Thomas E. Donilon

Tom Donilon
23rd National Security Advisor
In office
October 8, 2010  June 30, 2013
President Barack Obama
Deputy Denis McDonough
Tony Blinken
Preceded by Jim Jones
Succeeded by Susan Rice
Deputy National Security Advisor
In office
January 20, 2009  October 8, 2010
President Barack Obama
Preceded by James Jeffrey
Succeeded by Denis McDonough
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
In office
April 1, 1993  November 7, 1996
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Margaret Tutwiler
Succeeded by Jamie Rubin
Personal details
Born (1955-05-14) May 14, 1955
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Catherine Russell
Children 2
Education Catholic University of America
University of Virginia

Thomas E. "Tom" Donilon (born May 14, 1955)[1] is an American lawyer and former government official who served as National Security Advisor in the Obama administration.[2][3] Previously, he served together with diplomat Wendy Sherman as Agency Review Team Lead for the State Department in the Obama transition,[4] and as Deputy to National Security Advisor James Jones early in the Obama administration. Donilon replaced Jones as National Security Advisor on October 8, 2010.[5]

Donilon tendered his resignation as National Security Adviser on 5 June 2013 and has been succeeded by Susan Rice.[6]

He is a former member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.[7]

Donilon returned to O'Melveny & Myers in May 2014 as Vice Chair of the firm and a member of the firm’s Policy Committee.[8] He has served in an advisory role as Chair of the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity since April 13, 2016, with it's final report due by December 1, 2016 with an up to 45-day comment period before public release.[9]

Early life and education

Donilon was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Theresa A. (née Conway) and Edward T. Donilon. His father was of Irish descent, and his maternal grandparents had immigrated from Ireland.[10] He attended La Salle Academy,[11] earned a B.A. at The Catholic University of America in 1977, and a J.D. at the University of Virginia in 1985. He served on the Editorial Board of the Virginia Law Review.

Private sector

He worked as Executive Vice President for Law and Policy at Fannie Mae, the federally chartered mortgage finance company, as a registered lobbyist from 1999 through 2005.[3][12]

Before his appointment to the Obama Administration, Donilon was a partner in the Washington office of the law firm O'Melveny & Myers, where he advised companies and their boards on a range of "sensitive governance, policy, legal and regulatory matters".[13]

Government and political work

Thomas Donilon, U.S. National Security Advisor, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. in November 2012

Donilon worked as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs from 1993 to 1996, and served as the Clinton administration's Secretary of State's chief of staff. Donilon was "intimately involved in many major foreign policy issues, including negotiating the Bosnian peace agreement and the expansion of NATO".[3]

Donilon figures prominently during formulation of strategy for Afghanistan and associated discussions in Bob Woodward's 2010 book, Obama's Wars.[14]

Donilon was 'criticized' by National Security Advisor James L. Jones, for his lack of overseas experience, telling him that as a result: "You have no credibility with the military", according to Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars. Jones said that Donilon was not good in his dealings with his staff at the National Security Council, displaying "too little feel for the people who work day and night ...". Donilon did visit Afghanistan in March 2010 during President Obama's six-hour late-night visit to the country.[15]

Donilon was the National Security Advisor during the mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, and is one of the persons featured in the photograph Situation Room.

Pete Souza's photograph Situation Room. Donilon is seen standing, second from the left.

In 2013, in a speech to the Asia Society, Donilon said "Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber-intrusions on an unprecedented scale." Donilon said China must recognize the risk such activities pose to the reputation of Chinese industry, to bilateral relations and to international trade. Beijing, he said, must also "take serious steps to investigate" allegations of hacking.[16]

Post Obama administration

The Council on Foreign Relations announced in July 2013 that Donilon will join the organisation as a distinguished fellow.

In July 2014, he wrote an article arguing against the concept of American decline.[17]

Personal life

Donilon is the brother of Mike Donilon, a lawyer and political consultant who is Counselor to Vice-President Joe Biden. His other brother, Terrence Donilon, is communications director for Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean O'Malley.[18] Donilon's sister, Donna, is a nurse. He is married to Catherine M. Russell, who was Chief of Staff to Jill Biden, and in March 2013 was named the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues at the U.S. State Department. They have two children.[19][20]


  2. Donilon to Replace Jones as National Security Adviser Sanger, David E. The New York Times.
  3. 1 2 3 Washington Post
  4. "Obama-Biden Transition: Agency Review Teams | The Obama-Biden Transition Team". Retrieved 2010-04-13.
  5. Defense Secretary Said to Be Staying On Baker, Peter. The New York Times.
  6. Scott Wilson (June 5, 2013). "National security team shuffle may signal more activist stance at White House". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  7. "Former Steering Committee Members". Bilderberg Group. Retrieved 2014-02-08.
  8. "Tom Donilon Returns to O'Melveny From the White House | Legal Times". 2014-05-15. Retrieved 2015-04-17.
  9. Cyber panel closes in on final recommendations
  10. "Tom Donilon ancestry". Retrieved 2015-04-17.
  11. "La Salle Graduate Named National Security Advisor". LaSalle Academy. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  12. "Duo Heading State Transition Seasoned Vets". USA Today. 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
  13. "O'Melveny & Myers LLP | Professionals". O'Melveny & Myers. Retrieved 2010-04-13.
  14. Bob Woodward book details Obama battles with advisers over exit plan for Afghan war Washington Post. September 22, 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2010.
  15. "Tom Donilon Would Be A 'Disaster' As National Security Adviser, Robert Gates Reportedly Said", The Huffington Post, October 8, 2010.
  16. Nakashima, Ellen (March 12, 2013). "U.S. publicly calls on China to stop commercial cyber-espionage, theft of trade secrets". The Washington Post.
  17. Donilon, Tom (2014-07-03). "We're No. 1 (and We're Going to Stay That Way)". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2015-04-17.
  18. Horowitz, Jason (March 10, 2013). "The brothers Donilon: One's boss is President Obama, the other's could be pope". Washington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  19. Obama, Biden relying on the Donilons of Providence] Perry, Jack. Providence Journal ProJo Politics Blog. November 26, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  20. Biden Beefs Up Staff Rucker, Philip. November 26, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2008.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Margaret Tutwiler
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
Succeeded by
Jamie Rubin
Preceded by
James Jeffrey
Deputy National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Denis McDonough
Preceded by
Jim Jones
National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Susan Rice
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