|K. T. McFarland|
|United States Ambassador to Singapore
|Deputy National Security Advisor|
January 20, 2017 – c. May 19, 2017
Serving with Dina Powell
|Preceded by||Avril Haines|
|Succeeded by||Ricky L. Waddell|
July 22, 1951
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Education||George Washington University (BA)
University of Oxford (MA)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
|*Pending Senate Confirmation|
Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland (born July 22, 1951) is the Deputy National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump. On May 19, 2017, it was officially announced that she was leaving this post and was being nominated to be the next United States Ambassador to Singapore.
McFarland served previously as a staff member on the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) in the 1970s and a staff member at the Defense Department in the 1980s. McFarland ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Party nomination in the United States Senate election in New York, 2006, then was a Fox News national security analyst and a contributor to its website opinion page in the 2010s.
McFarland was born Kathleen Troia on July 22, 1951, in Madison, Wisconsin. Her father was a train dispatcher for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. The oldest of four siblings, she grew up in Madison. She would later say that watching Disney heroines overcome great obstacles inspired her towards believing that women could achieve whatever they wanted.
McFarland (known then as Troia) matriculated at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Looking for a part-time job and possessed of strong typing skills, she was hired at the White House during the Nixon administration and assigned to the night-time typing pool for Henry Kissinger's U.S. National Security Council staff. This soon led to her typing the President's Daily Brief.
Intrigued by the dramatic developments in U.S. foreign policy, such as Nixon goes to China, Troia switched her major to Chinese studies. She subsequently garnered an undergraduate degree from George Washington.
She continued to work in the White House during the Ford administration as a research assistant and at times she assisted or filled in for the NSC press liaison function. As a result she has sometimes been thought of as a Kissinger protégée, but this is not a consistent view.
After the Ford administration left office, and with a desire as she later said to be "taken really seriously," Troia by dint of a scholarship studied at Oxford University. There, she earned a combined bachelor's degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, and was later conferred an honorary master's, as is convention in Oxford and Cambridge.
Troia went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she undertook concentrations on nuclear weapons, China, and the Soviet Union. She spent three years there in study toward PhD, ending up in the all but dissertation state. The title of her unfinished thesis was "The Sino-Soviet nuclear confrontation of 1969 from the point of view of the Herman Kahn stepladder period of escalation". A second thesis attempt may have been entitled "The President's Strategic Defense Initiative".
She returned to Washington in 1981 following the election of Ronald Reagan as President and the new Republican majority in the U.S. Senate and became a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee staff, working for chair John Tower. There she worked on the preparation of committee briefings and talking points.
In later years, McFarland commented on this time in the context of women forcing their way to greater opportunities. In particular, she recalled: "I'll never forget being at a Capitol Hill staff meeting in the early 1980s, after being at the top of my class at Oxford University and teaching nuclear weapons at MIT. One of the male staff members who was several years my junior, not as well qualified and not as productive, felt entitled enough to ask me to get him coffee. Later, when I asked my boss about it, he suggested I might want to throttle back on working so hard, because it was making the men on the staff feel threatened."
Then, in the Reagan administration, when she was known as Kathy Troia, she served as the speechwriter for United States Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger beginning in March 1982. Speechwriting was a significant activity in the Reagan administration because it forced a decision to be reached among battling factions, sometimes with the president intervening to settle a policy matter. Similar battles took place within the Pentagon, and she said that speeches were used to "short-circuit layers and layers of conflicting interests" in the defense bureaucracy. She likened the particular process she and Weinberger used to the traditional negative response model of the Book of the Month Club: "We'd send out the speech draft with a note saying that if we haven't heard from you by a certain day, we'll assume you agree. The responses were quick and usually on the major issues."
In December 1983 she was promoted to Principal Deputy to Michael I. Birch, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and thereinby a Pentagon spokesperson. She was reportedly under consideration for the Assistant Secretary job itself. She stayed in this position until around November 1984.
Troia married Alan Roberts McFarland on January 12, 1985, at the National Cathedral in Washington. He was a general partner in Lazard Frères who went on to become a well-known investment banker and a founder of McFarland, Dewey & Co.
Beginning in 1985, K. T. McFarland became a stay-at-home mother. The couple had three children together, along with two from his first marriage to whom she became stepmother. During the next two decades, McFarland says she "taught Sunday school, served as a class mother, directed school plays, headed a preschool library, and sang in the church choir." She and her husband joined a number of exclusive New York clubs and country clubs.
McFarland had two brothers, Tom and Michael. Michael died of an AIDS-related illness on June 8, 1995. Prior to his death, McFarland outed her brother as gay to her parents, blaming his homosexuality on family abuse and cutting off contact with her parents. In 2006, her surviving brother Tom Troia, in defense of their father, told the New York Post, "If I had one word to describe my sister, it would be 'evil'". McFarland has since reconciled with her parents.
In 1995, McFarland was tangentially involved in a complex custody case involving her husband's first wife and some other parties.
In 2006, McFarland ran in the Republican primary in the United States Senate election in New York for a seat then held by Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was a late entrant - not forming an exploratory committee until March 2006 - who was recruited once the leading Republican, Westchester district attorney Jeanine Pirro, saw her candidacy implode. (McFarland had a short while earlier considered a Congressional race to make challenge to Democratic incumbent Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan, but demurred on the grounds of unlikelihood of success.)
In the Republican nomination race for Senate, McFarland described herself both as a "moderate Republican" and a "Reagan Republican". She was pro-choice. She ran into trouble with a March 2006 comment that appeared to allege that the Clinton campaign had been flying helicopters low over her Southampton, New York house and spying on her, or that Clinton forces had rented an apartment across from her $18 million duplex on Park Avenue; she later said she had been joking, but the episodes upset her. In May, McFarland's campaign manager, longtime pro Ed Rollins, made a variety of coarse personal life charges against her opponent John Spencer, to which Spencer responded, "Shame on you." All in all, the contest between Spencer and McFarland started ugly and got uglier.
McFarland's candidacy was plagued by media and other allegations that she overstated her credentials. The New York Times reported that McFarland's claim that she had written part of Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" speech was false and had actually been written by Reagan's "top national security advisers," which did not include McFarland. Regarding her being the highest ranking woman of her time at the Reagan Pentagon, the newspaper reported that this was also false and that two women at the Pentagon at the time held higher ranks. Also at issue was her claim that she had been the first female professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which she had not. Finally, the Spencer campaign objected to her assertion that she had held a civilian rank equivalent to that of a three-star general.
Her inconsistent record of voting in prior New York State elections also became an issue, with her having missed 6 of the last 14 of them. To this she responded at the time that she had no excuses, and later conceded, “The realities of family life took precedence.” Furthermore she maintained voting addresses in two different places at the same time, Manhattan and Southampton, sometimes voting in one place and sometimes in the other, which was a possible felony under state law. In response, her lawyer conceded that what she did was in violation of election law but said: "[there was no criminal intent, no venality here ... This is a case of the boards of elections not doing their jobs ... She should have been turned away." She emphasized that she had never voted twice in any given election and said she would cancel the Southampton registration.
Troubled by these disclosures, as well as the ones mentioned in the "Marriage and family matters" section above, by late June her campaign was just about out of money. She then loaned her campaign $100,000 of her own money.
In the September 12th primary, McFarland was defeated by Spencer 61 percent to 39 percent, amidst historically low turnout. Spencer then went on to lose 31 percent to Clinton's 67 percent in the November general election. Despite what happened, Rollins later praised McFarland: "She had a good fundraising effort and was a tireless candidate."
During years following, beginning in 2010, McFarland appeared on air as a Fox News Channel opiner on matters of national security. On the channel she had a regular presence. She also sometimes appeared on the Fox Business Network. She wrote a weekly column for Fox Forum on FoxNews.com. There she additionally hosted an online talk show known as Defcon 3. She also appeared on a regular basis on radio for Fox News Radio, ABC Radio, WMAL, and WVOX.
In this role McFarland was highly critical of President Obama's approach to combating terrorism, saying he failed to acknowledge the threat that global Islamism poses to Western civilization. For instance she declared that “global Islamist jihad is at war with all of Western Civilization,” in her own words. After a terrorist incident she also criticized his method of relaxation, saying “To me, it’s a dereliction of duty. What was this president doing? Well, he was playing a lot of golf this summer, but he clearly was not attending to the defense of the United States.”
Regarding the United States diplomatic cables leak, on 30 November 2010, McFarland in her role as a national security analyst and host for Fox News called Julian Assange a terrorist, Wikileaks "a terrorist organization", and called for Bradley Manning's (not using "Chelsea") execution if he was found guilty of making the leaks.
As a commentator, McFarland often expressed doubts about globalism and the value of U.S. Interventions abroad. Regarding the 2011 military intervention in Libya, she characterized it as "insane". And in 2016 she applauded the Brexit vote in approval of the diminution of trans-European union.
In 2013 McFarland wrote that Vladimir Putin deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his actions during the Syrian Civil War. In 2014, following the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, she tweeted, "Putin seizes countries, Obama threatens maybe to kick Russia out of the G-8 club. Bet Putin's sorry now! Winners write history, not whiners." In general she has portrayed Putin as someone the U. S. can find "common ground" with.
She remained clear about one aspect of her life, saying in 2014: "I'm thankful to be a woman living in a time of consequence, as part of that first generation of women – probably in world history – who could be anything they wanted to be."
McFarland was a board member of The Jamestown Foundation from June 2008 until her appointment as Deputy National Security Advisor. She also served as a distinguished advisor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. She is also a Senior Fellow of the American Conservative Union.
On November 25, 2016, it was reported McFarland was selected as President-elect Donald Trump's Deputy National Security Advisor, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. McFarland had no existing relationship with the new chief executive, but knew his two older sons from their appearances on Fox News, while he liked her appearances on that channel. Upon taking office, this represented McFarland's first holding of any government position in over 30 years.
It was a surprising selection in that she had been out of government for three decades and had little experience with the kind of intense extra-hours position it is, or the personnel and crisis management tasks that invariably come with it. However, her former boss Kissinger praised the selection. Retired general Michael T. Flynn, who initially served as President Trump's national security adviser, tweeted a welcome to McFarland. Former Senator Joe Lieberman declared that McFarland was “one of our country’s most experienced, informed and wise foreign policy and national security experts.” McFarland herself said: “The American people chose Donald J. Trump to lead them for a reason. He has the courage, brilliance and energy to Make America Great Again, and nobody has called foreign policy right more than President-elect Trump, and he gets no credit for it. I’m honored and humbled that he has asked me to be part of his team.”
From the beginning, McFarland's style annoyed some of the more non-political staffers on the NSC. These in included incidents where she repeated the "Make America Great Again" mantra to career employees and where she mentioned that she was wearing shoes from the Ivanka Trump apparel line. All of this gave the other NSC staffers the impression she was too political.
On February 14, 2017, Flynn announced his resignation after he became embroiled in controversy regarding discussions he had with Russian officials before his appointment. A report quoted McFarland as intending to stay on, at the request of President Trump. Further reports indicated that a requirement for any replacement in the position was that McFarland be kept on as that person's number two, and that this requirement was a disincentive in terms of how some potential picks viewed the offer. H. R. McMaster was eventually named as Flynn's replacement.
In mid-March 2017, however, Dina Habib Powell was named as another Deputy National Security Advisor, with an emphasis on Strategy. According to a report in Politico, "A source with knowledge of the situation said that the move was designed to effectively push out McFarland by putting another person in her role. While morale is higher in the NSC with McMaster, McFarland has been seen as a weak deputy internally, according to an NSC source."
On April 9, 2017 it was reported that McFarland had been asked to step down from her position as Deputy National Security Advisor, after serving for less than 3 months, and had been offered a position as the United States Ambassador to Singapore. The move came about as the result of the desires of both McMaster and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. According to an unnamed administration official, McFarland had proved to not be a good fit for the role she was in. However McFarland said she viewed the move in a positive light, as a "promotion". She would remain as Deputy National Security Advisor for some amount of time, although probably not all the way until her planned ambassadorial confirmation. McFarland was hardly alone, as an unusually large number of higher-level appointees failed to maintain position during the initial months of the administration's existence.
The shuffle was supposed to take place in a fortnight, but that intention did not work out, and after a month went by the shift had still not happened, reportedly waiting for McMaster to select a replacement for McFarland. McFarland continued to perform some duties during this time, such as meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia. By at least one early-mid May report, the timing of her departure was less certain than ever. And according to another report, McFarland was still in favor with the chief executive, who did not understand why it was needed for her to depart. Her activities during this period included slipping the chief executive an identified Internet hoax, about the mainstream media's supposed hypocrisy concerning climate change in respect to the 1970s global cooling conjecture, and purporting it as reality. But then it was reported that Ricky L. Waddell would be her successor; like many of the admin's other national security appointments, he is a general of the military. Finally on May 19, 2017, the nomination of McFarland to be Ambassador to Singapore was officially announced.
In 1985, McFarland received the Defense Department's highest civilian honor, the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award.
In November 2016, the American Conservative Union selected McFarland as its Conservative in the Spotlight, with ACU chair Matt Schlapp saying, "KT is not only a brilliant strategist with a wealth of global affairs knowledge, but she is also an expert communicator who knows how to effectively deliver clear and concise messages to grassroots activists."
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