Jon Huntsman New Atlantic Council Chairman

Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman succeeds Chuck Hagel.


Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has been named chairman of the Atlantic Council board of directors.  He succeeds Chuck Hagel, who left to become secretary of defense.

The Atlantic Council today named Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.―one of America’s most prominent politicians, business leaders, and diplomats―as new chairman of its Board of Directors. His appointment takes immediate effect.

The announcement follows a period of extraordinary growth in the size, scope, and influence of the nonpartisan organization, driven by the Atlantic Council’s expanded mission of galvanizing the transatlantic community and its global partners to address the world’s most pressing challenges. This transformation has included deepening the Atlantic Council’s work on international security while launching new centers addressing global business and economics, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, South Asia, and Eurasia.

Huntsman succeeds Chuck Hagel, who stepped down early last year after President Barack Obama nominated him to serve as US secretary of defense. Since then, Brent Scowcroft, two-time US national security advisor, has served as the Atlantic Council’s interim chairman.

“In Jon Huntsman, we have selected a chairman whose extraordinary skills will further advance the dramatic transformation of the Atlantic Council that has occurred over the past seven years under President and CEO Frederick Kempe, with whom he will work closely,” said General Scowcroft, who will remain as chairman of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board. “Huntsman is a first-class global thinker, public servant, and business leader all rolled up into one person.”

At age 53, Huntsman has served as governor of Utah, as US ambassador to both China and Singapore, and as an official in the administrations of four US presidents, beginning as a staff assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He was a candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination for president.

As US deputy trade representative, he launched global trade negotiations in Doha in 2001 and guided China’s accession negotiations into the World Trade Organization. As a business leader, he has served as vice chairman of Huntsman Corporation and chairman and CEO of Huntsman Holdings, and is currently on the boards of Caterpillar, Chevron, and Ford. Huntsman has also served on several nonprofit boards, including most recently as chairman of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

Said Huntsman, “It is an honor to have been chosen as chair of the Atlantic Council at a time when it is poised to play an increasingly important global role. What the Council’s leadership understands is that we are at an historic inflection point where consistent and constructive US leadership alongside our European allies―and in close cooperation with other global partners―will be decisive in shaping the future.”

This is a bold pick, signaling both the continuation of the Atlantic Council’s nonpartisan status as well as the global mission that it has taken on since Fred Kempe became president and CEO in 2007. He’s also quite young by the standards of Washington institutions.

Former defense secretary Bob Gates had been my first pick although the sparks caused by the release of his autobiography would have certainly detracted from the Council agenda.

Huntsman, as many regular readers will recall, was my favorite of the 2012 presidential candidates, so I’m certainly happy to see him land at the Council, where I not only worked as managing editor for just shy of six years but remain affiliated as a nonresident senior fellow. He’s the third chairman in my tenure, following Hagel and General Jim Jones.

Kempe and his deputy, Damon Wilson, run the day-to-day operations of the Council. But the chairman is important, both as a voice and symbol and as a connection to the town’s movers and shakers. I’m excited by the choice.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    Oh man, as if OTB wasn’t already figuratively in bed with Huntsman, its site management is now literally in bed with Huntsman.

    (If by “literally” we mean figuratively or whatever the current Internet usage of the term has become)

  2. rudderpedals says:

    Asian fusion’s where it’s at. It really isn’t that far off to routine viable Atlantic-Pacific connectivity through the Arctic that’ll force matters in a decade anyway. Huntsman looks perfectly positioned to increase the Council’s relevance, informing it with his experience from the other side of the date line. Great match for both.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The Atlantic Council continues to display it’s irrelevance by picking an intelligent, thoughtful, and careful individual as it’s Chairmen. I guess they’ll never learn.

  4. Franklin says:

    @PD Shaw: You are literally pissing me off.

  5. john personna says:

    This is a bold pick, signaling both the continuation of the Atlantic Council’s nonpartisan status as well as the global mission that it has taken on since Fred Kempe became president and CEO in 2007.

    Was this a cute joke?

    A transition from Hagel, the Republican, to Huntsman, the ..

    Too bad Huntsman didn’t really make it as a Republican.

  6. Stonetools says:

    Has a Democrat ever been chairman? Or is Huntsman the closest they have come?
    It’s kind of funny that the choice for the head of an organization called the ATLANTIC Council is a guy whose expertise is in the PACIFIC.
    Maybe time for a name change? Also too shows that the North Atlantic is no longer the center of gravity for world politics anymore.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: @Stonetools: The last three chairmen–Jones, Hagel, and Huntsman–all served as appointees in the Obama administration. That at least two of them are Republican rather speaks to their level of partisanship, no?

  8. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    A serious answer was not really required.

  9. Pinky says:

    I don’t want to be the dolt in the group, but what’s the Atlantic Council?

  10. PD Shaw says:

    @Pinky: Its the foreign policy think tank that Joyner works for. Traditionally NATO-oriented in areas of interest I believe.

  11. Moosebreath says:


    “what’s the Atlantic Council?”

    Look at James’s bio above.