Johnson began his career as a deck watch officer aboard the cutter Steadfast (WMEC-623). He then earned his Naval Aviator wings in 1977. He flew the HH-52A helicopter at Coast Guard Air Station Houston, the HH-3F at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, the HH-65A in Brooklyn and Corpus Christi, and the HH-60J in San Diego. Staff assignments included: Aviation Assignment Officer in the Office of Personnel and Training; Program Reviewer and Analyst within the Office of the Chief of Staff; Deputy Chief, Programs Division within the Office of the Chief of Staff; and, member of the Streamlining Team.
Johnson assumed the duties of Commander, Pacific Area in June 2004. The Area of Operations for the Pacific Area encompasses over 73 million miles west of the Rocky Mountains and throughout the Pacific Basin to the Far East. Prior to this assignment, he was the Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District and served as the Director, Homeland Security Task Force-Southeast, where he directed Operation Able Sentry, the DHS response to the crisis in Haiti. In addition to these duties, Johnson served as the Executive Director of the Coast Guard's transition into the Department of Homeland Security, Director of Operations Capability, and Director of Operations Policy.
Prior to promotion to flag rank in 2001, Johnson served as the Executive Assistant to the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Other assignments included: Commanding Officer of Air Station Brooklyn, and concurrently as Commanding Officer of Air Station San Diego and Commander, Activities San Diego. Johnson also served as a fellow at the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group in Newport, Rhode Island.
On September 7, 2007 President George W. Bush announced his intention to nominate Johnson to serve in his administration as Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the Department of Homeland Security.
His education includes a Bachelor of Science degree at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1975, and an M.S. at the Naval Postgraduate School in 1983, and a Master of Science in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management as a Sloan Fellow in 1993.
Johnson is a native of Tampa, Florida. He is married to the former Janet L. Cronin of Boston, Massachusetts, and they have two children, Jennifer and Scott.