K. T. McFarland

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K. T. McFarland
KT McFarland by Gage Skidmore.jpg
United States Ambassador to Singapore
Taking office
President Donald Trump
Succeeding Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath (Acting)
Deputy National Security Advisor
In office
January 20, 2017 – c.May 19, 2017
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Avril Haines
Succeeded by Ricky L. Waddell
Personal details
Born Kathleen Troia
(1951-07-22) July 22, 1951 (age 66)
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Alan McFarland
Children 3
2 stepchildren
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 an American government official and commentator who is the nominee to become the next United States Ambassador to Singapore. McFarland served as Deputy National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump during the first months of 2017.[1]

McFarland formerly served as a staff member on the U.S. National Security Council 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.

Early life[edit]

McFarland was born Kathleen Troia on July 22, 1951, in Madison, Wisconsin. Her father was a train dispatcher for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.[2] The oldest of four siblings,[3] she grew up in Madison.[4] She would later say that watching Disney heroines overcome great obstacles inspired her towards believing that women could achieve whatever they wanted.[5]

Troia attended Madison West High School, graduating in 1969.[6]

Education and early government positions[edit]

McFarland (known then as Troia) matriculated at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.[7] 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.[3] This soon led to her typing the President's Daily Brief.[8][3]

Intrigued by the dramatic developments in U.S. foreign policy, such as the 1972 Nixon visit to China, Troia switched her major to Chinese studies.[3] She subsequently garnered an undergraduate degree from George Washington University.[3][7]

Troia as note taker during October 1974 NSC event

She continued to work in the White House during the Ford administration as a research assistant[9] and at times she assisted or filled in for the NSC press liaison function.[10][11] As a result she has sometimes been thought of as a Kissinger protégée, but this is not a consistent view.[12][3]

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.[3][8] 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.[2]

Troia went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she undertook concentrations in nuclear weapons, China, and the Soviet Union.[8] She spent three years there in study toward PhD, ending up in the all but dissertation state.[13][14] 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".[3] A second thesis attempt may have been entitled "The President's Strategic Defense Initiative".[15]

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.[16] There she worked on the preparation of committee briefings and talking points.[3]

In later years, McFarland commented on this time in the context of women forcing their way to greater opportunities.[5] 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."[5]

Reagan administration[edit]

Then, in the Reagan administration, when she was known as Kathy Troia,[17] she served as the speechwriter for United States Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger beginning in March 1982.[16] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[19] 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."[19]

In December 1983 she was promoted to Principal Deputy to Michael I. Birch, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.[16][17] She later became the Pentagon spokesperson.[8] She was reportedly under consideration for the Assistant Secretary job itself.[20] She stayed in this position until around November 1984.[16]

Marriage and family[edit]

Troia married Alan Roberts McFarland on January 12, 1985, at the National Cathedral in Washington.[15] He was a general partner in Lazard Frères[2] who went on to become a well-known investment banker[21] and a founder of McFarland, Dewey & Co.[22]

Beginning in 1985, K. T. McFarland became a stay-at-home mother.[12] The couple had three children together, along with two from his first marriage to whom she became stepmother.[9][23][4] 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."[3] She and her husband joined a number of exclusive New York clubs and country clubs.[3] Her youngest daughter attended the United States Naval Academy .[18]

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.[24]

McFarland assisting at a 2016 edit-a-thon at the Council on Foreign Relations regarding women in foreign policy

In 2000, McFarland started doing some work for the Foreign Policy Association, booking speakers for ladies' lunches.[3] She is also a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[13]

2006 Senate campaign[edit]

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.[23] She was a late entrant - not forming an exploratory committee until March 2006[25] - who was recruited once the leading Republican, Westchester district attorney Jeanine Pirro, saw her candidacy implode.[12][26]

As it happens, McFarland had a short while earlier considered a congressional race to challenge Democratic incumbent Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan, but demurred on the grounds of unlikelihood of success.[12] Nonetheless she wanted to make a point by running as a Republican in New York: "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."[18]

In the Republican nomination race for Senate, McFarland described herself both as a "moderate Republican" and a "Reagan Republican".[12] She was pro-choice.[26] 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.[26][27] 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."[26][3] All in all, the contest between Spencer and McFarland started ugly and got uglier.[28][29][30]

McFarland's candidacy was plagued by media and other allegations that she overstated her credentials.[17][3] 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.[16] 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.[16] 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.[16] Finally, the Spencer campaign objected to her assertion that she had held a civilian rank equivalent to that of a three-star general.[16]

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.[31] To this charge she responded at the time that she had no excuses,[32] and later conceded, "The realities of family life took precedence."[3] 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.[31] 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."[31] She emphasized that she had never voted twice in any given election and said she would cancel the Southampton registration.[32]

Troubled by these disclosures, as well as issues in her personal life, by late June her campaign was just about out of money.[14] She then loaned her campaign $100,000 of her own money.[14]

On August 22, McFarland announced that she would be suspending her campaign until further notice after her daughter was caught shoplifting in Southampton.[33][23]

In the September 12 primary, McFarland was defeated by Spencer 61 percent to 39 percent, amidst historically low turnout.[34] 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."[17]


McFarland talking to British General James Dutton in 2009 in Afghanistan

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.[17] She also sometimes appeared on the Fox Business Network.[35] She wrote a weekly column for Fox Forum on FoxNews.com.[36] There she additionally hosted an online talk show known as Defcon 3.[9] She also appeared on a regular basis on radio for Fox News Radio, ABC Radio, WMAL, and WVOX.[36]

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.[21] For instance, she said that "global Islamist jihad is at war with all of Western Civilization."[35] 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."[21]

McFarland interviews World War II veteran Lou DiPaolo on the deck of the USS Iwo Jima in New York in 2011

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.[37]

As a commentator, McFarland often expressed doubts about globalism and the value of U.S. interventions abroad.[9] Regarding the 2011 military intervention in Libya, she characterized it as "insane".[9] In 2016, she applauded the Brexit vote in approval of withdrawal from the European Union.[9]

In 2013, McFarland wrote that Vladimir Putin deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his actions during the Syrian Civil War.[38] 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."[39] She said the U.S. might be able to find "common ground" with Putin.[9]

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."[5]

McFarland was a board member of The Jamestown Foundation from June 2008 until her appointment as Deputy National Security Advisor.[13] She also served as a distinguished advisor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.[13] She is a senior fellow at the American Conservative Union.[22]

Trump administration[edit]

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.[40][41] 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.[9] Upon taking office, this represented McFarland's first holding of any government position in over 30 years.[17]

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.[9] However, her former boss Henry Kissinger praised the selection.[9] Retired general Michael T. Flynn, who initially served as President Trump's national security adviser, did have ties to McFarland.[42] Flynn thusly tweeted a welcome to McFarland.[11] Former Senator Joe Lieberman declared that McFarland was "one of our country’s most experienced, informed and wise foreign policy and national security experts."[21] 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."[11]

From the beginning, McFarland's style annoyed some of the more non-political staffers on the NSC.[43] She repeated the "Make America Great Again" mantra to career employees and mentioned that she was wearing shoes from the Ivanka Trump apparel line,[43] giving the other other NSC staffers the impression she was too political.[44]

On February 14, 2017, Flynn announced his resignation after he became embroiled in controversy regarding discussions he had with Russian officials before his appointment.[45] A report quoted McFarland as intending to stay on, at the request of President Trump.[46] 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.[47] H. R. McMaster was eventually named as Flynn's replacement.[48]

In mid-March 2017, Dina Habib Powell was named as another Deputy National Security Advisor, with an emphasis on strategy.[49] 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."[48] The increasing problems surrounding Flynn also made McFarland vulnerable due to the ties between the two.[42] McFarland has been held out as a role model for women in cybersecurity.[50]

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.[51] The move came about as the result of the desires of both McMaster and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.[52] According to an unnamed administration official, McFarland had proved to not be a good fit for her role.[52] McFarland said she viewed the move in a positive light, as a "promotion".[44] A White House official encouraged such an interpretation, saying it was a "promotion" to a "critical diplomatic outpost."[42] She would remain as Deputy National Security Advisor for some amount of time,[51] although probably not all the way until her planned ambassadorial confirmation.[53] 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.[54]

The shuffle was supposed to take place in a fortnight, but that intention did not work out,[55] and after a month went by the shift had still not happened, reportedly pending McMaster's selection of a replacement for McFarland.[56] McFarland continued to perform some duties during this time, such as meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia.[57] By at least one early-mid May report, the timing of her departure was less certain than ever.[57] According to another report, McFarland was still in favor with the chief executive, who did not understand why her departure was necessary.[58] 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.[59] It was reported that Ricky L. Waddell would be her successor; like many of the administrations's other national security appointments, he is a general of the military.[60] On May 19, 2017, the nomination of McFarland to be Ambassador to Singapore was officially announced.[61]

On June 15, 2017, her nomination as ambassador was officially proclaimed by the White House.[42] The day of July 20 saw her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.[62] During said discussions she said the importance of Singapore could be encapsulated by the real estate maxim "location, location, location."[62]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1985, McFarland received the Defense Department's highest civilian honor, the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award.[13]

In 2015, the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute gave McFarland its Woman of the Year award, in an announcement made at CPAC.[35]

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."[35]


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  34. ^ "GOP Primary Turnout Was Lowest In More Than 30 Years". Newsday. 2006-09-17. 
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  37. ^ McFarland, K.T. (30 November 2010). "Yes, WikiLeaks Is a Terrorist Organization and the Time To Act Is Now". Fox News. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  38. ^ "Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize". Fox News. Retrieved 2017-04-10. 
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  49. ^ "Egyptian-American Dina Powell named deputy US national security advisor". M.hindustantimes.com. Retrieved 2017-04-10. 
  50. ^ http://www.securitymagazine.com/blogs/14-security-blog/post/88135-no-more-hoodies-why-we-need-to-attract-more-women-to-cyber
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  62. ^ a b http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-s-value-to-the-united-states-lies-in-its-location-us-9049860

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath
United States Ambassador to Singapore

Taking office TBD