Hon. Kurt M. Campbell

  • CNAS/The Asia Group

Kurt M. Campbell is Co-Founder and former CEO of the Center for a New American Security and currently serves as Chairman of its Board of Directors.  

Kurt M. Campbell is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Asia Group, LLC, a strategic advisory and investment group specializing in the dynamic and fast growing Asia Pacific region. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of the Center for a New American Security and writes a regular column and book reviews for the Financial Times of London. He is on the Board of Directors for Standard Chartered PLC in London. Dr. Campbell is a Member of the Advisory Board of the UC San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, a Member of the Advisory Board of the Association of Marshall Scholars, a member of the Statecraft Board of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft at the University of Texas at Austin, a senior advisor to the 100,000 Strong Foundation, and on the Board of Directors at the National Committee on United States-China Relations. He is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and the Trilateral Commission. In addition, he is writing a book about his experiences in the Obama Administration working on Asia, tentatively entitled The Pivot: America’s Rediscovery of the Asia-Pacific Century.

From 2009 to 2013, he served as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he is widely credited as being a key architect of the “pivot to Asia.” In this capacity, Dr. Campbell advanced a comprehensive U.S. strategy that took him to every corner of the Asia-Pacific region where he was a tireless advocate for American interests, particularly the promotion of trade and investment. His vision and leadership were essential in the Administration’s efforts to strengthen security alliances and partnerships from Northeast to Southeast Asia and throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Dr. Campbell was a key figure in managing the U.S.-China relationship, overseeing the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue, helping usher in a new era of robust U.S. engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, through the Lower Mekong Initiative and the East Asia Summit, and advocating for deeper American economic engagement and commercial ties in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings. Dr. Campbell helped spearhead President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s initial diplomatic outreach to Burma that led to the historic normalization of bilateral ties between the United States and Myanmar.  In acknowledgement for his contributions in advancing U.S. national interests in Asia, Secretary Clinton awarded him the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award (2013) — the nation’s highest diplomatic honor. He was recognized in the Queen’s New Year’s list of honors as an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia and as an Honorary Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2014 for his work in support of American relations with Australia and New Zealand respectively. He was also awarded the Gwanghwa Medal by the Republic of Korea in 2014 for his contributions to the U.S.-South Korea bilateral alliance.

Previously, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of the Center for a New American Security and concurrently served as the director of the Aspen Strategy Group and Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Washington Quarterly. He was the founder and Chairman of StratAsia from 2004 to 2009, a strategic advisory firm focused on Asia with nearly two dozen clients in the fields of financial services, defense, aerospace, food, manufacturing, and retail. He was the Senior Vice President, director of the International Security Program, and Henry A. Kissinger Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was also Associate Professor of public policy and international relations at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and assistant director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. He was the Vice Chairman of the Pentagon Memorial Fund that successfully built the national memorial at the base of the Pentagon in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Dr. Campbell previously served in several capacities in government, including as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and the Pacific, director on the National Security Council Staff, deputy special counselor to the president for NAFTA in the White House, and White House fellow at the Department of the Treasury. He was concurrently an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves, serving on surface ships, on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in the Chief of Naval Operations Special Strategic Advisory Unit. For his service, he received Georgetown University’s Asia Service Award, the State Department Honor Award, and the Department of Defense Medals for Distinguished Public Service and for Outstanding Public Service.

He is the co-author with Jim Steinberg of Difficult Transitions: Why Presidents Fail in Foreign Policy at the Outset of Power, with Michele Flournoy of To Prevail: An American Strategy for the Campaign against Terrorism, with Michael O’Hanlon of Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security, and he co-authored with Nirav Patel The Power of Balance: America in iAsia. He is the editor of Climatic Cataclysm: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change, and The Nuclear Tipping Point: Why States Reconsider Their Nuclear Choices with Robert Einhorn and Mitchell Reiss. Dr. Campbell was a contributing writer to The New York Times from 2000 to 2004 and is the author of over a hundred academic articles and newspaper pieces.

He received his B.A. from the University of California, San Diego, a Certificate in music and political philosophy from the University of Erevan in Soviet Armenia, and his Doctorate in International Relations from Brasenose College at Oxford University where he was a Distinguished Marshall Scholar.  He is married to Dr. Lael Brainard, Under Secretary for International Affairs, Department of Treasury, and together they live in Washington, D.C. with their three daughters. They also maintain Iron Bell Farm, a vintage Civil War retreat in Rappahannock County, VA.

  • August 5, 2013
  • Kurt Campbell, James B. Steinberg
  • Books

Difficult Transitions: Foreign Policy Troubles at the Outset of Presidential Power

Difficult Transitions

An important new book titled Difficult Transitions by Kurt M. Campbell and James B. Steinberg.  Difficult Transitions: Foreign Policy Troubles at the Outset of Presidential Power is a bipartisan guide for incoming presidents and their foreign policy teams who seek to survive the landmines and booby traps that await them.

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  • October 15, 2008
  • Kurt Campbell
  • Congressional Testimony

U.S. China Relations in the Era of Globalization

"I think, if you ask many people outside of the United States — and, indeed, historians, maybe, 10 or 15 years from now — what is the key feature of global politics, it might be a surprise. For most Americans, certainly those of us who work in Washington, we'd say, 'Well, look, it's the war on terror and Iraq. Clearly, that's the issue that weʹve got our eye on.' I think a powerful argument could be made, if you go elsewhere, that they would say that the key feature in global politics over the last decade has been the arrival of China on the international scene as a great player and a great power. And I think that the essential components of that are obviously China's economic capabilities, its growing commercial might, its political muscle, its soft power, as weʹve discussed."

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  • September 25, 2008
  • Kurt Campbell, Michele Flournoy
  • Reports

The Inheritance and the Way Forward

This essay explores the complex nature of the next president’s national security inheritance and offers recommendations for how the next president should begin to chart a new course to restore America’s credibility, influence and power in the world. In the face of skeptical publics at home and abroad, a deeply divided nation and Congress, disillusioned and wary allies, and tenacious adversaries, charting this new way forward for America will likely be the most difficult, vexing, and time-consuming challenge the next president will face. It will also be the most important. How he or she manages the inheritance will in large part determine whether U.S. security and influence will wax or wane still further in the years to come.

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  • September 25, 2008
  • Kurt Campbell, Nirav Patel, Vikram J. Singh
  • Reports

The Power of Balance: America in iAsia

As the tides of influence and power shift from Atlantic to Pacific shores – propelled by the remarkable ascents of China and India and the economic growth of an entire region that now accounts for over 30 percent of global GDP – America must reassert its strategic presence in Asia. 
Unfortunately, many strategists shape policies toward the region through either a Cold War or anti-terrorism lens; both are limited in dealing with Asian dynamism. The region must be described in creative and forward-looking terms –Kurt Campbell and his team from the Center for a New American Security deem it iAsia – and U.S. strategy must be made anew to match.

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  • September 25, 2008
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bruce Jentleson, Ivo Daalder, Antony J. Blinken, Lael Brainard, Kurt Campbell, Michael A. McFaul, James C. O’Brien, Gayle E. Smith, James B. Steinberg
  • Reports

Strategic Leadership: Framework for a 21st Century National Security Strategy

The next president of the United States must forge a new national security strategy in a world marked by enormous tumult and change and at a time when America’s international standing and strategic position are at an historic nadir. Many of our allies question our motives and methods; our enemies doubt American rhetoric and resolve. Now, more than at any time since the late 1940s, it is vital to chart a new direction for America’s global role.

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  • July 22, 2014
  • Kurt Campbell
  • Op-eds

Trouble at sea reveals the new shape of China’s foreign policy

Chairman Kurt Campbell examines in Financial Times the recent actions by China in the East and South China Seas as an indication of their evolving foreign policy from domestic concerns to international ascendancy. 

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  • October 15, 2008
  • Kurt Campbell
  • Congressional Testimony

U.S. China Relations in the Era of Globalization

"I think, if you ask many people outside of the United States — and, indeed, historians, maybe, 10 or 15 years from now — what is the key feature of global politics, it might be a surprise. For most Americans, certainly those of us who work in Washington, we'd say, 'Well, look, it's the war on terror and Iraq. Clearly, that's the issue that weʹve got our eye on.' I think a powerful argument could be made, if you go elsewhere, that they would say that the key feature in global politics over the last decade has been the arrival of China on the international scene as a great player and a great power. And I think that the essential components of that are obviously China's economic capabilities, its growing commercial might, its political muscle, its soft power, as weʹve discussed."

Read More