Portrait of John Tien

John Tien

Distinguished External Fellow / Professor of the Practice

The Hon. John Tien is a distinguished external fellow at the Georgia Tech Strategic Energy Institute and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. He is also a distinguished professor of the practice in both the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy and a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

Before joining Georgia Tech, Tien was deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from 2021 to 2023. In that role, he was the DHS chief operating officer, overseeing a budget of $105 billion and facilities in all 50 U.S. states and all territories as well as more than 3,000 personnel stationed overseas in more than 75 countries. 

Alongside the secretary of Homeland Security, Deputy Secretary Tien led the policy development, operational oversight, and risk management of the department’s statutory mission areas and subordinate agencies, including cybersecurity and protection of America’s critical physical and cyber infrastructure; disaster preparedness and recovery; supply chain optimization, border security, and free and fair trade; air, pipeline, and rail security; maritime physical and cyber security; citizenship and immigration services; protection of senior officials and safeguarding the U.S. financial system; and counter-narcotics production and trafficking. 

In his broader policy administration role, Deputy Secretary Tien served as a member of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee, the board of the National Counterterrorism Center, and the President’s Management Council. 

Upon his retirement from DHS in 2023, he was awarded two of DHS’ highest civilian awards: the DHS Distinguished Service Medal, and the United States Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Medal. 

Tien previously served in the Obama administration as a National Security Council (NSC) senior director for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Bush administration as an NSC director for Iraq, and the Clinton administration as a White House Fellow for the United States Trade Representative. 

From 2011 to 2021, he held various senior leadership positions at Citigroup as a managing director in their Citi Retail Services and Global Consumer Bank organizations. Before Citigroup, he was a U.S. Army officer, retiring at the rank of colonel. His Army career included commanding an 1,100-soldier armored task force in combat in Iraq, serving overseas for nearly a decade, and teaching political science at West Point. Col. Tien’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Action Badge, and Valorous Unit Award. 

Tien is now serving on the corporate board of directors for Union Pacific Railroad, on the Carter Presidential Center’s Board of Councilors, and as a founding board member of the Avalon Action Alliance, a nonprofit focused on nationally scaling proven healthcare programs to help heal veterans and first responders who struggle with depression, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. He is also an executive partner and ambassador for the Master’s in Business for Veterans program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. 

Tien holds a B.S. in civil engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an M.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives with his wife Tracy in Atlanta and volunteers with and supports numerous local civic institutions including the High Museum of Art.

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