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Kelly E. Magsamen

Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense


Ms. Kelly Magsamen serves as the Chief of Staff to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, III. She is responsible for leading the Secretary of Defense’s executive staff and providing counsel and advice to the Secretary on all matters concerning the Department.

Most recently, Ms. Magsamen served as the Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress, a role she assumed following her tenure as the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. As a principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on Asia-Pacific issues, Ms. Magsamen was responsible for strengthening and modernizing U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region. She was also integral to the development of U.S. strategy and policy in Afghanistan and South Asia.

Prior to her tenure at the Pentagon, Ms. Magsamen served on the National Security Council staff for two Presidents and four National Security Advisors. As Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Planning from 2012 to 2014, she focused on long-term strategic planning and helped craft the 2015 U.S. National Security Strategy. From 2011 to 2012, she served as senior adviser for Middle East reform. As Director for Iran from 2008 to 2011, she was responsible for coordination of U.S. policy on Iran, including diplomatic, economic, defense, and intelligence efforts.

Ms. Magsamen started her government career at the Department of State, where she worked on Iraq policy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2005 to 2007 and served as Special Assistant and Chief of Staff to the Counselor from 2007 to 2008. Ms. Magsamen received her bachelor’s degree in international relations from American University and her master’s degree in strategic studies from Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.