Report

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.
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

The Taliban delegation leaves the hotel after meeting with representatives of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar in Moscow on March 19.

China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

Beijing has its eyes set on using Afghanistan as a strategic corridor once U.S. troops are out of the way.

An Afghan security member pours gasoline over a pile of seized drugs and alcoholic drinks

The Taliban Are Breaking Bad

Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the U.N. Security Council from her office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Belarus’s Unlikely New Leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya didn’t set out to challenge a brutal dictatorship.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid

What the Taliban Takeover Means for India

Kabul’s swift collapse leaves New Delhi with significant security concerns.