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The Top Ten Accomplishments of Colin Luther Powell (1937–2021)
Kathryn Troutman - Federal Career Coach(r) Kathryn Troutman - Federal Career Coach(r)
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Baltimore, MD
Friday, November 5, 2021


by Nicole Schultheis, JD, Senior SES Writer / Consultant
Catonsville, MD | November 5, 2021

In 2001–2005, Colin Powell served as US Secretary of State – the first African American to do so. Before that, he served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993) and US National Security Advisor (1987–1989). In my opinion, here are his Top Ten Accomplishments as a leader, oldest to newest:

  1. He led the 1989 invasion of Panama, when the United States military stormed the country in a several-day blitz and captured its leader, Manuel Noriega.
  2. He reshaped the US military, which had persisted in Cold War mode for 50 years, and promoted the “Powell Doctrine.” In the run-up to the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War, he articulated US policy which would limit American military action unless national security interests, overwhelming strike capabilities with an emphasis on ground forces, and widespread public support are all present. He framed a new standard for intervention, stating that a nation must exhaust all political, economic, and diplomatic avenues before resorting to military force.
  3. When Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in 1990, Powell urged caution and advocated imposing sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s regime first. He then led Operation Desert Storm, in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq in 1990–1991.
  4. He resolved a crisis with China. Some were promoting fear, pitching China as the next evil empire. Powell rejected this, and in April 2001, helped President Bush successfully resolve the EP-3 American spy-plane incident, avoiding a bigger crisis. In 2004 Powell said our relations with China were the best they had been in over 30 years.
  5. As Secretary of State, after the September 11 attacks, Powell carried out the critical job of managing USA’s relationships with foreign countries, securing a coalition in the War on Terrorism. However, he subsequently exhibited flexibility and resilience, modeling honorable behavior which others should emulate. Whereas Powell had initially spoken before the United Nations about the rationale supporting the Iraq War, he later admitted this hurriedly prepared speech contained major inaccuracies. Thereafter, he pushed for and achieved reform in the intelligence community, ensuring the President was advised by a broader range of expert voices.
  6. Powell shaped lasting US policies toward Africa. He visited multiple countries in Africa in 2001. In 2004, he testified before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the violence in Darfur, which had been plagued by with violence for decades, calling it “genocide.” The use of this term was unprecedented, and led to greater US engagement opposing it. He oversaw the State Department’ creation of a Sudan office, and was personally involved in negotiations of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Nairobi (Kenya).
  7. He served ably as inaugural chair of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, created with strong bipartisan support in 2004 as an independent foreign assistance agency aimed at fighting global poverty. It is led by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the US Trade Representative, the Administrator of USAID, the CEO of MCC and four Senate-confirmed, private sector members appointed by the President.
  8. At the State Department, he restored the morale of demoralized professional diplomats. His military leadership background enabled him to see that morale was critical to the mission. He put Foreign Service professionals the core of his management team, and praised diplomats for serving in dangerous times on the front lines of our foreign policy.
  9. He stood up and led a successful international HIV/AIDS initiative. Under Powell, the administration began several aid programs to fight this disease and build economies; many of them remain. Since 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has distributed over $85 billion globally for HIV/AIDS assistance.
  10. He built other coalitions for good. Expanding upon the existing Presidents’ Summit, he founded and led America’s Promise, the nation’s largest cross-sector alliance of nonprofit, community organizations, businesses, and government organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people. Powell became America’s Promise’s Founding Chairman.

Nicole Schultheis is a senior SES consultant and Program Director of The Resume Place SES Application Writing Webinar Training. Coaching SES candidates to develop SES-worthy content, Nicole helps craft and polish structured narratives that meet the exacting standards of OPM’s Qualifications Review Board. Nicole is a licensed attorney (Maryland) and Certified Federal Job Search Trainer and Career Coach has attained a record of success, helping hundreds of aspiring senior executives attain certification since 2010.


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Kathryn Troutman is the Founder and President of Resume Place, Inc., a Federal Career Consulting business located in Baltimore, MD. Her firm specializes in writing and designing professional federal resumes, as well as consulting, coaching and education on the federal hiring process. She is the author of many best-selling federal career books, including the Federal Resume Guidebook, 7th Ed. See the books at https://resume-place.com/books/

Troutman is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable media guest, appearing on Beverly Jones’s Jazzed about Work on NPR’s WOUB, Carol Fishman Cohen’s 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch (Relaunching Your Career), Mark Miller’s Repurpose Your Career, and numerous times on Mike Causey’s Your Turn show on Federal News Network. Her business, The Resume Place, had been featured in The Washington Post. To hear interviews of this top federal jobs expert, click here.

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