James J. Townsend Jr. (Jim) is a senior advisor in the Scowcroft Center’s Transatlantic Security Initiative. He is also an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), where he is the co-host of the podcast “Brussels Sprouts”, a global fellow at the Wilson Center’s Polar Institute, and a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London. Jim was elected the President of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) in July, 2020. He also teaches a course on transatlantic security at SciencesPo in Paris.
On January 20th 2017, Jim completed eight years as deputy assistant secretary of defense (DASD) for European and NATO Policy, capping 34 years of working in defense and foreign policy, mostly on European and NATO issues. His work spanned the last decade of the Cold War, post-Cold War political reconstruction in Europe and Europe’s new challenges including Russia and the rise of China. Through his work, he has helped execute US military engagements in almost every conflict from the Gulf War to the reintroduction of US forces into Europe after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He also played critical roles in NATO enlargement, NATO reform, and helping to build bilateral defense relations with the new European democracies coming from the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Before becoming DASD in 2009, Jim was a vice president of the Atlantic Council and Director of the Council’s Program on International Security (now the Scowcroft Center). In this position, he strengthened the Council’s voice and impact on transatlantic security and defense issues, making the Atlantic Council a leading player in shaping the Euro-Atlantic defense agenda.
Jim joined the Atlantic Council in 2006 after a distinguished Civil Service career at the Pentagon and at NATO. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Jim was the country director for Scandinavia, the deputy director of European Policy, director of the Defense Plans Division at the US Mission to NATO (1998-2002), the director of NATO Policy (2002-2003) and finally the principal director of European and NATO Policy (2003-2006).
In the 1980s, Jim worked in Foreign Military Sales at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) as a country director for European security assistance and as the assistant to the DSCA Comptroller, where he worked on most of the financial aspects involved in foreign military sales. Jim’s early career also included work in the Department of State, in the Office of Congressman Charles E. Bennett and in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA).
In 1986, Jim received a direct commission in the US Navy Reserve (intelligence) leaving the Reserves as a Lieutenant Commander.
Jim has been decorated by 11 European nations and multiple times by the Department of Defense for his work, including a Presidential Rank Award (Meritorious Executive).
He was an adjunct professor of international studies at American University and currently teaches at SciencesPo Paris. Jim has lectured overseas and in the US at the War Colleges, National Defense University, at the Foreign Service Institute and at think tanks. He has also provided commentary in the international press on TV, radio and in newspapers.
Jim earned a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in International Economics and American Foreign Policy.