Denis McDonough is a nonresident scholar in Carnegie’s Technology and International Affairs Program. Previously, he served as White House chief of staff for President Obama’s second term, managing the four thousand member White House staff, as well as cabinet secretaries and agency leaders. He provided strategic advice to the president on the most significant domestic policy, national security, and management issues facing the federal government and enforced plans and accountability for performance and goals, maintaining the Obama administration’s reputation for effective, ethical operation. He planned and coordinated efforts to recruit and retain key talent—including an unprecedented expansion of technology experts, engineers, and content generators within the White House and across the federal government.
Prior to his role as chief of staff, McDonough served as White House deputy national security adviser from September 2010 to February 2013. In this position, he chaired the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee, leading a multiagency team to address complex national security challenges, including crisis management as well as policy decisions related to the Iran nuclear negotiations, strategic arms reductions talks with Russia, the United States re-balance to Asia, the Afghanistan surge, and the Iraq drawdown. Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, McDonough served as senior foreign policy adviser for Obama for America.
Prior to his eight-year stint in the White House, McDonough served in senior leadership and policymaking positions in the U.S. House of Representatives, as professional staff member on the International Relations Committee, and in the U.S. Senate for the Senate majority leader and for Senator Ken Salazar (CO).
McDonough was appointed senior principal at the Markle Foundation in February 2017. In this role, he is working to address the skills gap, particularly in light of the looming artificial intelligence revolution. As part of this work, McDonough chairs the Rework America Task Force, which consists of a panel of influential Americans who will advance work on enabling all Americans to develop the skills they need to grow their careers and find a new place in the new economy. Through the Task Force, McDonough will work to shape and lead a larger, longer-term national conversation about how the technological revolution can serve all stakeholders in the new economy. McDonough also serves as an executive fellow at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, teaching a global policy seminar for its inaugural cohort of graduate students.
McDonough received his B.A., summa cum laude, from St. John’s University in Minnesota and his M.S. from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He lives in Maryland with his wife and three children.