Thomas E. Donilon

Distinguished Fellow


U.S. national security, foreign policy, intelligence, and military affairs


Thomas E. Donilon is vice chair of the international law firm of O'Melveny & Myers, where he serves on the firm's global governing committee. Mr. Donilon is also senior director at the BlackRock Investment Institute. From 2010 to 2013, he served as national security adviser to President Barack Obama. In that capacity Mr. Donilon oversaw the 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.

Mr. Donilon previously served as assistant to the president and principal deputy national security adviser. In that role, he was responsible for managing the U.S. government's national security policy development and crisis management process. Mr. Donilon chaired the Obama-Biden transition at the U.S. Department of State. During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Donilon headed President Obama's general election debate preparation effort.

Mr. Donilon is a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-resident senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board and the Central Intelligence Agency’s External Advisory Board. He is also a member of Delta Air Lines’ board of directors.

Mr. Donilon has worked closely with and advised three U.S. presidents since his first position at the White House in 1977, working with President Carter. He served as assistant secretary of state and chief of staff at the U.S. Department of State during the Clinton administration. In this capacity, Mr. Donilon was responsible for the development and implementation of the department's major policy initiatives, including NATO expansion, the Dayton Peace Accords, and the Middle East peace process. Mr. Donilon has received the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award, the National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award, and the CIA's Director's Award.

Mr. Donilon has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Strategy Group, the National Security Advisory Group to the Congressional Leadership, the Brookings Institution Board of Trustees, the Miller Center of Public Affairs Governing Council, and the Trilateral Commission. He received his undergraduate degree from Catholic University and his law degree from the University of Virginia. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Cathy Russell, and their children, Sarah (17) and Teddy (15).

All Publications


A New Direction for Global Health

Authors: Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., Thomas E. Donilon, and Thomas J. Bollyky
Project Syndicate
Dramatic changes in urbanization, global trade, and consumer markets – which occurred over decades in wealthy countries – are happening at a faster rate, and at a much larger scale, in still-poor countries. These trends have brought substantial health benefits, but have given rise to significant challenges as well.

See more in Global; Health


Obama Is on the Right Course with His Reorientation Toward Asia

Author: Thomas E. Donilon
Washington Post

Questions have arisen in recent months about the sustainability of the United States' rebalance toward Asia. The costly cancellation of President Obama's trip to the region during the U.S. government shutdown last fall fueled that skepticism, which has only grown as urgent foreign policy challenges have required U.S. leadership in the Middle East and Europe.

See more in Asia and Pacific; Diplomacy and Statecraft

Primary Sources

The Landon Lecture

On April 15, 2014, Thomas E. Donilon delivered the 165th Alf Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. He discusses why "America is not in decline but will continue to be the world's leading and most powerful nation for a long time to come."

See more in United States; Politics and Strategy

CFR Events

Meeting ⁄ Washington

Launch of the CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force Report on the Emerging Global Health Crisis of Noncommunicable Diseases

Speakers Mitchell E. Daniels Jr.

President, Purdue University; Former Governor, State of Indiana; Task Force Co-Chair

, Thomas E. Donilon

Vice Chair, O’Melveny & Myers LLP; Former National Security Advisor; Distinguished Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations;Task Force Co-Chair

, Thomas J. Bollyky

Senior Fellow for Global Health, Economics, and Development; Council on Foreign Relations; Task Force Project Director

December 5, 2014 11:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. - Lunch Reception
12:00–1:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch



National Security and the 2016 Election

Thomas E. Donilon discusses the 2016 election and foreign policy priorities as part of a national security panel at the University of Pennsylvania, hosted by the Center for American Progress on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention.



AIPAC Policy Conference 2015

Thomas E. Donilon discusses U.S.-Israel relations with Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror at the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference.


Video Interview

Rift Between U.S. and Israel

Thomas E. Donilon discusses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming address to both houses of Congress with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC.