Kim R. Holmes, executive vice president at The Heritage Foundation, oversaw the think tank’s defense and foreign policy team for more than two decades. As a historian of U.S. political movements and ideology, Holmes writes about America’s place in the world and the changing political landscape.
His latest book, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind” (Encounter, April 2016), reveals how liberals in America are turning their backs on their traditions and have become a force for “illiberalism”—namely, denying their fellow Americans’ rights and freedoms.
His previous books include “Rebound: Getting America Back to Great” (2013) and “Liberty's Best Hope: American Leadership for the 21st Century” (2008).
Holmes was The Heritage Foundation’s vice president for foreign and defense policy studies and director of the Davis Institute for International Studies from 1991 through 2012. The exception: his service, during most of the first term of President George W. Bush from 2002 to 2005, as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs.
Holmes directed Heritage's team of foreign and defense policy experts in four centers on the front lines of international affairs: the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, the Asian Studies Center, the Center for International Trade and Economics, and the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.
Holmes joined Heritage in 1985 and rose to vice president in 1991. He was a founding editor of the annual Index of Economic Freedom, which has become a signature Heritage publication, and in 2019 celebrated its 25th anniversary.
He led the think tank’s efforts to convince the United States to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He launched Heritage’s widely respected homeland security program after September 11, as well as the think tank’s program on international trade. He expanded missile defense studies.
Holmes left Heritage to serve as an assistant secretary of state from 2002 to 2005. After rejoining the think tank in 2005, he wrote the book “Liberty’s Best Hope” and followed up with “Rebound,” a roadmap for the nation to bounce back from a perceived decline by reconnecting with the roots of its greatness.
Recognized around the globe as one of Washington’s foremost foreign and defense policy experts, Holmes is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he formerly served on the Washington Advisory Committee. On August 1, 2019, Dr. Holmes was confirmed by the Senate to the National Council on the Humanities. He is also a Member of the Board of Directors of the Center for International Private Enterprise, and on March 13, 2020 was elected vice-chairman of the board.
Previous appointments include the Defense Policy Board, the U.S. defense secretary’s primary resource for expert outside advice; and public member of the U.S. delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
While at the State Department, Holmes was responsible for developing policy and coordinating U.S. engagement at the United Nations and 46 other international organizations. Important goals achieved at that time include the U.N. mandates enabling Iraq to make the transition to democracy; the Security Council's first binding nonproliferation resolution; the U.N.'s first mandate requiring the Office of Internal Oversight Services to release reports to member states; and establishment of the U.N. Democracy Caucus and U.N. Democracy Fund. His tenure also saw an international outcry over Libya's assuming chairmanship of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which culminated in that body's refashioning.
Holmes holds doctoral and master’s degrees in history from Georgetown University. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He was a research fellow at the Institute for European History in Germany and adjunct professor of European security and history at Georgetown University.
Other published works include Defending the American Homeland, a post 9/11 task force report; Defending America: A Near and Long Term Plan to Deploy Missile Defenses; and Restoring American Leadership: A U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy Blueprint.
His scholarly articles have appeared in journals such as National Interest, Journal Aspenia (Italy), Harvard University's International Security and Columbia University's Journal of International Affairs. For nearly seven years, he wrote a biweekly column on current affairs for The Washington Times.
Holmes is also a member of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, descended from John William Howe who served in Captain Cloyd’s Company of Indian scouts in Virginia, registered in the Fairfax Resolves Chapter of the Virginia Society.