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Denis McDonough

Senior Principal, Markle Foundation Former | White House Chief of Staff


Speaker Bio

Denis McDonough is no stranger to managing high profile, complex, and intractable situations. As senior principal of the Markle Foundation, the former White House chief is now leading a task force to address the skills gap in the American workforce, with the goal of enabling people to succeed in an economy being reshaped by new technologies.



As the longest serving chief of staff to President Barack Obama from 2013-2017, Mr. McDonough was involved in the Navy SEAL strike against Osama Bin Laden. He intently focused on restoring a working relationship with the Republican-led Congress after 2014 and provided the president with strategic advice on domestic policy, national security, and government operations. In line with the administration’s reputation for effective and ethical operations, he oversaw plans for performance and goals for federal agencies, as well as the recruitment and retention of key talent. This involved an unprecedented expansion of technology experts, engineers, and content creators within the White House and across the federal government. He also efficiently managed a 4,000-member White House staff, Cabinet secretaries, and agency leaders.



Before becoming chief of staff, Mr. McDonough served as assistant to the president and principal deputy national security advisor, leveraging his foreign policy background to deal with increasingly unpredictable situations abroad. He led a multiagency team that provided crisis management and policy decisions during the Iran nuclear program negotiations, strategic arms reduction talks with Russia, reset with Asia, Afghanistan surge, and troop drawdown in Iraq. Prior to joining the White House, Mr. McDonough was the senior foreign policy advisor to the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, and held leadership and policy-making positions in Congress.



Mr. McDonough holds a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and a master’s degree from the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Speaker Sessions