Africa and the Middle East

5 Things You May Not Know About Tom Donilon

January 6, 2014

Tomorrow, Jan. 7, the Aspen Institute Washington Ideas Roundtable Series, in partnership with the Institute’s Middle East Programs, will host a roundtable of foreign policy experts in a Q&A with Tom Donilon, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama. In advance of the live stream at 12:10pm, here are a few things you may not know about the man behind some of the country’s most important foreign policy decisions. 

  1. Seven months into his role as National Security Council director, Donilon convened Obama’s national security advisers to complete the planning of the raid on al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden’s compound. He had previously served as principal deputy national security adviser under Gen. James Jones
  2. As the chief of staff to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Donilon was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the expansion of NATO. As a result, in 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined, and nine more countries have joined since then. He is credited with negotiating the Dayton Peace Agreement on Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995.
  3. Donilon’s public service career dates back to 1977, when he served as a staffer in the Carter administration. He has worked in every Democratic presidential administration since.
  4. Amid holding several high-ranking positions on Democratic presidential campaigns dating back to Carter-Mondale in 1979, Donilon served as the debate prep coordinator for the Dukakis-Bentsen, Clinton-Gore, and Obama-Biden general election campaigns. 
  5. Donilon’s family members have served in key public roles. His wife, Catherine Russell, succeeded Melanne Verveer as the second-ever US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. She previously held the position of chief of staff to Second Lady Jill Biden. Additionally, Donilon’s brother, Michael Donilon, served as counselor to Vice President Joe Biden.

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