President Trump has appointed Kiron Skinner, a well-known conservative African American scholar, as the State Department’s director of policy planning, and she is promising to check egos and carry out the president’s “America First” agenda.
“To counter 21st century threats and take advantage of unfolding opportunities, I will bring together a no-nonsense team of career diplomats, political appointees, scholars, and analysts who want to leave egos and outworn doctrines at the door,” she said in a statement to Breitbart News.
“In the cauldron of Washington politics this may sound naïve, but it must be done to create a 21st century American foreign policy that protects Americans and advances American interests,” she said.
“To effectively implement President Trump’s America First vision means thinking through the President’s ideas and good instincts with the seriousness that they deserve, and that’s exactly what my team and I will do,” she added.
As director of policy planning, Skinner will head the department’s in-house think tank, which provides strategic guidance to the entire building. Conservative foreign policy experts are cheering the move.
“The State Department is about to get a big brain,” the Heritage Foundation’s Senior Fellow in Public Diplomacy Helle Dale and Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies James Jay Carafano wrote Thursday in the Daily Signal.
“With outstanding conservative and academic credentials, Skinner has the potential to help anchor the Trump foreign policy philosophically in the principles and worldview of President Ronald Reagan,” they wrote.
Skinner is taking over from Brian Hook, who is now leading the State Department’s Iran Action Group. She is one of several recent high-profile hires since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took office on April 26, 2018.
Pompeo has tapped Amb. James Jeffrey as special representative for Syria engagement, Joel Rayburn as special envoy to Syria and deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near East Affairs, and Stephen Biegun as the special representative for North Korea.
Pompeo is “fleshing out his squad,” an official told Breitbart News.
A person close to Skinner described her as a “Trump loyalist” who is not going to deviate from Trump’s “America First” agenda.
Skinner was a campaign surrogate for Trump in the lead-up to the election, defending his unconventional foreign policy approach. She wrote in Forbes:
“Go beyond this rhetoric, however, and hear Trump’s explanation for America first: ‘The world is most peaceful and most prosperous when America is strongest. America will continue and continue forever to play the role of peacemaker. We will always help save lives and indeed humanity itself, but to play the role, we must make America strong again.’
“Is there any country other than the United States that most Americans would like to see as the organizer of the international system?
“In addition to his politically incorrect rhetoric, Trump seems so much like a foreign policy radical because he is tampering with long-held maxims. One such maxim is that China should not be taken on directly. Yet Trump says the United States cannot be strong militarily when it is weak economically, and its economic plight has a lot to do with China’s ‘assault on American jobs and wealth.’
Skinner also served on the presidential transition team.
She is currently a professor at and director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Policy and Strategy, and the W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Skinner also has a background in defense and technology, having served on the Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board. She has also led university projects on artificial intelligence, blockchain, and other new technologies. She has an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College.
She also served as foreign policy campaign adviser for George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich. She has worked closely with former Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz.
Pompeo tweeted earlier this week: “Pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Kiron Skinner as the incoming Director of Policy Planning. Dr. Skinner will provide strategic views on policy formulation. Her vision and expertise will be strong assets in the @StateDept’s work on behalf of the American people.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Skinner described “Trump Doctrine, or America First foreign policy” as one in which the United States exercises global leadership while sharing the burdens of world crises with other countries. She said the last two administrations struggled with a long-term approach to foreign policy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I really see the Trump administration as an opportunity to lead us into a grand strategy,” she told the paper.
She also spoke to WSJ about being the daughter of civil rights activists in San Francisco.
“I care more about the republic than partisan politics in the United States,” she said.
“I really feel as an African American that we have a deep stake in the direction of our country and that there’s a natural connection between who we are and America’s role in the world, and that we need to be at the table across all political parties in the United States,” she said.
“My values are fundamentally about America’s role in the world, consistent with the values of security and individual rights, representative government, equality of opportunity,” she said. “And I don’t see a contradiction between who I am and what I’m doing, and how I support our nation.”
This article has been updated.