Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense. In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.
Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.
Question: How did you get into your line of work?
Armitage: Well I was on a ship off the coast of Vietnam after I graduated from the Naval Academy. And then I went three in country tours as an ambush team leader and a senior advisor of the River Patrol Division. I got out of the . . . out of uniform around the time of the Paris cease fire in 1973 and became an official under the attaché office in Saigon, Vietnam. And I was there at the fall of Vietnam. Following that I went to Tehran, Iran where I lived for almost a year with the Defense Representatives’ Office. Following that I went to Capitol Hill and was Bob Dole’s . . . Senator Bob Dole’s Administrative Assistant. I joined the George Herbert Walker Bush Campaign in ’79. And when he became Vice President, I was invited to join the Reagan campaign. I was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, and I was an Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. Bush 41 appointed me an ambassador to negotiate water in the Middle East, negotiate the Philippine bases; sent me to see King Hussein of Jordan during the Gulf War. Then finally during the last year and a half of his administration, I was the ambassador in charge of assistance for the states of the former Soviet Union. And most recently I spent four years as Deputy Secretary of State under the leadership of Secretary of State Colin Powell. I had the biggest surprise of my life when Her Majesty’s government presented me with a Knighthood – a KCMG, Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. It was completely unexpected. It was an enormous honor, and it’s something that my family was quite interested in. They have not been interested in military decorations I got, or awards I had won in almost 20 years of government service. But for a knighthood, something stirred in all their breasts, and almost all the kids came, and of course my wife.