Marshall Scholar 5 Questions with Richard Falkenrath

Richard Falkenrath — Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis adjunct Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, Council on Foreign Relations

  1. How did your experience in the UK impact your life?

Prior to traveling to the UK I had planned to return to the US and attend law school. My time in the UK as a Marshall Scholar helped me realize that there was something better for me to do than become a lawyer. In the course of my travels and studies at King’s College London I decided to pursue my interest in foreign policy and national security.

2. How did becoming a Marshall Scholar help get you to where you are today?

Without becoming a Marshall Scholar, I would not have attained my PhD, not written books, not become a professor, and probably not have the opportunity to join the National Security Council staff in 2001.

3. What was your fondest memory of the UK? (or time as a Marshall)

Over our first Thanksgiving in the UK, a few of my friends and decided to rent an old vicarage beside an ancient Welsh cemetery in the Brecon Beacons. One friend and I arrived a couple days early and decided to hike up Pen Y Fan in a gale. Although it wasn’t the brightest idea, we survived.

4. What do you think was the biggest difference between British and American cultures and how did your experience shape your views on the relationship between the US and UK?

In general, the British I interacted with were worldlier than most Americans I’d known through college. And in British strategists I sensed a greater appreciation for the complexities of global politics. Through British eyes the world seems more shades of grey than black and white. Ever since my time there, I have looked to friends and colleagues from the UK for nuanced and penetrating insight into global affairs.

5. What would you say to students who are thinking about applying for the Marshall Scholarship?

Good luck. It is an extraordinary opportunity and a spectacular gift. Have a go!

Richard Falkenrath is Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis adjunct senior fellow for counterterrorism and homeland security at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also chief security officer at Bridgewater Associates, an investment manager, where he is responsible for leading implementation of cyber, physical, and staff security strategy. From 2010 to 2014, Falkenrath served as principal of the Chertoff Group, LLC, a security consultancy, advising clients on managing operational and information security risk, and was also a contributing editor to Bloomberg TV, where he commented several times per week on national security, foreign policy, and technology issues.

From 2006 to 2010, Falkenrath served as the New York City Police Department’s deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, where he strengthened the city’s overall effort to prevent, prepare for, and respond to terrorist attacks. From 2001 to 2004, he held several leadership positions within the White House advising the president and his senior team, including director for proliferation strategy in the National Security Council. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Falkenrath was named special assistant to the president and senior director for policy and plans in the Office of Homeland Security. In January 2003, he was promoted to deputy assistant to the president and deputy homeland security adviser. During his career, he has also worked at Harvard Kennedy School. Falkenrath is a summa cum laude graduate of Occidental College and holds a PhD from the department of war studies at King’s College London, where he was a British Marshall scholar.

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