Richard J. Kessler

Monday, November 8, 2021

Topic: The Effect of Congressional Polarization on Foreign Affairs

Dr. Richard Kessler served in a variety of senior professional positions in Congress for 25 years, retiring in 2014 as staff director of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  He also served as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  He is one of the few people to have served in both the House and the Senate as a committee staff director.

As staff director of two major congressional committees, he managed a multi-million dollar administrative budget and directed legislative and oversight programs. In the Senate, this included oversight of the Homeland Security Department and all government agencies, including the Office of Personnel Management, and critical issues such as cybersecurity and counterterrorism.  The House Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for oversight and legislation relating to foreign policy, foreign assistance, public diplomacy, and export controls. Under his guidance, the Committee passed a State Department Authorization bill and designed a major overhaul of foreign aid and export control legislation. He has negotiated with senior elected and appointed officials in the U.S. and foreign governments, and with private sector and civil society representatives.

Richard was also a subcommittee staff director on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee responsible for the Federal workforce and a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on the House International Relations Committee where he was responsible for East Asia, the Pacific, South Asia, and UN peacekeeping policy issues.  Before joining the Senate staff, he was a Senior Associate at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and co-directed an energy study at the Center for International and Strategic Studies.  While conducting his doctoral research, Richard was a research Associate at the University of the Philippines, and wrote on West African politics while living in Senegal.  Richard has published extensively in academic journals, in newspapers and books, and appeared as an expert commentator on numerous television and radio programs. He has been a consultant to a number of government and private organizations, including USAID.

Richard earned a MA, MALD and a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School, Tufts University, with a concentration on international development studies. He has a BA in French from Colgate University.  He served with the U.S.  Army in Vietnam as an Area Intelligence Specialist and received a Bronze Star and was an Instructor at the US Army Intelligence School in Fort Huachuca, AZ.  He has lived in Europe, Vietnam, Senegal, and the Philippines.

He serves on the Board of Internews and on the Maine Advisory Committee for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.  Richard lives in Bath, Maine with his wife where he is President of the local library and serves as Chair of the Sagadahoc Democratic Party.

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