John Gans, PhD. is the Director of Communications and Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House global policy center. 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 German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Until 2017, Gans served at the Pentagon as chief speechwriter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. He was the principal adviser to the secretary on 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 around the world. In addition to leading the writing team at the Defense Department, Gans served in the Obama Administration as senior speechwriter for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (2014) and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew (2015).
In the wake of the September 11th attacks, Gans served as a press liaison at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan where he helped brief the press on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The experience drove his interest in public service and national security. Since then, Gans has worked at the U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. Treasury Department, in the office of Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and for U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. In 2010, he joined the U.S. Navy reserve and currently serves as a lieutenant assigned to the Pentagon.
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 MA (2009) and PhD (2014) from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He defended with honors his dissertation on White House strategic decision-making during war. Gans received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University (2000).
He lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey with his wife, Anjuli Srivastava Gans, who is a pediatrician, and their two sons.
Header photo via pool. Gans photo by Eddy Marenco.