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Theresa Whelan

Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security


Ms. Theresa Whelan is the Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security (HD&GS) as of July 10, 2017. She is a career member of the Senior Executive Service, and prior to coming to HD&GS, from January 20, 2017, until June 5, 2017, Ms. Whelan Performed the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. In this capacity she advised the Secretary of Defense on all matters pertaining to the development and execution of U.S. national defense policy and strategy. Ms. Whelan brings over thirty years of experience in the defense intelligence, defense policy and national intelligence communities.

From March 2016 through January 2017, Ms. Whelan served as the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. 

From July 2015 through March 2016, Ms. Whelan served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict. 

Before returning to the Department of Defense, Ms. Whelan served as the national intelligence officer for Africa on the Director for National Intelligence's National Intelligence Council. Between 2003-2011, she held three separate deputy assistant secretary of defense (DASD) positions within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy: DASD, Homeland Defense Domains and Defense Support to Civil Authorities; DASD, Defense Continuity and Crisis Management; and DASD, African Affairs.

In addition to the deputy assistant secretary positions, her other assignments in the Department include Under Secretary of Defense for Policy's Balkans Task Force, Senior Program Director for the US/South Africa Joint Defense Committee, Countries Director for Southern Africa and West Africa, and African military capabilities analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency covering West, Central and East African countries.

Ms. Whelan has a Master of Arts in national security studies from Georgetown University, a Master of Science in national security strategy from the National War College, and a Bachelor of Arts in international relations with a minor in Russian studies from the College of William and Mary.

Her awards include three Presidential Rank Executive Awards, two at the Distinguished level and one at the Meritorious level; two Department of Defense Medals for Distinguished Civilian Service; the National Intelligence Superior Service Medal; the American University Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership; the Paul H. Nitze Award for Excellence in International Security Affairs, and the French National Order of Merit.