Thomas E. Donilon
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Thomas E. Donilon
Tom Donilon
Thomas Donilon.jpg
23rd United States National Security Advisor

October 8, 2010 - June 30, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputyDenis McDonough
Tony Blinken
Jim Jones
Susan Rice
United States Deputy National Security Advisor

January 20, 2009 - October 8, 2010
PresidentBarack Obama
James Franklin Jeffrey
Denis McDonough
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs

April 1, 1993 - November 7, 1996
PresidentBill Clinton
Margaret D. Tutwiler
James Rubin
Personal details
Born (1955-05-14) May 14, 1955 (age 64)
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Catherine Russell
RelativesMike Donilon (brother)
EducationCatholic University (BA)
University of Virginia (JD)

Thomas E. Donilon (born May 14, 1955)[] is an American lawyer, business executive, and former government official who served as National Security Advisor in the Obama administration from 2010 to 2013.[1][2] Donilon also worked in the Carter and Clinton administrations, including as Chief of Staff of the U.S. State Department. He is now Chairman of the BlackRock Investment Institute.[3]

During the Obama transition, he served together with diplomat Wendy Sherman as Agency Review Team Lead for the State Department in the Obama transition,[4] and as Deputy to National Security Advisor James Jones early in the Obama administration. Donilon replaced Jones as National Security Advisor on October 8, 2010.[5] Donilon tendered his resignation as National Security Adviser on June 5, 2013, and was succeeded in office by Susan Rice.[6]

Donilon has served in an advisory role as Chair of the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity[7], and as vice chairman of the international law firm O'Melveny and Meyers.

Early life and education

Donilon was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Theresa A. (née Conway) and Edward T. Donilon. His father was of Irish descent, and his maternal grandparents had immigrated from Ireland.[8] He attended La Salle Academy,[9] earned a B.A. degree at The Catholic University of America in 1977, and a J.D. degree at the University of Virginia in 1985. He served on the Editorial Board of the Virginia Law Review.

Early Career

Government and campaigns

After graduating from Catholic University, Donilon began working in the Carter White House in the Congressional Relations Office. At age 24, Donilon managed the 1980 Democratic Convention, at which Senator Edward Kennedy challenged President Carter for the nomination. A profile from 1980 described him as, "one of those Wunderkinder who spring out of nowhere to become driving forces in politics." [10] Carter successfully defeated Kennedy's challenge for the nomination but lost the general election. In 1981, Donilon temporarily moved to Georgia to manage the former president's transition to private life.[11]

In 1983, Donilon worked on Walter Mondale's presidential campaign, as the national campaign coordinator and convention director.[12] Donilon prepared Mondale for his presidential debates. [13] Donilon met his wife, Catherine Russell, on the Mondale campaign.[14]

During the first Bush administration, Donilon was recruited to the law firm O'Melveny and Meyers by Warren Christopher, a partner at the firm.

When Warren Christopher became Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, Donilon worked as his chief of staff and as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, from 1993 to 1996. According to the Washington Post, in the Clinton administration, Donilon was "intimately involved in many major foreign policy issues, including negotiating the Bosnian peace agreement and the expansion of NATO"..[15] During the Srebrenica massacre, Donilon advocated intervention and lobbied members of Congress and worked with allies to approve intervention.[14]

Private sector

Donilon worked as Executive Vice President for Law and Policy at Fannie Mae, the federally chartered mortgage finance company, as a registered lobbyist from 1999 through 2005.[15][16]

Before his appointment to the Obama Administration, Donilon was a partner in the Washington office of the law firm O'Melveny & Myers, where he advised companies and their boards on a range of "sensitive governance, policy, legal and regulatory matters".[17]

Obama Administration

Pete Souza's photograph Situation Room. Donilon is seen standing, second from the left.

In 2008, David Axelrod recruited Donilon to head Obama's presidential debate preparation team. After the election, Obama's pick for chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, recommended that James Jones hire Donilon as his deputy. [14] In October 2010, Donilon replaced Jones as National Security Advisor. According to The New Yorker, he took inspiration for the NSC process from former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. [18]

As National Security Advisor, Donilon "oversaw the U.S. National Security Council staff, chaired the cabinet level National Security Principals Committee, provided the president's daily national security briefing, and was responsible for the coordination and integration of the administration's foreign policy, intelligence, and military efforts." Donilon also "oversaw the White House's international economics, cybersecurity, and international energy efforts" and "served as the President's personal emissary to a number of world leaders, including President Hu Jintao and President Xi Jinping, President Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and Prime Minister Netanyahu."[3]

A profile in Foreign Policy magazine characterized Donilon as a "a sharp-elbowed infighter.[19]   

In June 2013, when Donilon announced he was leaving the White House, Obama said, "Tom's that rare combination of the strategic and the tactical. He has a strategic sense of where we need to go, and he has a tactical sense of how to get there." [20]Joe Biden said in a statement, "I've worked with eight different administrations and even more national security advisers, and I've never met anyone with more talent and with greater strategic judgment."[20]

David Rothkopf wrote of Donilon's legacy:

"Donilon's greatest contribution was his strategic mindset, leading to a conscious shift away from the issues that preoccupied the NSC under George W. Bush in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the broader post-9/11 "Global War on Terror" to one that centered on next generation issues: China, cyber issues, the strategic consequences of America's energy revolution, introducing new economic initiatives in the Atlantic and Pacific that have broad geopolitical consequences, moving to a next generation Mideast strategy focused on regional stability, along with new partnerships with regional and global players and addressing emerging threats in places like Africa."[21]


Donilon was a prominent advocate of the Obama administration's "pivot" or rebalance to Asia.[22] Donilon described the policy in a speech at the Asia Society in 2013: "The United States is implementing a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy: strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity."[23]

Donilon was also critical of China at times. In 2013, in a speech to the Asia Society, Donilon said "Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber-intrusions on an unprecedented scale." Donilon said China must recognize the risk such activities pose to the reputation of Chinese industry, to bilateral relations and to international trade. Beijing, he said, must also "take serious steps to investigate" allegations of hacking.[24]

Before leaving the Obama Administration, Donilon coordinated a two-day informal summit between President Xi Jinping and Obama held in Sunnylands, California, in June 2013.[25]

International economics

Thomas Donilon, U.S. National Security Advisor, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. in November 2012

Donilon supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he called "the most important trade negotiation under way in the world today and the economic centerpiece of the rebalance" to Asia. In 2013, Donilon wrote of the importance of renewable energy: "climate change, driven by the world's use of energy, presents not just a transcendent challenge for the world but a present-day national security threat to the United States."[26]


Donilon helped negotiate the New START Treaty in 2011.[27] He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly after his election in 2012. [28]


In April 2016, Obama appointed Donilon as Chair of the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity. The Commission's report, which was released in December of that year, made recommendations for enhancing cybersecurity in the United States. In 2017, Donilon wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which he provided recommendations for "hack-proofing" future elections from foreign meddling.[29]

Post Obama administration

After leaving the Obama administration, Donilon re-entered the private sector. The Council on Foreign Relations announced in July 2013 that Donilon will join the organisation as a distinguished fellow. Donilon returned to O'Melveny & Myers in May 2014 as Vice Chair of the firm and a member of the firm's Policy Committee.

Since 2015, Donilon has been Chairman of the BlackRock Investment Institute.

During Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Donilon was co-chair of the Clinton-Kaine Transition Project, as its foreign-policy lead. [30]If Clinton had won, Donilon was widely considered a candidate to be Secretary of State[31] or CIA Director.[32]

Personal life

Donilon is the brother of Mike Donilon, a lawyer and political consultant who was Counselor to former Vice-President Joe Biden. His other brother, Terrence Donilon, is communications director for Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean O'Malley.[33] Donilon's sister, Donna, is a nurse. He is married to Catherine M. Russell, who was Chief of Staff to Jill Biden, and in March 2013 was named the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues at the U.S. State Department. They have two children.[34][35]


  1. ^ Donilon to Replace Jones as National Security Adviser Sanger, David E. The New York Times.
  2. ^ Washington Post
  3. ^ a b "Thomas Donilon: Biography". BlackRock.
  4. ^ "Obama-Biden Transition: Agency Review Teams | The Obama-Biden Transition Team". Retrieved .
  5. ^ Defense Secretary Said to Be Staying On Baker, Peter. The New York Times.
  6. ^ Landler, Mark. "Rice to Replace Donilon in the Top National Security Post". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ Cyber panel closes in on final recommendations
  8. ^ "Tom Donilon ancestry". Retrieved .
  9. ^ "La Salle Graduate Named National Security Advisor". LaSalle Academy. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ "The Don of the Delegates" Washington Post, August 12, 1980.
  11. ^ Morrell, Michael (3 October 2017). "Former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon looks back on his Career". The Cipher Brief (Podcast). The Cipher Brief. Event occurs at 09:20. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ "The Don of the Delegates" Washington Post, August 12, 1980.
  13. ^ "5 Things You May Not Know About Tom Donilon". The Aspen Institute. Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ a b c "Tom Donilon: Political wunderkind to policy trailblazer". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More - The Washington Post". Archived from the original on 2011-11-04. Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Duo Heading State Transition Seasoned Vets". USA Today. 2008-11-12. Retrieved .
  17. ^ "O'Melveny & Myers LLP | Professionals". O'Melveny & Myers. Retrieved .
  18. ^ Lizza, Ryan. "The Consequentialist". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2020.
  19. ^ Landler, Mark (2013-06-05). "Rice to Replace Donilon in the Top National Security Post". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved .
  20. ^ a b "Rice to Replace Donilon in the Top National Security Post". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  21. ^ Rothkopf, David. "Donilon's Legacy". Foreign Policy.
  22. ^ Rogin, Josh. "Donilon defends the Asia 'pivot'". Foreign Policy.
  23. ^ "Remarks By Tom Donilon, National Security Advisor to the President: "The United States and the Asia-Pacific in 2013" - The Asia Society". Obama White House. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  24. ^ Nakashima, Ellen (March 12, 2013). "U.S. publicly calls on China to stop commercial cyber-espionage, theft of trade secrets". The Washington Post.
  25. ^ Rucker, Philip. "At U.S.-china shirt-sleeves summit, formalities and suspicions abound". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020.
  26. ^ Donilon, Thomas. "Energy and American Power". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2020.
  27. ^ "The Nuclear Agenda". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ "Putin opts out of G-8 summit, cancels meeting with Obama". Fox News. Retrieved 2020.
  29. ^ Donilon, Thomas. "Russia will be back. Here's how to hack-proof the next election". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020.
  30. ^ Allen, Cooper. "Clinton-Kaine transition team announced". USA Today. Retrieved 2020.
  31. ^ Viebeck, Elise. "Is Tom Donilon the front-runner to lead Clinton's State Department?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020.
  32. ^ Allen, Mike. "Axios QM: Ghosts in the Cabinet". Axios. Retrieved 2020.
  33. ^ Horowitz, Jason (March 10, 2013). "The brothers Donilon: One's boss is President Obama, the other's could be pope". Washington Post. Retrieved 2013.
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-19. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Obama, Biden relying on the Donilons of Providence] Perry, Jack. Providence Journal ProJo Politics Blog. November 26, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  35. ^ Biden Beefs Up Staff Rucker, Philip. November 26, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2008.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Margaret Tutwiler
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
Succeeded by
Jamie Rubin
Preceded by
James Jeffrey
Deputy National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Denis McDonough
Preceded by
Jim Jones
National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Susan Rice

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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