Richard J. Kessler


Board Member

Richard Kessler has over 40 years of international experience working at senior levels on foreign policy and national security issues. He recently retired from the congressional staff where he served most recently as the staff director of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs following several years as the staff director of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Kessler’s major work achievements included directing State Department authorization legislation, a rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, export control reform, aid to Pakistan, and Iran sanctions. He is one of the few people to have served in both the House and the Senate as a committee staff director. He was also a subcommittee staff director on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Previously he was a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on the House International Relations Committee where he was responsible for East Asia, the Pacific, South Asian, and UN peacekeeping policy issues, including re-engagement with Vietnam and Cambodia and independence for East Timor. Kessler wrote the legislation establishing the Fulbright programs in Vietnam and East Timor and worked on human rights and refugee issues including the extension of the Orderly Departure Program for Vietnamese refugees.

Prior to working in Congress, Kessler taught international affairs at the School of International Service, The American University; worked as a consultant for various government agencies and private organizations, including the Agency for International Development in Pakistan and Morocco, and as an analyst at various think tanks. He was a Senior Associate at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where he worked on ending the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, and he co-directed a study on energy and national security at the Center for International and Strategic Studies. He was a Research Associate at the University of the Philippines and wrote on West African politics while living in Senegal.

Kessler has published extensively in academic journals, in newspapers and books, including Rebellion and Repression in the Philippines (Yale University Press), and appeared as an expert commentator on numerous television and radio programs.

Kessler graduated from Colgate University with a degree in French and Western European Studies and studied at the Universite de Dijon. He earned a Master’s, a Master’s Degree in Law and Diplomacy, and a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy with a concentration on international development studies. He served as a Sergeant with the U.S. Army in Vietnam where he was awarded a Bronze Star, an Army Commendation Medal, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He has lived in Europe, Vietnam, Senegal, and the Philippines.