David M. Abshire

David M. Abshire is Vice Chairman & Counselor of the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress (CSPC) in Washington, D.C. and also President of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, which gives grants in the fields of science and education.  He is Vice Chairman of the Board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., which he co-founded with Admiral Arleigh Burke in 1962, and served as its chief executive for many years.  In 2002, he led in the establishment of the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy at CSIS. 

David Abshire is a 1951 graduate of West Point, and later received his doctorate with Honors (Gold Key Society) in History from Georgetown University.  For many years he was an adjunct professor at its School of Foreign Service, and initially, CSIS was affiliated with the university.

Dr. Abshire served as Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations from 1970-1973 and later as the first Chairman of the U.S. Board of International Broadcasting.  He was a member of the Murphy Commission on the Organization of the Government, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and the President’s Task Force on U.S. Government International Broadcasting.  During the transition of government in 1980, Dr. Abshire was asked by President-elect Reagan to head the National Security Group, which included the State and Defense Departments, the U.S. Information Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency.  He has also served on the Advisory Board of the Naval War College and on the Executive Panel of the Chief of Naval Operations.

More recently in 1983-1987, he was Ambassador to NATO where, in reaction to the threat posed by Soviet SS-20 missiles, he was the United States point man in Europe for deployment of Pershing and Cruise missiles.  It was this NATO success that convinced the Soviets to sign the historic INF Treaty and withdraw their missiles.  Ambassador Abshire initiated a new conventional defense improvement effort so that NATO would not have to rely heavily on nuclear weapons.  For this, he was given the highest Defense Department civilian award—the  Distinguished Public Service Medal.

In December 1986, at the depths of the Iran-Contra crisis, he was called by President Reagan to leave NATO to serve in the Cabinet, as Special Counsellor, and help restore confidence in the Presidency.  He dealt with the Tower Board, the Independent Counsel, and the Congressional investigation committees, and often met with the President alone. 

Dr. Abshire is a vice chair of the Council of American Ambassadors, a member of the Advisory Board of the School of Public Service at St. Albans School, a trustee of the George C. Marshall Foundation, a member of the Council on Competitiveness, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Fondation Paul-Henri Spaak (Brussels), and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London).  He also is the co-convenor and a founding member of the Trinity National Leadership Roundtable.  In 2003, he served on the Advisory Group for Public Diplomacy mandated by Congress.  In 2005, he chaired a panel for the Homeland Security Advisory Board for developing for the maritime domain a layered defense against weapons of mass effect.  

In the corporate world, from 1987-1996, he has served on the Board of Procter and Gamble Company and was the first chairman of its Public Policy Committee.  He also served on the Board of Directors of the Ogden Corporation and on the Advisory Board of BP America.

Dr. Abshire was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1926.  He graduated from Baylor Preparatory School in 1944, and subsequently for six years served as a Trustee.  He later received his bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1951.  In the Korean War, he served as a platoon leader, company commander, and a division intelligence officer.  He received the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster with V for Valor, Commendation Ribbon with medal pendant, and Combat Infantry Badge.  He received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1992, a Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa, from the University of the South in 1994, and a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Georgetown University in 2006, and a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Washington College in 2006. 

He has also received the John Carroll Award for outstanding service by a Georgetown University alumnus; the Distinguished Graduate Award of the United States Military Academy; the 1994 U.S. Military Academy’s Castle Award; the Gold Medal of the Sons of the American Revolution; the Order of the Crown (Belgium); Commander de l’Ordre de Leopold (Belgium); the Medal of the President of the Italian Republic, Senate, Parliament and Government; Grand Official of the Order of the Republic of Italy; Order of Diplomatic Service Merit Heung-In Medal (Korea); the insignia of the Commander, First Class, Order of the Lion of Finland; in 1999 the Order of the Liberator (Argentina); and in May 2001, the Order of the Sacred Treasure Gold and Silver Star (Japan).  In addition to the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, he was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Dr. Abshire is the author of seven books: The South Rejects a Prophet, 1967; International Broadcasting: A New Dimension of Western Diplomacy, 1976; Foreign Policy Makers: President vs. Congress, 1979; Preventing World War III: A Realistic Grand Strategy, 1988;  Putting America’s House in Order: The Nation as a Family, with Brock Brower; Saving the Reagan Presidency: Trust Is the Coin of the Realm, 2005; and A Call to Greatness:  Challenging Our Next President, 2008.  He also wrote an essay for the Fetzer Institute’s “Deepening the American Dream” series titled The Grace and Power of Civility: Commitment and Tolerance in the American Tradition, Jossey-Bass: 2004.  He is editor of Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency: Seventy-Six Case Studies on Presidential Leadership, 2002, and author of CSP publications: The Character of George Washington, 1999; and Lessons For The 21st Century: Vulnerability and Surprise December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001; and the character of George Marshall.

He is contributing editor to Vietnam Legacy, 1976; Détente: Cold War Strategies in Transition, 1964; and The Global Economy, 1990.  He has also co-edited National Security, 1963 and edited The Growing Power of Congress, 1981.  He is founding editor of The Washington Quarterly.

Dr. Abshire is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Council of American Ambassadors, where he serves a Vice Chair.

He is married to the former Carolyn Sample whose stepfather, Admiral George W. Anderson, was a former Chief of Naval Operations and Ambassador to Portugal.  Her father, Rear Admiral Dodge Sample, was lost at the end of the Pacific War.  The Abshires have five children.

© 2019 Richard Lounsbery Foundation