|K. T. McFarland|
|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
Kathleen Troia "K. T." McFarland (born Kathleen M. Troia on July 22, 1951) is an American government official and commentator who since May 2017 has been the nominee to become the United States Ambassador to Singapore. McFarland served as Deputy National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump during the first months of 2017.
McFarland formerly served as a staff member on the U.S. National Security Council in the 1970s and as a speechwriter and a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs at the U.S. 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.
Kathleen Troia was born on July 22, 1951, in Madison, Wisconsin. Her father was a train dispatcher for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. The oldest of four siblings of August and Edith Fuller Triola, she grew up in Madison.
She later said that her father had persistent rage issues and that she was beaten at least twice a month between the ages of 2 and 12. "I had one of the most difficult childhoods imaginable. I was beaten up, I was whipped with a belt, I was kicked, I was shoved, and my father took a gun to us on a couple of occasions at a very young age. ... I endured things as a child that no children should have to endure." After that, she said she avoided further beatings by staying away from home as much as possible. (Told of her comments in 2006, her father emphatically denied any such behavior: "You know darn well I never did any of that. She left here when she was 18 years old, and that’s it." She responded by saying, "I will not engage in a he-said-she-said discussion with my father. I stand by what I have said, but I respectfully request privacy for a family that I love and forgave many years ago.") She would later say that watching Disney heroines overcome great obstacles inspired her towards believing that women could achieve whatever they wanted.
Troia studied at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and worked part-time at the White House during the Nixon administration assigned to the night-time typing pool for Henry Kissinger's U.S. National Security Council staff. This happened by 1970. This led to her typing the President's Daily Brief.
She continued to work in the White House during the Ford administration as a research assistant and at times assisted or filled in for the NSC press liaison. She is sometimes considered a Kissinger protégée. In December 1975 an Associated Press story quoted the 24-year Troia extolling the performance of Secretary of State Kissinger in keeping the world's image of the United States strong as the impeachment process against Richard Nixon reached its culmination in the departure of Nixon.
After working in the Ford administration, with a desire to be "taken really seriously," Troia studied on scholarship 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 in nuclear weapons, China, and the Soviet Union. She spent three years there in study toward a Ph.D., 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, she 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 sometimes known informally as Kathy Troia, she served as the speechwriter for United States Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger beginning in March 1982. In particular she worked on the Secretary's "Six Tests for the Use of U.S. Military Power" speech, which is sometimes considered a forerunner of the Powell Doctrine.
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. She later became the Pentagon spokesperson. Newspaper stories of the time described her as a "senior Pentagon spokeswoman". 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 (born 1942) 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. Her youngest daughter attended the United States Naval Academy.
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 2006, McFarland ran in the Republican primary in the United States Senate election in New York for a seat held by Democrat Hillary 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 considered a congressional race to challenge Democratic incumbent Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan, but demurred on the grounds of unlikelihood of success. Nonetheless she wanted to make a point by running as a Republican in New York, saying: "I spent 20 years of my life fighting against single party rule. It was called the Soviet Union and Communism then. But we are now allowing our system in the United States to have single party rule in many states. I am worried that we are dividing into 'Blue States' where the Republicans don't run and 'Red States' where Democrats don't run. That's counter to the whole concept of the United States as a place for competitive debates and competitive elections."
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 professional 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 been. 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 votes. To this charge she responded at the time that she had no excuses, and later conceded, "The realities of family life took precedence." 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.
In the September 12 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."
Beginning in 2010, McFarland appeared on air as a Fox News Channel pundit 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, named after the U.S. defense readiness levels nomenclature. 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 said that "global Islamist jihad is at war with all of Western Civilization." 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, McFarland called Julian Assange a terrorist, Wikileaks "a terrorist organization", and called for Bradley Manning's execution if he was found guilty of making the leaks. Regarding the use of waterboarding in implemented interrogations, she said "It's not torture, but even if it is torture, it's worth doing."
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". In 2016, she applauded the Brexit vote in approval of withdrawal from the European Union. In other cases she advocated for either strong action or none at all: "Either bomb Iran, or let Iran get the bomb." She dismissed putative Saudi support for the Iranian nuclear agreement, saying "they are Arabs, they are not going to say something to your face that will upset you... it's not what they say, it's what they do."
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." She said the U.S. might be able to find "common ground" with Putin.
In 2014, she said "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 a senior fellow at the American Conservative Union.
On November 25, 2016, it was reported that 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 Trump before his campaign, but knew his two older sons from their appearances on Fox News, while he liked her appearances on that channel. It would represent McFarland's first holding of any government position in over 30 years. Following her naming McFarland pulled down her website and expunged her public accounts on social media.
The selection reportedly surprised some people given McFarland's length of time away from government and the fact that she had little experience with intense extra-hours positions and personnel and crisis management tasks. However, her former boss Henry Kissinger praised the selection. Retired general Michael T. Flynn, who had been selected as President Trump's national security adviser, had ties to McFarland and tweeted a welcome to her.
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 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."
Once in office, McFarland's style annoyed some of the more non-political staffers on the NSC. She repeated the "Make America Great Again" mantra to career employees and mentioned that she was wearing shoes from the Ivanka Trump apparel line, giving 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. In particular Vice Admiral Robert Harward turned the job down on this basis, a sacrifice of relative talent that several commentators said was illogical. General H. R. McMaster was eventually named as Flynn's replacement.
In mid-March 2017, 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." The increasing problems surrounding Flynn also made McFarland vulnerable due to the ties between the two.
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 three 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 her role. McFarland said she viewed the move in a positive light, as a "promotion". A White House official encouraged such an interpretation, saying it was a "promotion" to a "critical diplomatic outpost." 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 pending McMaster's selection of 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. According to another report, McFarland was still in favor with the chief executive, who did not understand why her departure was necessary. 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.
The 2017 Special Counsel investigation reportedly named McFarland on the first day of December 2017 as one of the people involved with Flynn and presidential in-law Jared Kushner in developments leading up to Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for events that occurred during the transition. In particular it was reportedly Kushner and McFarland who instructed Flynn regarding what he would say to Russian contacts regarding U S. sanctions against that country. Revealed a day later was a transition-time email in which McFarland was quoted stating that the difficulties presented by new Obama administration-imposed sanctions on Russia: "If there is a tit-for-tat escalation Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown U.S.A. election to him." (She was speaking sarcastically of others' views in saying that, according to an administration official.) McFarland discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Flynn and how he should respond to the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak's questions on the topic. After talking to Kislyak, Flynn informed McFarland of the contents of the conversation, who in turn passed on the information to one of her colleagues.
When questioned during her confirmation process (see next section), Senator Cory Booker asked McFarland if she "ever discuss[ed] any of General Flynn’s contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak directly with General Flynn?". McFarland wrote back that she was "not aware of any of the issues or events described above", which led Booker to state that he was concerned she was providing "false testimony". Subsequent court documents and statements obtained as part of Michael Flynn's guilty plea show that senior officials in the Trump administration were quite aware of Flynn's discussions with Kislyak regarding the sanctions.
Returning to McFarland's time at NSC, it was reported on 10th May 2017 that Ricky L. Waddell would be her successor as Deputy National Security Advisor; like many of the administrations's other national security appointments, he is a general of the military. Her successor settled, on May 19, 2017, the nomination of McFarland to be Ambassador to Singapore was officially announced. Singapore paper The Straits Times noted that it was not unusual for the U.S. ambassador to there to be a political appointee, as all had been so since 1986.
On June 15, 2017, McFarland was formally nominated by the White House. Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took place on July 20, 2017. During her confirmation hearing, she said the importance of Singapore could be encapsulated by the real estate maxim "location, location, location." McFarland also stated that she believed Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections.
On September 19, McFarland's confirmation was approved by the Committee and was sent on to the full Senate. The Republicans on the Committee supported the nomination, while panel Democrats were split. McFarland's nomination was not yet scheduled for a vote in the full Senate, a delay that by the end of November had reached seven months since the nomination and evoked frustration from a McFarland supporter from the American Conservative Union.
In response to the revelations about McFarland's coordination with Michael Flynn and his contacts with the Russian ambassador Michael Flynn (see previous section), committee ranking members Senator Mark Warner and Senator Diane Feinstein suggested McFarland testify before Congress. (Reportedly she had already spoken with the Special Counsel staff.) Senator Cory Booker of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned whether McFarland had been fully forthcoming in her testimony over the summer. The matter imperiled her ambassadorial nomination. Indeed, Senator Bob Corker, chair of Foreign Relations Committee, said her nomination was "frozen" as a result of this question, and by the close of December 5, committee Democrats had placed a formal Senate hold on her nomination.
At the end of 2017 the Senate sent McFarland's nomination back to the White House rather than the more traditionally accommodating state of being held over for continued consideration in the subsequent calendar year. Nonetheless, on 10th January 2018 the administration did in fact put forward the renomination of McFarland for the position in question.
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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|United States Ambassador to Singapore
Taking office TBD
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