John Gans, PhD. is the Managing Director of Executive Communications and Strategic Engagement at the Rockefeller Foundation. In addition, Gans teaches graduate and undergraduate classes on the international order, the politics and process of American foreign policy, and national security. He is also a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and a board member at the World Affairs Council of New Jersey.
In the wake of the September 11th attacks, Gans was a press liaison at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, where he helped brief the media on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The experience drove his interest in public service and global affairs, and his desire to help individuals and institutions tell their stories and achieve their objectives, whether in war, for the bottom line, at the ballot box, in Washington, or in the marketplace of ideas.
In the years since, Gans served at the Pentagon as chief speechwriter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. He was the principal adviser to the secretary on the planning, positioning, and preparation of remarks, managed a team of writers, and drafted dozens of speeches delivered around the world on defense policy in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Previously, Gans worked for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. For a decade, he served in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
In 2019, Gans published White House Warriors: How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War (W.W. Norton’s Liveright). Combining extensive archival research with 100 interviews, White House Warriors demonstrates that knowing the NSC staff’s war stories is the only way to truly understand American foreign policy. Called a “bottom-up history” (Wall Street Journal), an “enlightening summary” (The New Republic), “essential reading” (Booklist) and “rollicking and compellingly told” (Lawfare), the book became a must read and its lessons a central part of the conversation around the collapse of the National Security Council under Donald Trump.
In addition to the book, Gans has published widely with articles, reviews, and opinion pieces in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, Politico, Foreign Affairs, The International Herald Tribune, The Times of London Literary Supplement, The Boston Globe, Foreign Policy, and more. He has appeared on CNN, BBC, MSNBC, NPR, and been quoted as a source in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and more.
Gans earned his PhD and MA from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University.
He lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey with his wife Anjuli, a pediatrician, and their two sons.
Header photo via Perry World House. Gans photo by Eddy Marenco.