Vice President Joe Biden appointed security studies professor Colin Kahl as his top national security adviser on Sept. 26. The formal position title is Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Adviser to the Vice President. The job will require him to take a two-year public service leave from the university.
Kahl, a member of the School of Foreign Service’s Security Studies Program, began teaching at Georgetown in the summer of 2007, taking a public service leave to lead the Middle East Office at the Pentagon from February 2009 through the end of 2011.
Although Kahl could not comment on his new job because of an agreement with the Office of the Vice President, he said that has enjoyed his time on campus.
“The best thing about Georgetown is that I have fantastic colleagues and amazing students,” Kahl said. “They are an incredibly diverse set of folks who come from countries all over the world, have amazing experiences and bring a lot of those experiences into the classroom.”
As Biden’s security adviser, Kahl will work with the National Secuirty Council to deliver research and briefings about national security issues to the vice president.
Kahl, 43, said that he looks forward to returning to Georgetown after his time in the government.
“I’m really grateful to Georgetown for allowing me the opportunity to serve again and I really look forward to coming back when I’m done,” Kahl said. “While I’m taking leave from Georgetown for a couple of years, I will be returning at the end of my time in government. I’m not leaving Georgetown for good.”
In a statement on the university’s website, SFS Acting Dean James Reardon-Anderson said that Kahl is deserving of the position and that the experience will make him a better teacher.
“We are enormously proud, when Colin, like several of his faculty colleagues, are tapped for service to the nation,” Reardon-Anderson wrote. “I’m sure he will make an important contribution and will return to our faculty even better equipped to teach and conduct research in the field of international security.”
Kahl’s colleague David Edelstein, an associate professor in the SFS and the government department, said that Kahl’s academic background will help him in his new position, which also includes acting as deputy assistant to the president.
“I think rigorous academic training undoubtedly serves him well,” Edelstein wrote in an email. “Academics are trained to think critically about arguments and carefully assess their validity. These are skills that will serve him well in advising the vice president on national security affairs.”
Kahl’s research has focused on U.S. defense policy in the Middle East and ethnic conflicts in developing countries.
Edelstein said that Kahl’s intelligence and passion for security studies made him an excellent candidate for the job.
“I always learn something from talking to professor Kahl,” Edelstein wrote. “He has previously served in government, and that experience generates novel insights into various world events. “
Edelstein also noted that Kahl’s experience in the government will help when he returns to Georgetown as a professor, since he can bring his outside experiences into the classroom.
“One of the trademarks of an SFS education is the connections that we try to draw in our classrooms between theory and practice,” Edelstein wrote. “Having professors with this type of experience among our faculty helps us draw those connections in interesting and compelling ways.”
Daniel Byman, a professor in the security studies program in the SFS, said that Kahl’s experience will serve him well in his new position.
“Professor Kahl will bring his formidable intelligence and work ethic to his new position. His background as a professor will help the administration conceptualize issues and think about their long-term ramifications,” Byman wrote in an email. “Most important, however, he’ll bring his genial personality and easy laugh.”
Recently, Kahl has taught the “Core: International Security” and “Iran and the Bomb” courses for the master’s in security studies program. He assumes the federal role from Jake Sullivan, now a senior adviser on Iran nuclear negotiations and a lecturer at Yale Law School.