Kamala Harris Taps Ex-Diplomat to Be Her National Security Advisor

Nancy McEldowney is one of several former senior foreign service officers expected to join the senior ranks of the new U.S. administration.

By , a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at an event in Las Vegas.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at an event in Las Vegas.
Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at an event in Las Vegas on April 27, 2019. Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has tapped a former senior foreign service officer to serve as her national security advisor, the latest diplomat to join the incoming administration as President-elect Joe Biden and Harris build out their national security team. 

Her pick for the job, Nancy McEldowney, served in the foreign service for over 30 years, including posts as U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, director of the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, and chargé d’affaires and deputy chief of mission in Turkey and Azerbaijan. 

McEldowney is one of several former career diplomats expected to join the senior ranks of the Biden administration, signaling a stark shift in staffing from the Trump White House, where the president viewed career diplomats with a mix of suspicion and disdain, particularly after the impeachment trial that put his handling of foreign policy and State Department officials in the crosshairs. Biden picked Linda Thomas-Greenfield, another former senior foreign service officer, as his choice for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has tapped a former senior foreign service officer to serve as her national security advisor, the latest diplomat to join the incoming administration as President-elect Joe Biden and Harris build out their national security team. 

Her pick for the job, Nancy McEldowney, served in the foreign service for over 30 years, including posts as U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, director of the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, and chargé d’affaires and deputy chief of mission in Turkey and Azerbaijan. 

McEldowney is one of several former career diplomats expected to join the senior ranks of the Biden administration, signaling a stark shift in staffing from the Trump White House, where the president viewed career diplomats with a mix of suspicion and disdain, particularly after the impeachment trial that put his handling of foreign policy and State Department officials in the crosshairs. Biden picked Linda Thomas-Greenfield, another former senior foreign service officer, as his choice for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In prior interviews with Foreign Policy, McEldowney openly criticized President Donald Trump for alienating close U.S. allies and allowing his son-in-law, White House advisor Jared Kushner, a real estate developer, broad and ill-defined influence over U.S. foreign policy. She has also joined a chorus of former diplomats who rebuked the Trump administration for mismanaging and weakening America’s diplomatic corps and its repeated attempts to push through steep budget cuts to the State Department and foreign aid programs. 

McEldowney, who taught at Georgetown University from 2017 to 2020, was more recently involved in a major study by Harvard University calling for an overhaul of U.S. foreign service to confront “one of the most profound crises in its long and proud history.” The report urged the Biden administration to cut back on the practice of granting political supporters senior State Department and ambassador posts and highlighted other sorely needed structural reforms to the department.

In a statement, Harris said McEldowny’s “distinguished Foreign Service career and leadership abroad will be invaluable as we keep the American people safe and advance our country’s interests around the world.”

McEldowney is one of several key appointees Harris announced on Thursday. Harris also tapped Hartina Flournoy, a longtime Democratic Party operative, as her chief of staff, and Rohini Kosoglu, her former chief of staff in the Senate, as her domestic policy advisor.

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

More from Foreign Policy

Oleg Salyukov salutes to soldiers during Russia’s Victory Day parade.
Oleg Salyukov salutes to soldiers during Russia’s Victory Day parade.

Stop Falling for Russia’s Delusions of Perpetual Victory

The best sources on the war are the Ukrainians on the ground.

A fire rages at the Central Research Institute of the Aerospace Defense Forces in Tver, Russia
A fire rages at the Central Research Institute of the Aerospace Defense Forces in Tver, Russia

Could Sabotage Stop Putin From Using the Nuclear Option?

If the West is behind mysterious fires in Russia, the ongoing—but deniable—threat could deter Putin from escalating.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is received by his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo, in Mombasa, Kenya.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is received by his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo, in Mombasa, Kenya.

While America Slept, China Became Indispensable

Washington has long ignored much of the world. Beijing hasn’t.

A bulldozer demolishes an illegal structure during a joint anti-encroachment drive conducted by North Delhi Municipal Corporation
A bulldozer demolishes an illegal structure during a joint anti-encroachment drive conducted by North Delhi Municipal Corporation

The World Ignored Russia’s Delusions. It Shouldn’t Make the Same Mistake With India.

Hindu nationalist ideologues in New Delhi are flirting with a dangerous revisionist history of South Asia.