About the Expert
Thomas E. Donilon is chairman of the BlackRock Investment Institute. He served as national security advisor to President Barack Obama. In that capacity Mr. 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. Mr. Donilon also oversaw the White House’s cybersecurity and international energy efforts. Mr. Donilon served as the President’s personal emissary to a number of world leaders.
Mr. Donilon previously served as assistant to the president and principal deputy national security advisor. 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 U.S. presidential campaign, Mr. Donilon headed President Obama’s general election debate preparation effort.
Mr. Donilon chaired the Presidential Commission to Enhance National Cybersecurity. Mr. Donilon serves as co-chair of the Foreign Policy Advisory Board at the U.S. State Department and as a member of the Defense Policy Board. Mr. Donilon is a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a non-resident senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is a member of the Center on Global Energy Policy Advisory Board at Columbia University, the Aspen Strategy Group, the Brookings Institution Board of Trustees, and the Trilateral Commission. He has participated in and led numerous policy groups including co-chairing with Governor Mitch Daniels the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on Noncommunicable Diseases.
Mr. Donilon has worked 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 received his undergraduate degree from Catholic University and his law degree from the University of Virginia. He lives in Washington, DC, with his spouse, Ambassador Cathy Russell. Ambassador Russell was U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues at the State Department from 2013-2017 and currently serves as UNICEF’s executive director.
U.S. national security advisors from the last three administrations reflect on their experiences and assess some of the principal challenges facing the United States today.
Ten years after the Abbottabad raid that found Osama bin Laden, speakers discuss the decade-long search to find the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The Lessons From History Series uses historical analysis as a critical tool for understanding modern foreign policy challenges by hearing from practitioners who played an important role in a consequential historical event or from experts and historians. This series is made possible through the generous support of David M. Rubenstein.
Diplomacy and International InstitutionsThomas Donilon discusses his distinguished career in business and government, including his role as national security advisor under President Barack Obama, working with three U.S. presidents, serving at the state department, and his current roles at BlackRock and the Council on Foreign Relations. Lessons Learned is a roundtable series, open to term members and younger life members, which features distinguished speakers who reflect on their career experiences, the choices they made along the way, and the lessons they have learned from them.
Panelists discuss potential and ongoing crises that may erupt or escalate in 2020, as well as their global political implications. This event explores the results of the 2020 Preventive Priorities Survey, which is available on cfr.org/report/conflicts-watch-2020.
Task Force Co-Chairs Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. and Thomas E. Donilon, and Task Force Project Director Thomas J. Bollyky, join Time Magazine Senior Correspondent Massimo F.T. Calabresi to discuss the CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force Report on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), which assesses the NCD crisis in developing countries and recommends practical, scalable strategies for intervention.