|Crandall Tapped to Lead Civilian Pentagon Agency in Formulating Western Hemisphere Policy
March 18, 2009
Contact: Bill Giduz
Davidson College professor Russell Crandall is taking a leave of absence from his faculty position to serve as one of the Department of Defense’s top civilian officials with responsibility for the Western Hemisphere.
|Crandall in his office consulting with a student.|
Crandall will serve as Principal Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs beginning in late April. In this capacity, Crandall will coordinate the analysis of sixteen full-time “action officers” who cover various issues and regions related to the Western Hemisphere. His group will have full access to intelligence information from agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency. Crandall added, “It’s our task to provide the Secretary of Defense with the best possible advice for the hemisphere.”
Crandall will also represent the Department at Defense at “inter-agency” meetings in which the various involved government agencies, such as the State Department and National Security Council, formulate policies. Crandall, who is fluent in Spanish, expects the work will also involve frequent travel to other countries in the hemisphere to develop relationships with counterparts there.
During his eight years on the Davidson faculty, Crandall has written five books about U.S. foreign policy toward its neighbors in the Americas. Driven by Drugs: U.S. Policy toward Colombia was first published in 2002, and has now been issued in a second edition. Last year Cambridge University Press published his latest book, The United States and Latin America after the Cold War. In addition, he spent 2004-05 at the heart of President Bush’s foreign policy staff as the Director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council (NSC). That appointment, supported by the Council on Foreign Relations, allowed him to learn from, and contribute to, debates about U.S. foreign policy at the highest level in the country. Immediately before joining the NSC, Crandall served as a counter-terrorism advisor at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Overall, the principal director position will be Crandall’s fourth stint of government service.
This new presidential appointment developed from Crandall’s two years of service as an adviser to President Barack Obama during Obama’s campaign. He was part of Obama’s “Americas Team” of experts who wrote position papers that were considered by Obama’s core advisers.
Crandall said the primary issues now facing the United States in the Western Hemisphere are the Mexican drug wars, consolidation of security gains in Colombia, and cultivation of relationships between the U.S. military and those of other countries. “There’s a full portfolio to keep us busy, and the job will be a daunting challenge,” he said. “There are so many hot spots elsewhere in the world that it will be important to help the Administration maintain some focus on our own hemisphere. We need to avoid overreacting, or being blindsided by a sudden crisis.
“However,” he continued, “I am excited and honored to serve under President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates, and to serve my country. We intend to work hard to try to boost American credibility in the region and develop productive relationships with our near neighbors.”
Crandall will be adopting an entirely different lifestyle in Washington. Whereas he conducts his professorial duties relatively autonomously, his Department of Defense assignment requires administrative skill and constant cooperation with other groups. “The academic, tweed coat approach can only get you so far in policymaking,” Crandall added. “A good idea is nothing if you can’t execute it. And that’s not usually the case in the ivory tower.” In addition, the relative low stress of teaching and research will be replaced with a work environment in which data constantly is received, and must be analyzed and judged quickly. He noted, “There are also no guarantees in government that you’ll be right. You work long and hard to make the best decisions possible, but your decisions might still turn out poorly.”
His new position is another example of Crandall’s eagerness to learn about Latin America by “doing.” He has worked as a human rights official with Catholic Relief Services in Colombia, and has been a consultant for the World Bank, Andean Development Bank, and United Nations. Last year he helped establish and lead Davidson’s semester abroad program in Peru.
His scholarship and activities have been widely recognized. In 2006 he was elected to a five-year term on the non-partisan and highly respected Council of Foreign Relations. Members work with the Council to promote understanding of foreign policy choices that the United States and other governments face by offering timely, unbiased, and in-depth coverage of issues to fellow members and the public.
He has taught at Davidson since 2000, and was an adjunct professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He has held Davidson’s MacArthur Professorship, and was awarded the college’s 2003 Omicron Delta Kappa Award and the 2008 SGA Teaching Award.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz