John Kirby (admiral)

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John Kirby
John F. Kirby official photo.jpg
Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byJonathan Rath Hoffman
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
In office
December 11, 2015 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputySusan Stevenson
Preceded byDouglas Frantz
Succeeded byMichelle Giuda
Spokesperson for the United States Department of State
In office
May 13, 2015 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputyMark Toner
Preceded byJen Psaki
Succeeded byHeather Nauert
Personal details
John Francis Kirby

Saint Petersburg, Florida, U.S
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materUniversity of South Florida
Troy University
Naval War College
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1986–2015
RankUS Navy O8 infobox.svg Rear Admiral
CommandsChief of Naval Information

John Francis Kirby is a retired rear admiral in the United States Navy who currently serves as the Pentagon Press Secretary and Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. He previously served as a military and diplomatic analyst for CNN from 2017 to 2021.[1] Prior to that, he served as the spokesperson for the United States Department of State from 2015 to 2017. In 2021, Kirby joined the Pentagon as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and concurrently as Spokesperson for the Department of Defense.

Early life and education[edit]

Kirby grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is a 1981 graduate of Saint Petersburg Catholic High School, and a 1985 graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. He holds a Master of Science degree in international relations from Troy University and a Master of Arts in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College.


Kirby was commissioned in September 1986 after completing Officer Candidate School at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. He qualified as a Surface Warfare Officer aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Aubrey Fitch (FFG 34) before obtaining a lateral transfer to the Restricted Line as a Public Affairs Officer (PAO). As a public affairs officer, Kirby served at sea aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59) and on the staff of the Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, embarked aboard the command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20).[2]

While ashore, Kirby completed tours as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy; public affairs officer with the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron (Blue Angels); editor in chief of the Navy's flagship monthly magazine, All Hands; the staffs of the Chief of Naval Personnel, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Chief of Naval Operations, and the special assistant for public affairs to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations,[2] serving under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.

Rear Admiral John Kirby while serving as the Navy's chief of information, circa 2012.

In May 2012, Kirby was promoted to rear admiral (lower half)[3] and served as the U.S. Navy's Chief of Information (CHINFO). As CHINFO, Kirby served as the principal spokesman for the Department of the Navy and providing strategic communication counsel to the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations. He led the Navy's public affairs community, which consists of more than 2,700 active and reserve officer, enlisted, and civilian communication professionals.

In December 2013, Kirby was appointed Pentagon press secretary by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.[4][5] In May 2014, Kirby was promoted to rear admiral.[6] October 2014, Senator John McCain disputed Kirby's contention that the U.S. was winning its war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and called him an "idiot".[7] On April 22, 2015, it was announced that Kirby would be the new spokesman for the United States Department of State after he retired from the military later in the year.[8]

Kirby became spokesman for the State Department on May 12, 2015.[9][10] In October 2016, Kirby defended the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen against the Shia Houthis.[11] He left office following the inauguration of President Trump on January 20, 2017.[12]

On January 14, 2021, Kirby was tapped to reprise his role as Pentagon press secretary.[13]


Kirby has been awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four awards), and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, as well as various campaign and service awards.[2]


  1. ^ "April Ryan Joins CNN As Political Analyst". WHUR Radio. April 4, 2017. Archived from the original on 23 September 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Rear Admiral John Kirby > United States Navy > BioDisplay". Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  3. ^ "PN1576 - Capt. John F. Kirby for Navy, 112th Congress (2011-2012)". 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  4. ^ "Pentagon announces appointment of new press secretary to toe the line and control public perception of war and the military".
  5. ^ Philip Ewing. "The Pentagon's 2-star message man". Politico.
  6. ^ "PN1621 - Rear Adm. (lh) John F. Kirby nominee for Navy, 113th Congress (2013-2014)". 2014-05-22. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  7. ^ "McCain Calls Two-Star Admiral and Pentagon Spokesman an 'Idiot'". October 23, 2014.
  8. ^ Crawford, Jamie; Labott, Elize (2015-04-22). "Pentagon spokesman Kirby to shift to State Department". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 2015-04-22.
  9. ^ "John Kirby". U.S. Department of State. May 12, 2015. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  10. ^ "@StateDept's Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs: Doug Frantz Out, John Kirby In". Diplopundit. October 10, 2015. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  11. ^ "US spokesperson struggles with questions about the difference between bombings in Syria and Yemen". The Independent. 12 October 2016.
  12. ^ Reuters Staff (2021-01-07). "White House tells political appointees to prepare for Jan. 20 resignation". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-01-29. Traditionally, Presidential Appointees in non-term positions have been asked to submit formal letters of resignation.
  13. ^ Jenkins, Cameron (2021-01-14). "John Kirby to reprise role as Pentagon press secretary under President Biden". TheHill. Retrieved 2021-01-29.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Government.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jen Psaki
Spokesperson for the United States Department of State
Succeeded by
Heather Nauert
Preceded by
Douglas Frantz
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
Succeeded by
Michelle Giuda