National Security & Foreign Policy LGBTQIA+
Out Leadership List 2020
in partnership with the New America, July 29, 2020
During Pride Month, across the country and within the national security enterprise, it’s typical to celebrate the lives and achievements of LGBTQIA+ national security and foreign policy leaders, including former Army Secretary Eric Fanning, Amb. David Pressman, Major General Tammy Smith, Zaid Zaid, and Amanda Simpson, among many others. In addition to the legacies of these leaders, it’s important to celebrate rising leaders in this space.
The long history of discrimination through blue ticket discharges, the Lavender Scare, security clearance challenges, High Tech Gays V. DISCO “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the transgender service ban increases the urgency and value of elevating LGBTQIA+ practitioners, especially as rising generations of Americans are less likely to identify as heterosexual. It’s important to both acknowledge the policy harms of the past and prepare for a more equitable future.
This list is in partnership with a series led by the Diversity in National Security Network highlighting the need for diverse voices in national security and foreign policy. We encourage you to read Bringing More Diversity to the National Security Arena and all of the lists in the #NextGenNatSec series by our friends at the Diversity in National Security Network. In 2020, ONS, in partnership with New America, WCAPS, LCWINS, and DINSN, is committed to continuing this important work.
Out in National Security and New America are pleased to honor the contributions of 40 LGBTQIA+ experts in U.S. national security and foreign policy. The list features experts currently serving in government, the military, think tanks, academia, non-governmental organizations, and the media. Selection is based on excellence and leadership; their current work in national security or foreign policy; dedication to the LGBTQIA+ community; and their contributions to their issues of expertise through thought leadership.
Out Leadership List 2020:
Marc Ambinder is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Communication Leadership and Policy, where he developed a counter-disinformation campaign for state and local election officials. He has taught courses on national security reporting and digital security for Annenberg and served as a national security writer in residence at the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School. He has written several books, including a history of nuclear brinkmanship in the 1980s and an examination of the secrecy apparatus in government. Marc is also a fellow at the N Square Collaborative, which seeks to transform how policymakers communicate about nuclear threats and risk. Before moving to Los Angeles, he was the politics editor of the Atlantic and the White House correspondent for the National Journal.
Marc holds a B.A. from Harvard University.
What advice do you have to younger LGBTQIA+ Americans interested in Foreign Policy/National Security?
We need you. You belong here. Your perspective matters.
Carlos Javier Bell
Captain, U.S. Public Health Service, Sr. Geospatial Analyst, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR-DHHS)
Captain Carlos J. Bell, MPH, PMP, FAR-COR LVIII, received his commission into the United States Public Health Service in August 2005. Since he was called to active duty, he has held numerous leadership positions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Commander Bell currently serves as the Senior GIS Spatial Analyst in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within HHS. Since receiving his commission, he has been deployed over a dozen times domestically and internationally to respond to natural disasters and public health crises.
Carlos holds an M.P.H. from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and a B.A. from the University of Virginia.
What advice do you have to younger LGBTQIA+ Americans interested in Foreign Policy/National Security?
Be open to career pivots when they arise. Do not be attached to some predetermined career path, but recognize when an opportunity for change and growth presents itself.
Alan Carroll is a Vice President and Senior Program Manager for the Cyber Risk Institute, an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University, and a Direct Commissioned Officer in the United States Navy Reserve. Before joining CRI, Alan was the Senior Director for Strategy and Engagement with the Cybercrime Support Network (CSN), developing a cyber incident reporting and threat information sharing system for State and Local governments in collaboration with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). He has previously served as a Senior Professional Staff Member with the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. In this role, he advised the Committee on emerging threats, tech, and foreign influence. During his time on the Committee, Alan led the Committee’s investigation into security gaps around the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and detailed reviews of the evolution of the Department of Homeland Security.
Alan holds a B.A. from George Washington University.
What advice do you have to younger LGBTQIA+ Americans interested in Foreign Policy/National Security?
Do your job and keep your eye on what’s important: the highest ideals of our republic and the values which drive you. Look out for your colleagues and serve your team. Be visible and valuable – not for yourself, but for those who can’t be. Be grateful. Animate your career with something greater than yourself. The rest will follow.
Ty Cobb is the Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives and Research at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In this capacity, he deepens the Foundation’s work by leading programs, strategic initiatives, and research as a member of the Foundation’s senior management team. Ty has been part of the HRC Foundation since 2013 when he founded HRC’s global program. Through his work, he expanded the reach of the Human Rights Campaign to more than 80 countries around the globe.
Before that, Ty served as a lawyer and lobbyist at HRC, focusing on federal advocacy initiatives, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and immigration reform. He served as Counsel in the Office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, where he played an integral role in passing the Matthew Shepard And James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.
He is a member of the Truman National Security Project, serves on the board of the AsylumWorks
Ty holds both a J.D. and a B.A. from the University of Texas.
What advice do you have to younger LGBTQIA+ Americans interested in Foreign Policy/National Security?
You do not have to follow any particular path to do meaningful work in foreign policy or national security. Dive into an issue or opportunity that excites you and remain open as your career evolves to explore new interests and areas of growth.
SMajor Kara Corcoran, US Army, is an infantry officer and has recently graduated from the Command and General Staff Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. She has recently served as a small group leader at the Maneuver Captains Career Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, an Observer Coach Trainer at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA, and was Company Commander 3BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC.
Major Corcoran represents the non-profit US Military Endurance Sports team and is a jumpmaster on the airborne veterans’ organization of the Liberty Jump Team. In her spare time, Kara mentors female infantry and armor officers, as well as trans people from all services. She is Assistant Army Chapter Leader of SPART*A, a non-profit organization for transgender servicemembers and veterans.
Kara holds a B.S. from Norwich University.
At times you encounter people who are cautious and apprehensive. Mainly because they never knowingly were exposed to a transgender person before. This is where a conversation is an opportunity for education. The result is always eye-opening and fosters the understanding that allows for a more positive culture and society in the future.
Victor Esteves is an Associate at Subversive Capital, supporting the capital deployment process for mergers and acquisitions in highly regulated industries in markets around the world. Previously, he served as an Associate at Albright Stonebridge Group (ASG), where he advised companies across Latin America on regional growth strategies by identifying business opportunities, assessing the regulatory environment, evaluating risks, and establishing strategic partnerships.
Throughout his career, he has also advised Senators, and presidential and legislative candidates regarding political, economic, regulatory, and trade policy in Latin America. He has also worked on electoral and issue campaigns, which included designing and implementing engagement, advocacy, and communications strategies in support of progressive policies.
Victor earned a B.S in Biology and a B.S. in Political Science and Government from the University of Houston. He is fluent in Spanish.
Be revolutionary, and claw your way to the decision-making table where you can crack open the door for more diverse voices to enter the room. After all, non-tokenistic inclusivity is the most effective tool to abolish structural oppression and build a world where we can all thrive.
Elle Fersan is the founder and CEO of Global Nexus Solutions, LLC a Los Angeles-based consulting firm specializing in global public affairs and social impact. She has advised agencies and governments, including the U.S. Department of State, the Dutch and French governments, and multinational clients on fundraising, campaigning, policy reform, advocacy, and policy affairs, public-private partnership building, and strategic planning.
Before founding Global Nexus, she was the Director of the Immigrants and Global Migration Initiative at the University of Southern California (USC), Gould School of Law (2018-2020), and an Adjunct Professor of History at the American University of Science and Technology, Beirut (2008-2012). Elle’s accomplishments also include investigating and exposing a sex trafficking network of LGBT Syrian refugees, passing the first public non-smoking ban in a city in the Middle East and North Africa, and creating and facilitating the funding of programs to increase the inclusion of women’s political participation both at the local and national levels in Lebanon. She is a member of the Truman National Security Project.
Elle holds an M.A. and a B.A. from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik.
Pay forward the opportunities you are afforded. Be inclusive, think of engaging more Trans and LGBTQIA of color.
Sr. Creative Producer, Airbnb
Erika Galeana is currently a Senior Creative Producer at Airbnb, where she directly reports to the CEO, Brian Chesky. Before joining Airbnb, she founded her own firm, Art Casa Media, focusing on Latinx stories and media, which she led for almost four years.
A first-generation American, she joined the United States Air Force right out of high school. She spent four years in North Dakota and was twice deployed to the Middle East.
Erika holds a B.A. from Full Sail University.
Treat everyone with respect and compassion. Seek community and build it where you can.
Dr. Desha Girod is a professor at Georgetown University, specializing in foreign aid, foreign policy, and conflict resolution. They have been researching and writing on these topics for 20 years (11 as a professor). They are the author of Explaining Post-Conflict Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2015) and are currently writing a book on what went wrong with U.S. state-building in the 2000s.
Professor Girod has also published 9 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including some of the highest-ranked journals in the field. Their research has received support from the Political Instability Task Force (funded by the CIA) and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), among others. They also serve as the Director of the M.A. in Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown. They mentor with Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center, Casa Latinx, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Foreign Service.
Desha holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University, M.Phil from Trinity College, Dublin, and B.A. from Penn State.
My advice is to resist the temptation to flee when facing a lack of diversity in foreign policy/national security. Marginalization has taught us to question the status quo at a young age. By the time we are in our early twenties, we already have decades of experience in critical thinking. So, my advice is to do the hard work to speak fluently the language of today’s foreign-policy experts, but not to forget that you are already fluent in the language of change. The future of national security demands fluency in both.
Hammad Hammad is currently the State Department Rusk Fellow at Georgetown University. Previously, he served as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State. Hammad also served as a political officer in the U.S. Embassy Mexico City from 2016 to 2019; as an economic and commercial officer at the U.S. Mission to Libya, based in Tunis; as a Political Officer and Vice Consul in Caracas, Venezuela; and as the Kuwait desk officer in Washington, DC. Before joining the Foreign Service, Hammad served as a Fulbright Scholar in the Netherlands and co-founded an NGO called Inspire Dreams which worked in refugee camps in the West Bank.
Hammad holds a Master’s Degree in Law and Diplomacy (M.A.L.D) from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a B.A. from Georgetown University. He is married to Manuel Peralta.
Not to be afraid of being who they are, of being out and proud while still following their dreams in foreign policy and national security positions. Your experiences, voices, and background matter and will make our country safer and stronger.
Senior Director and Lead Scientist for Global Biological Policy and Programs at Nuclear Threat Initiative
Dr. Andrew M. Hebbeler is Senior Director and Lead Scientist for Global Biological Policy and Programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Previously, he served in leadership positions at the State Department’s offices of Science and Technology Cooperation (OES/STC), the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (E/STAS), and Cooperative Threat Reduction (ISN/CTR). From 2013-2015, he was Assistant Director for Biological and Chemical Threats at the Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy where he oversaw American S&T efforts to combat infectious disease and chemical weapon threats. Before his White House position, Dr. Hebbeler led the State Department’s Biosecurity Engagement Program, a $40M program that prevents terrorist access to potentially dangerous biological materials and dual-use infrastructure and expertise, while supporting efforts to combat infectious disease and enhance public and animal health worldwide.
Dr. Hebbeler holds a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and a B.A. from Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky.
Be yourself and follow your passion – and everything will fall into place!
Eric Jacobstein is a Senior Policy Advisor on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs managing the Western Hemisphere portfolio for Chairman Eliot Engel and Committee Democrats. In this role, he is the lead Democratic advisor handling issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean in the House of Representatives. Eric previously served as the Staff Director of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control working for Senator Dianne Feinstein. Before that, he worked for the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and for Representative Jim Kolbe. He also served as manager of legislative affairs at the Inter-American Dialogue.
Eric holds an M.A. from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a B.A. from Haverford College. He is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Be bold and confident, but also be humble. Make sure you have the confidence to showcase your qualifications and get your foot in the door. But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are “too good” for administrative tasks or only able to focus on the one policy area that you are passionate about. Show that you can handle anything thrown at you, no matter how mundane you think it is. Hard work does not go unnoticed.
Ryan Kaminski is the Global Public Policy Lead at the World Benchmarking Alliance. He is also a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project and a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member.
Previously, Ryan was the Human Rights Policy Advisor at the United Nations Foundation. He also was a consultant and staff member for the Council on Foreign Relations’ International Institutions and Global Governance Program. There he co-authored the CFR Report “Bolstering the UN Human Rights Council’s Effectiveness.” He was also a consultant for Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, TB, and Malaria as well as a U.S. Fulbright Fellow in Hong Kong.
Ryan holds a Master of International Affairs (M.I.A.) from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.
My advice to younger LGBTQIA+ Americans interested in Foreign Policy/National Security is to understand they are part of not just a national community, but also a global one. The Trevor Project and Williams Institute have documented immense challenges facing LGBTQIA+ youth who can feel “alone” or without a baseline network of support. If LGBTQIA+ youth realized at the earliest possible moment they are supported and backed with a network of not only professionals, but also genuine friends they would be better positioned to transcend these structural challenges and thrive in national security, foreign policy, and other circles. Building acknowledgment and bridges in this regard will both empower an emerging generation of LGBTQIA+ youth as well as help address serious challenges our community faces resulting from violence and discrimination, whether in the United States or elsewhere.
Commander Jason Knox, U.S. Navy, currently serves as the Executive Officer of the USS Fort McHenry. Before that, he served as a Defense fellow in the House of Representatives. Previous to that, he served as the Deputy Integrated Air and Missile Officer, COMUSNAVCENT. He’s served on a total of five ships in engineering, weapons, and deck operations positions and deployed multiple times.
Jason holds an M.A. from the Elliot School at George Washington University and a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Specifically for young people considering military service: the military needs you, too. Even as a large, complex bureaucracy that typically resists change, I think DoD has done a good job embracing LGBTQIA+ people following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
LGBTQIA+ people are part of the fabric of America, and as such, they have a place in the ranks of the defenders of the nation. Who you love is not as important as your willingness to meet and exceed standards, serve your country, and be part of a team.
Amélie E. Koran is currently the Senior Technology Advocate at Splunk. Before this, she served as the CTO and Deputy CTO at HHS, Office of Inspector General. Her professional experience includes time spent at The Walt Disney Company, Carnegie Mellon University’s CERT/CC, Mandiant, The World Bank, Constellation Energy (now Exelon), and The American Chemical Society.
Amélie holds a B.S. from Carnegie Mellon University.
If you like a challenge, this is the space to be in. Be a dynamic thinker, be willing to adapt and change, but also be true to yourself, because if you can’t be true to yourself, you can’t be that way for others. Seek a passion and live it openly.
Dr. Erik Lin-Greenberg is an assistant professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Major in the Air Force Reserve. His research focuses on how emerging military technologies — like drones, artificial intelligence, and cyber warfare — affect conflict dynamics and the regulation and use of force. His writing has appeared in a variety of policy and scholarly outlets including The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, War on the Rocks, Security Studies, and the Journal of Peace Research.
Professor Lin-Greenberg has served as an Air Force officer since 2009, both on active duty and in the Air Force Reserve. He has held assignments at the squadron level, in a joint task force, at Headquarters Air Force, and on the Joint Staff. Erik is currently a political-military planner on the Joint Staff.
Erik a Ph.D. from Columbia University completed post-doctoral fellowships at Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania and has a B.S. from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Do everything you can to master your job and become the go-to subject matter expert in your organization. This expertise helps your organization achieve its mission and better equips you to mentor others. At the same time, this credibility helps elevate the voices of LGBTQIA+ national security practitioners and showcases the impressive work they do.
Foreign Policy and National Security Advisor, Office of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
Ella Lipin is the national security and foreign policy advisor to Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. She has served as the Egypt Country Director in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and in the speechwriting office of Secretary of Defense.
Ella holds an M.P.A. in International Relations from Princeton University and B.A.from Duke University in Political Science, Asian, and Middle Eastern Studies.
There isn’t always a roadmap and it may not always be easy, but you always have your community and you deserve to be here.
Kyle Livingston is a Senior International Relations Officer at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). He manages a portfolio of 12 countries spanning the Indo-Pacific region, acting as lead author for each in the annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor report and bi-annual List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. He represents ILAB on several interagency task forces addressing IUU fishing and on U.S. trade enforcement priorities. He represented ILAB at the 2019 UN General Assembly. Before ILAB, Kyle was a Country Desk Officer at Peace Corps overseeing the agency’s programs in Nepal, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste, after having served as a digital engagement strategist at Peace Corps. Kyle served 27 months in Thailand in the Peace Corps as a community development advisor.
Kyle was Co-Chair for the Asian and Pacific Islander Queers United for Action D.C. (AQUA DC) from March 2019 – March 2020, where he helped lead the group to rise to become one of the most-recognized queer AAPI groups in the D.C. metropolitan area. He helped spearhead the first AAPI pride event in June 2019 as well as hosting AQUA DC’s summer fundraiser, Queersgiving potluck in collaboration with LULAC Lambda, and AQUA DC’s holiday party.
Kyle received his M.A. from American University’s School of International Service (SIS) and his B.A. from the University of San Francisco.
Don’t let how you identify stop you from pushing forward to achieve your career dreams. There will be those who might think you do not belong, but there are many more who will set time aside to help you.
Enduring Waste Program Manager, National Nuclear Security Administration
Morgan Luckey joined the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Los Alamos Field Office as an NNSA graduate fellow in 2017 and enjoyed working with coworkers and management enough to stay on as a federal employee after the fellowship. Morgan’s primary duties are oversight of the management and operating contractor’s waste management program and laboratory directed research and development program. Morgan also assists with environmental management including tribal affairs.
While working at the Los Alamos Field Office, Morgan has been fortunate to take details in the NNSA Office of Technology Maturation in Washington, D.C., with the National Transuranic Waste (TRU) Program at the Department of Energy -Environmental Management Carlsbad Field Office, and as acting Chief of Staff in the home office. Morgan has also been a team member on three readiness assessments, lead one joint office-prime contractor assessment, and is finishing up qualifying as a readiness assessment team leader on an assessment for the NNSA Nevada Field Office. For the last two years, Morgan has volunteered for Reach and Rise as a mentor and is looking forward to teaching the basics of finance for Junior Achievement New Mexico when Albuquerque primary schools open back up.
Morgan holds an M.S. from the Colorado School of Mines and a B.S. from Harvey Mudd College.
You control what people say about you to an extent. People will gossip and talk about their coworkers or people that they have worked with. Aim to give them positive things to say about your work. Let your ideas shine and build your reputation on your ideas, your quality of work, and your ability to get things done.
Kerry-Jo Ford Lyn has worked in strategic planning, program management, and organizational development for 20 years. This has included innovative work with international development agencies, community development organizations, public and private sector foundations, and activist groups at the forefront of social change in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Western Balkans, Asia, Africa, and the U.S.
At Astraea, Kerry-Jo managed and successfully closed out the first-ever federal grant supporting global LGBTI communities and organizations, providing over $3.5M in grants to LGBTI activists in 12 countries. Building on that accomplishment, she is also responsible for the design and successful application for a new multimillion-dollar 5-year global human rights initiative that is currently focused on supporting LGBTI organizations in their work to address discrimination, violence, stigma, and criminalization in their countries.
Kerry-Jo has also served as Chief Operations Officer of the largest private-sector foundation in the Caribbean, where she introduced ground-breaking programs in social entrepreneurship, special needs education, use of technology in education/literacy, and LGBTI activism.
Kerry-Jo now lives in Washington D.C. with her wife and serves on the board of Equality For All (Jamaica), and the Executive Committee of the Global Philanthropy Project.
Kerry-Jo holds an MSc. from University College, London, and a BSc from the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Stay curious. The world has changed drastically from when I started doing this work – it’s changed drastically in 2020 alone, much less. The position once held by the United States has shifted and America is no longer seen as the moral center of the world, nor the global authority on issues of importance.
It’s especially critical that younger LGBTQIA+ Americans who are interested in foreign policy/national security work stay curious about other cultures and countries, stay curious about how we are different, and that different does not mean less than. Curiosity also allows us to see all how we are the same. The challenges that the LGBTQIA+ communities are facing in the US have been the same ones our global communities continue to address and fight in their own countries.
Stay curious about what you believe is the ‘right solution’ or the ‘only way’ – there are often many avenues for change, and many pathways to move forward. Contexts and cultures are different so challenge your own biases and dispositions where they arise. Creativity and innovation arise when we embrace possibility.
Gerard Joseph Martin Jr.
Senior Intelligence Analyst, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and Chief Intelligence Specialist, United States Navy
Jerry Martin is a Senior Intelligence Analyst with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness where he works in partnership with the FBI on various initiatives as well as manages the Office’s analytic partnerships with external organizations. Prior to joining NJOHSP in 2016, Mr. Martin served as a political-military analyst focusing on the Maghreb region of Africa with the Defense Intelligence Agency and United States Africa Command, including a tour at US Defense Attaché Office Algiers, Algeria.
He holds a MS in Disaster Medicine and Management from Thomas Jefferson University, a post-graduate certificate in Public Policy from Northwestern University, and a BA in Government and Political Affairs from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Martin is currently deployed overseas as a Chief Intelligence Specialist and has served in the US Navy since 2009.
Be prepared for being comfortable in uncomfortable situations and you will succeed.
Amber McIntyre is currently the Strategic Communications Lead for HWC Inc, a management consulting firm. She’s a public administrator and a strategic communications professional in national security. She spent 9 years as a civil servant for the U.S. Department of State. Over the nine years, she served as a legislative analyst in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs, and a desk officer for Nigeria, The Gambia, and Cabo Verde in the Bureau of African Affairs. She served as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of International Religious Freedom. In this position, she primarily covered Sub-Saharan Africa, where she worked to understand and promote respect for religious diversity and tolerance across the African continent.
She holds an M.P.A. from American University and a B.A. from Florida State University.
You don’t have to be Wonder Woman, Black Panther, or Superman to help save the world. Each day, national security and foreign policy practitioners do the hard work of keeping people alive, promoting individual and community wellness, advancing world peace, and securing a future that all people can thrive in. Stay focused and always keep the big picture in mind!
Ty McKeiver is currently a Vice President for Global Strategy and Communications in the Global Financial Crimes Division at MUFG Bank, Ltd. Previously, he was Chief of Staff in the NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs and focused on strengthening sub-national engagement on the UN’s SDGs and promoted city diplomacy.
Before that, Ty was a political appointee in the Obama Administration and served as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of State. While at State, he worked to promote and enhance rule of law and criminal justice efforts globally in the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau; coordinated domestic and international efforts on CVE in the office of the Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights; and oversaw both functional and regional bureaus in the Office of the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources.
Tyrik holds a Master of International Affairs (M.I.A.) from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and a B.A. from Florida International University.
Stay woke: be an ally, be an advocate, be an activist for a cause that you believe in. We know that inclusivity and intersectionality matters within the LGBTQ+ community matters, but it must be practiced not just preached.
Stay humble: do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Recognize your power and acknowledge your resilience.
Stay connected: digitally, of course, so that you’re up on current events. But staying connected these days takes more – it takes finding your voice and using it for the good of others. We know that change happens when you put in the work on a human-to-human level -that’s what sustains protests and movements. Fundamental change – of our systems, policies, and society – is created through a personal connection.
Kaly Marie McKenna
Director of Operations, 432 Operations Support Squadron
Lieutenant Colonel Kaly McKenna, U.S. Air Force, is the Director of Operations for the 432d Operations Support Squadron and Chief Innovation Officer for the 432d Wing at Creech AFB. She most recently served with the Defense Innovation Board to advise the Secretary of Defense on innovation efforts and as the Chief of Advanced Remotely Piloted Aircraft Strategy at the Pentagon where she advised senior military and civilian leaders on the changing landscape of warfare.
As an evaluator pilot with over 2000 hours in the C-130 and MQ-9 aircraft, she deployed four times in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom where she was awarded the Aviation Valor Award and Combat Action Medal for her actions under fire. Kaly is most proud of her work as a senior mentor for Creech AFB’s Diversity Council and spoke at their first-ever base Pride event
Kaly holds an M.B.A. from American Military University, an M.S.S. from George Washington University, and a B.S. from the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs.
My advice is to speak up. Be seen. Know that the nation needs your ideas and your perspective. And don’t forget to hold the door open for your LGBTQIA+ family behind you.
Dan Misch is a Senior Manager of Wind Asset Management at Invenergy, the Founder and Co-Director of the Veterans Advanced Energy Project, and a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center. He previously served as a federal project director for the U.S. Department of Energy at Argonne National Laboratory and as a nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy on a ballistic missile submarine.
Dan is an Emerging Leader with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a member of the Truman National Security Project Defense Council.
Dan holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.
If the United States wants to remain influential on a global scale, we must resolve our issues at home. The ability to project American values abroad is dependent on our reputation. There are many ways to serve the country and show your patriotism: start local. Improving your neighborhood and community, strengthening relationships, and promoting freedom and equality translates to a stronger and better America that will set you on track for a successful and meaningful career.
Sanctions Investigator (Counterterrorism), Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Treasury
Anthony Musa currently serves as a Sanctions Investigator on the Counterterrorism team at the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the United States Treasury. He helped design the Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) Mentorship Program where we match mentors and mentees with each other to foster professional development. Before joining OFAC, he worked in the office of Congressman Jimmy Panetta on issues related to defense and veterans affairs for the Congressman. Previously, he worked at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies as a researcher on trade policy and sanctions. Additionally, he is an adjunct professor at American University in the School of Public Affairs where he teaches courses related to Counterterrorism.
Beyond his professional commitments, he serves on the Board of Directors for Capital Pride Alliance in Washington, D.C. which is responsible for the production of Pride events in D.C and is the chairman of Pride in Federal Service which represents the LGBTQ+ employees of the federal government.
Anthony is working towards an M.S, from the National Intelligence University, holds an M.A. from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and a B.A. from Arizona State University.
Be bold, have a vision, and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Bryan Norrington is Director of the Office of International Research Engagement and Cooperation (OIREC) for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). In this capacity, he is responsible for ARS’s liaison with international counterparts and serves as the principal point of contact for global affairs. Bryan coordinates collaborative research with international cooperators, industry partners, and other Federal agencies to improve global agriculture and support U.S. food and national security interests. He also advises the ARS Administrator on international affairs relevant to ARS research interests and priorities and manages USDA’s overseas biological control laboratories in Argentina, Australia, China, France, and Greece.
Before joining ARS, Bryan was a Senior Food Defense Analyst at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). In this role, he partnered with law enforcement and the intelligence community to provide advice and consultation to government agencies and private industry on agroterrorism and threats affecting the global food supply.
Bryan is an active mentor to junior staff throughout USDA, and is passionate about developing others—especially youth from underserved communities—and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion to make the American foreign policy community more representative of American society as a whole.
Bryan holds an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a B.A. from Colorado College.
Don’t let ego impede your growth. If you need help, ask. Don’t fear being corrected, or taking criticism, or doing the wrong thing because of how it will make you look. Don’t let the fear of rejection prevent you from seeking an opportunity. No one is more invested in your growth and development than you, so believe in yourself and be confident in your abilities. Apply for every opportunity of interest. The worst anyone can say is, “no” (and that’s better than wondering “what if?”). The ball’s in your court, so shoot your shot!
Howard Ou currently serves as Policy Advisor for Representative Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39) where he manages the Congressman’s energy, environment, immigration, tech, and veterans legislative portfolio, among other issues. He also oversees the Congressman’s committee work on the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and his work with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Coalition, Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, and the newly launched Congressional Military Transition Assistance Pathway Caucus.
Before this current position, Howard was a Policy and Press Advisor for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and APAICS Legislative Fellow for Congresswoman Judy Chu, serving as the Congresswoman’s liaison to the Muslim American community while managing her civil rights portfolio. He also previously worked as a defense staffer for Congressman Scott Peters based in San Diego.
He’s a member of the 2020 Class of New Leaders Council, DC, and a Political Partner in the Truman National Security Project.
Howard is working toward an M.S. from San Diego State and holds a B.S. from Alliant International University.
Reach out. We are all here because of mentors that have helped. We must do the same, to continue to help build the pipeline. If you ever find yourself feeling alone, remember that you have a community of people out there standing behind you that will help to uplift you. We’re all in this together.
Visiting Senior Fellow, Truman National Security Project
Mira Patel led economic opportunity programs globally at Facebook and was a Fellow for Economic Opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. She is focused on furthering economic development and the advancement of human rights through technology and innovative public-private partnerships.
Mira previously served in the Obama Administration as an appointed aide to two Cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and founded multimillion-dollar initiatives advancing women’s and LGBT rights. As one of the few openly gay women of color in the Obama Administration, and motivated by her experience of losing family upon coming out, Mira pushed the United States to champion equality and opportunity around the world. She conceived of and launched the Global Equality Fund, a multimillion-dollar partnership that has directly supported LGBT advocacy organizations in over 40 countries, and co-authored the first-ever Presidential Memorandum on international LGBT rights.
Mira holds an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Point Foundation Scholar and achieved Dean’s List honors and a B.A. from Wellesley College. She is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member and serves on its Term Member Advisory Board and co-author of the CFR National Security and Innovation Task Force, a member of the Advisory Council of the Wilson Center’s Women in Public Service Project.
1) Please come to serve your country. We need you! Let’s work together to ensure more effective policymaking that bolsters the security and prosperity of all in our country.
2) Find people who understand your experience and identity to be able to share your stories with. When you are often the “only” in the room, it’s important to be able to build a community around you outside that room that can provide reassurance, make you feel less alone, and help you stay focused on your core goals.
3) Be aware of the advantages and disadvantages that result when people view your identity as a label. You might be the most expert person in a room on LGBTQ+ issues, and can make a policy change that has an important impact in the world – this was my experience at the State Department. However, labels are designed to place people into categories, and these result in silos, which may not allow you to have as much impact on the world as you’d like. Don’t let anyone else determine what you are most expert in and where you can most contribute – take advantage of moments to expand LGBTQ+ equality and opportunity while also understanding and resisting when others impose labels or silos that could confine your work.
Victoria Piccoli currently serves as the Chief of Multimedia at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In this role, she manages ODNI’s visual and digital communications internally and externally through photography, videography, graphic design, and social media. Previous to this position, Victoria served as a digital media specialist with Booz Allen Hamilton at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency. In addition to being a federal employee, she serves as a Public Affairs Officer in the Navy Reserve.
Victoria holds an M.A. from George Washington University and a B.A. from the Hawaii Pacific University.
Ask your coworkers about their salary. I was severely underpaid for years while leading programs, coordinating events, and working above and beyond my role. I loved my job and worked hard because I was passionate about the work. However, when I found out that I was being underpaid compared to my peers by about $20,000-30,000 it crushed me and ultimately led me to look for other positions. I recommend asking an ally in your office, someone who performs a similar role, and/or your direct manager if your pay is comparable to the work you are performing. These should be open and safe conversations that can ensure you are being paid your worth and on par with others.
Sarah Pruski currently serves as Director of Security Operations, Harvard Graduate School of Education. She manages the tactical, operational, and strategic matters as they relate to the ongoing oversight, execution, and monitoring of Harvard’s enterprise security and risk management programs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Previous to this, she served as an Information Security Officer for the Graduate School of Education. Before that, she served as a Special Agent at DHS.
Outside of her security work, she owns Niemożliwe!, a small design studio specializing in bold, clean, and kinda sassy web, print, and branding designs, as well as volunteering with Team Rubicon to provide disaster relief to those affected by domestic or international natural disasters.
Sarah holds an M.A. from the Harvard Extension School and a B.A. from Syracuse University.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good: prioritize progress.
Dr. Rajeev Ramchand recently returned to the RAND Corporation where he serves as a senior behavioral scientist. He is a psychiatric epidemiologist and conducts research on mental health, substance use, and suicide prevention in servicemembers, military families, and veterans. Before that, he was the Senior Vice President of Research at Cohen Veterans Network and then became Research Fellow at the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Before that, he spent 12 years at the RAND Corporation where, based on his research, he was called upon twice to testify before Congress on military suicide prevention and military and veteran caregivers.
He holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.
Stick with your passions and surround yourself with colleagues who will help you grow. There can be a temptation to shift your focus to areas or topics that are politically “hot” but if you’re not passionate about these areas it will show. Stick to your passions and do the work needed to elevate the issues to ensure they become priorities and receive the attention they deserve. You do this through hard work, but you’ll also need a network of colleagues, mentors, and allies who will support, encourage, and challenge you, and ultimately let you shine. You may be lucky like me and find those people naturally, or you may have to proactively seek them out – but you WILL find them. And when it’s your turn, be that colleague to others.
Senior Program Officer, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Leon Ratz currently serves as a Senior Program Officer at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). At NTI, Leon works on issues pertaining to fissile materials security, Russian nuclear security, and other nuclear security and non-proliferation matters.
Before joining NTI, Leon worked for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as a policy specialist on Russian nuclear security in the Office for International Material Protection and Cooperation in the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. He also served as a thematic specialist on arms trade issues for Amnesty International USA.
Leon holds an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. from Boston College.
Get involved in the LGBTQIA+ community in your area! You’ll meet and get inspired by fascinating people, connect with others experiencing similar challenges, collaborate with people interested in your policy issue, and enjoy a new network of friends and colleagues.
International Labor Advisor for Trade Policy, Office of Trade and Labor Affairs, International Labor Affairs Bureau, US Department of Labor
Carolina serves as an International Labor Advisor for Trade Policy in the Office of Trade and Labor Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor. In this capacity, she monitors trade partner countries’ compliance with labor provisions of trade agreements and other U.S. trade policy. She also formulates policy and engages with USG agencies, foreign governments, and other stakeholders.
Carolina is an accomplished bilingual foreign affairs professional with over a decade of experience in the legal, public policy, and government spheres, including in think tanks, non-profit organizations, federal and state courts, U.S. Congress, and federal government agencies. Carolina was born and raised in Uruguay and lived in several countries and states.
Carolina holds a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law and a B.A. from the University of Michigan.
Be yourself as much as you can. First, because we need all the visibility we can get. But also because you can’t realize your full potential as a practitioner if you hide who you are as a person. As out LGBT people, we have to face the reality that many spaces won’t welcome us and that we may not be able to change their minds. But at some point in your career, you will gain the power to bring your talent to those welcoming spaces instead of the ones that are not accepting and perhaps even build a safe space for other LGBT people yourself.
Judge Advocate, U.S. Army Reserve and Attorney, Department of Veterans Affairs
Nell Robinson currently serves as an attorney at the Department of Veterans Affairs and as a Captain and JAG in the US Army Reserves. She is a J.D.-M.D., and a former U.S. diplomat with service in Mexico, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
She volunteers with The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit that empowers veterans to continue their service in underserved communities and the D.C. Bar Association.
Dr. Robinson holds an M.D. from George Washington University, a J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
Focus on learning languages and studying abroad. Regional expertise is essential too, but nothing will help you understand other countries and cultures like knowing the language. Know that you are not alone; there are many LGBTQ+ people in foreign affairs and national security, and we support each other. I also believe we have a special responsibility to be visible and vocal in our roles because our voices to some extent represent the many queer people worldwide who cannot safely speak up on their behalf.
Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State
Kyle Rohrich is a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State and has served at U.S. Embassies in Baku, Azerbaijan; Beijing, China; and Pristina, Kosovo. Throughout his career, Kyle has worked on a wide array of issues ranging from human rights promotion and conflict prevention to energy geopolitics and market liberalization.
He received two David Boren National Security Fellowships for year-long intensive language study in Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship for study in Russia.
On a volunteer basis, Kyle has worked on both Azerbaijan-based and wider Eurasia-focused LGBTQIA+ civil society initiatives.
Kyle holds a Master’s Degree in Law and Diplomacy (M.A.L.D) from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a B.A. from Nebraska Wesleyan University. He speaks Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Azerbaijani, and Kyrgyz.
At the beginning of my career, I was certain being an LGBTQIA+ person would hinder my ability to succeed in my field. Now, I could not disagree more. Being an LGBTQIA+ national security practitioner comes with its unique sets of challenges, but pride and confidence go a long way to overcome them. I’ve found that most setbacks and obstacles are offset by the value gained in the kinship one gains with LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented groups in the national security apparatus, as we all can relate to feeling othered at points in our careers. As a gay diplomat, there is an added challenge that choosing to specialize in a certain country or region may limit one’s ability to be fully “out” or even to bring one’s spouse and family with them for an assignment. I’m hopeful that we will continue to work on these issues so that the face of America abroad can truly reflect who we are at home.
Lieutenant Rachel Thomas currently serves as an active-duty Foreign Area Officer in the U.S. Navy, detailed to the Department of State as the Senior Military Advisor on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS). She works to enhance the Department of Defense (DoD) and State cooperation and collaboration on policies focused on the advancement of WPS, and further civilian-military partnerships within bilateral and multilateral spheres. She advises DoD, State, and other partner militaries to concretize and deepen understandings and lenses around gender as they are applied to practice, programs, and engagements. She also contributes to the development of policies and programs that fall at the intersection of the security of women and girls and national security. Before her detail at State, she worked to improve relationships between partner militaries within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, specifically focusing her expertise around areas of military exercises as well as Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).
In her spare time, she is a member of various national security groups including Women in International Security (WIIS) and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPs) networks and serves as a mentor to three younger women from national security and military backgrounds.
Rachel holds an M.A. from Salve Regina University and a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Your perspective and passion matter. Your opinions are valid. Your identity is valid. Many times, you will bring an intersectionality of perspectives that are uniquely yours, and that gives you power. Not only that, but it also gives you the ability to see things that others don’t and to approach a problem set from a different angle. Your diversity is your strength, use it. As a black, queer woman, I know that I bring a much different lived experience to the table than others. My life, my struggle, my joy- these have all shaped me into the person I am now, and how I engage with others. That is what makes me powerful, and that is what makes YOU powerful.
Africa Natural Resource Management Specialist, US Forest Service International Programs
Adam Welti currently serves as an African Natural Resource Management Specialist in the US Forest Service Office of International Programs. In this role, he manages relationships and programs with partners in Africa and the Middle East-related to a wide variety of natural resource management topics. From identifying and implementing strategies to sustain coastal forests to mitigate impacts from climate change while providing sustenance for coastal communities to working with partners across the US Government to combat illegal logging and associated wildlife trafficking that often funds other illegal activities.
Before working with the U.S. Forest Service, he worked with the Rainforest Alliance and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.
He volunteers at the Capital Area Food Bank, as an usher at Studio Theatre and as a literacy tutor with Reading Partners DC.
Adam holds a Master’s Degree in Law and Diplomacy (M.A.L.D) from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and B.S. from the University of Minnesota.
I would encourage younger LGBTQIA+ Americans that are interested in the foreign policy, national security, or international development field to pursue a balance of understanding a technical area of interest while also understanding broader international affairs principles. Doing so has helped me to be able to put broader questions of international sovereignty and the rule of law, for example, into context when analyzed from a technical perspective.
Matt Williams is National Security Adviser to U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and previously served as National Security Adviser, Legislative Assistant, and Special Assistant to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL). In both capacities, he is responsible for foreign, defense, homeland security, veterans, and cyber policy matters. While serving Senator Nelson, he helped to develop the agenda of the newly created Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity. He previously served as an intelligence analyst and watch officer in the Department of Defense.
Matt holds an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and a B.A. from the University of Florida. He remains active in the SAIS community, including the Strategic Studies Program, and is a member of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Senate Staff (GLASS) Caucus. Through both, he mentors aspiring and young national security professionals.
Don’t be afraid to pursue your interest; the field needs you. Be thoughtful and respectful, but assert yourself always. Things have indeed gotten better, thanks in large measure to the LGBTQ+ people who came before us. Remember that we’re in this together, but the challenges are not the same for all of us. So, make every effort to bring others along with you.
Dr. Michael John Willaims currently serves as Director of International Relations, Maxwell School. Before joining Syracuse University, Williams was a Clinical Professor of International Relations and Director of the International Relations Program at New York University from 2014-2020. He arrived in New York for the University of London where he was Reader in International Relations. He previously had been Director of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Royal United Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London. He held a Bosch Fellowship in the German Ministry of Defense, a Visiting Fellowship at the University of Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute, and a DAAD Fellowship at the Bundeswehr Center for Social Science in Potsdam.
Michael holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, an M.A. from Humboldt University in Berlin, and a B.A. from the University of Delaware.
Get involved with professional organizations like Out in National Security and be yourself. If members of the community hide in the woodwork, it does little to advance acceptance. So just be you.