At a Glance
- Career History: National intelligence officer for Africa at the National Intelligence Council (2006-2009); Senior vice president at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. (2003-2006); Ambassador to Kenya (1999-2003); Principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs (1997-1999)
- Birthday: April 7, 1943
- Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
- Alma Mater: University of London, master's in international relations from the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1976; Drake University, B.A. in history and political science, 1965
- Spouse: Anne Diemer Carson
- Office: U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520, 202.647.4440
- Web site
Path to Power
Carson's passion for Africa began early -- upon graduation from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa in 1965, the Chicago native joined the Peace Corps and headed to Tanzania, where he spent the next three years teaching in a small village.
After returning to the United States, Carson joined the foreign service and was returned to Africa, this time to Nigeria. He served as a consular and political officer in Lagos from 1969 to 1971, then came back to work at Washington headquarters as desk officer for Angola, Mozambique, and Namibia in the bureau of intelligence and research until 1974.
Disease, lack of food security and intractable conflict are among the long list of challenges facing Africa and, in turn, U.S. policy in the region. Carson's lifelong devotion to the region plus his intelligence expertise make him well-equipped to address these problems as well as global terrorism from al Qaeda-linked groups in the region.
At a September 2009 event entitled "A New Beginning: U.S. Policy in Africa," Carson said there has been progress in many areas of Africa but its "potential has yet to be fulfilled." While the U.S. needs to "nurture budding success stories," we also "must acknowledge that Africa is poor," he said, pointing to insufficient infrastructure, cash-strapped governments and both natural and manmade disasters that lead to an undeniable "harshness of life."
Carson seems to make friends wherever he goes, prompting Todd Moss, a former deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs in the George W. Bush administration to say, "I've never heard of anybody who hates him, which is uncommon in Washington." Carson has worked for both Clintons, and even confessed to a possible "Freudian slip" when he accidentally called Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton the president in a press briefing ahead of Clinton's Africa tour.
In September of 2004, Carson made a $250 donation to Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, an ad hoc organization of retired and active military and foreign service officers supporting Sen. John F. Kerry in his bid to unseat former President George W. Bush. The group accused Bush of failing in "the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership."