armed conflict, and legal issues within the military. He teaches the groundbreaking national security law course Leadership in Crisis Simulation. He has twice been selected as the sole faculty recipient of the Penn State Law J.D. Teaching Award recognizing excellence in teaching as voted on by the graduating classes of 2020 and 2023 respectively.
As the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, Admiral Houck was the principal military legal counsel to the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations and led the 2,300 attorneys, enlisted legal staff, and civilian employees of the worldwide Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He also served as the Department of Defense Representative for Ocean Policy Affairs and oversaw the Department of the Navy's military justice system. Among his assignments as a Navy lawyer, Admiral Houck served as deputy legal counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as principal legal counsel to the Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain. Admiral Houck served in the Navy’s Office of Legislative Affairs and was also a Navy prosecutor and defense attorney.
As the interim dean, he executed the Penn State’s decision to separate the unified Dickinson School of Law into two separate law schools, Penn State Law, located on Penn State’s largest, central campus in University Park, and Dickinson Law in Carlisle. As interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, he led efforts to integrate both schools with a variety of disciplines across the University Park campus and beyond. He also served as the founding director of Penn State’s Center for Security Research and Education, bringing together for the first time at Penn State a diverse group of academic units from across the University to focus on issues of global, national, and local security.
Admiral Houck is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. He has previously served as a member of the Secretary of Defense's Independent Review Panel on Sexual Assault in the Military, the Hoover Institute's Arctic Security Initiative, and the Easter Seals Command Council, which supports military service members, veterans, their families, and families of the fallen.