Richard V. Allen, President Ronald Reagan's first national security adviser and a member of the Defense Policy Board during the George W. Bush presidency, is a long-standing political figure closely associated with rightist foreign policy circles. Currently a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank based at Stanford University that serves as home to Condoleezza Rice and other former Bush administration figures, Allen is a frequent op-ed contributor to various U.S. media outlets, including the right-wing National Review and the neoconservative-dominated Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Allen has been a vociferous critic of President Barack Obama, writing op-eds disparaging Obama on everything from his stance on abortion rights to his foreign policy experience. In an April 2009 op-ed for the New York Times, Allen criticized the University of Notre Dame for its decision to invite Obama to give the 2009 commencement address and bestow upon him an honorary degree.
During the 2008 election campaign, Allen argued that Obama's foreign policy experience was paltry compared to previous presidential candidates. Writing shortly after Obama departed for a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan to talk with military commanders, Allen argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Obama had demonstrated little foreign policy acumen, which according to Allen was underscored by Obama's failure to hold hearings on Iraq or Afghanistan as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on European and NATO Affairs. He wrote, "John McCain has 'hands-on' military, foreign policy, and national security experience, starting in 1954 as a midshipman at Annapolis, seven years before Barack Obama was born. He has been in Congress since 1982. So, when we hear about Barack Obama's extensive 'experience' in foreign affairs, most of which will be recently acquired in a mere week of travel amid media fanfare, it should be judged in the context of the experience quotients of his predecessor candidates for the presidency. Perhaps Mr. Obama will now decide to hold the very first hearing of his Senate subcommittee; after all, there would be extensive media coverage."
Earlier, Allen voiced support for the presidential candidacy of Fred Thompson, a former TV star for the show Law & Order and hawkish senator from Tennessee, who Allen compared favorably to Reagan. In an article for National Review Online, Allen wrote, "It is undoubtedly too early to attribute the same comprehensive and plain-spoken vision to Fred Thompson, although his out-of-the-gates speeches and remarks are very reminiscent of Reagan. But if they are there in Thompson they will reveal themselves; the Reagan qualities cannot be feigned or sustained for very long. … Besides, while Reagan approached the 1980 race with no hands-on experience in foreign affairs and national security (though he had fully formed policy positions), Thompson brings broad familiarity with the field, and has been active as chair of the State department's International Security Advisory Board. He has also been affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute."
In 2001, Allen was appointed to serve in then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board (DPB) Advisory Committee, an unpaid Pentagon advisory post. At the time, the DPB was under the leadership of leading neoconservative figure Richard Perle, who later stepped down because of controversy over alleged conflicts of interest between his government and private work. Allen was just one of several Hoover fellows appointed to the board. Others included Martin Anderson, Newt Gingrich, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker, and Henry S. Rowen.
Before being picked to serve on the board, Allen had participated in various advocacy campaigns promoted by neoconservatives, including being a signatory to various open letters published by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a now largely defunct advocacy group that helped build support for the invasion of Iraq and a broad "war on terror."
Like other PNAC supporters, Allen's right-wing credentials date back to the 1970s and 1980s, when he was a member of that era's version of the Committee on the Present Danger and worked in the Reagan and Nixon administrations. Allen served Nixon in various capacities, including as deputy assistant to international economic affairs and as a National Security Council staff member. President Reagan chose Allen to serve as his first national security adviser, a post Allen held until 1982.
Allen's tenure as NSC was short-lived because of a controversy surrounding gifts given to him and Nancy Reagan. According to scholar Phillip Burch, the day after President Reagan's inauguration, "Allen came into possession of a $1,000 gratuity paid in cash from a Japanese magazine, intended for Nancy Reagan in exchange for an interview she had given, which money he placed in a White House safe and then reportedly forgot. Also, it was belatedly discovered that around the same time, Allen had accepted three expensive watches as personal gifts from Japanese friends who were high-level governmental consultants. As a result of these disclosures, Allen was forced to leave his NSC post in early 1982."
Despite his brief stint at Reagan's NSC, the former president appears to have left a lasting mark on Allen, who frequently compares political figures to the former president. In December 2006, for example, Allen penned an article for the conservative publication Human Events in which he attempted to answer the question, "What would Reagan do?" Regarding the Iraq War, Allen speculates that Reagan would have done a better job than George W. Bush: "At the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I was not so certain that Reagan would have chosen to invade Iraq, even based on the intelligence at hand. It is my conclusion that Reagan would have begun an unmerciful and determined squeeze on Saddam, mustered allied support in that effort, and continued to squeeze until internal events in Iraq were arranged in such a fashion as to rid the country of his evil presence. ... A major difference between Reagan and Bush is that Reagan would have actively explained and 'sold' the rationale for his actions, and in this respect, the Bush administration is sorely lacking. Reagan knew that a leader must explain carefully and persuasively so that the public will throw its support behind even the most difficult policies."
Besides his work in support of PNAC and the Committee on the Present Danger, Allen has been actively involved in other elite and/or rightist foreign policy initiatives and organizations. He was the founding chairman of the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center in 1983; was a member of a Council on Foreign Relations independent task force on Korea that released the 1998 report "Managing Change on the Korean Peninsula" (Paul Wolfowitz also served on this task force); and has been a member of the Council for National Policy, the secretive right-wing association whose membership has included Edwin Feulner Jr., Ed Meese, and Gary Bauer, among many other high-profile conservative figures.
After the death of Jeane Kirkpatrick, Allen wrote an obituary for the New York Times in which he recounted how the woman who once called herself an "AFL-CIO Democrat" eventually became Reagan's nominee for UN ambassador. Allen, who introduced Kirkpatrick to Reagan, also recalled: "One important bridge between Ronald Reagan and Democrats like Ms. Kirkpatrick was an organization called the Committee on the Present Danger, of which she and I were among the founders in late 1976."
Along with his political activities, Allen has had a long career working as a financial consultant, founding the consulting firm Potomac International in the 1970s. This work landed him in several scandals. According to the Washington Post, "It was around  that Allen was paid $10,000 per month for about six months to do consulting work for Howard Cerny, a lawyer for fugitive financier Robert Vesco. Allen, however, was never accused of any involvement in Vesco's alleged swindling. In 1976, Allen was accused in a Senate hearing of soliciting a $1 million campaign contribution for the Nixon reelection fund from Grumman International, a defense contracting firm, in return for pressure on Japan to buy a Grumman plane. Allen denied the charge by a former Grumman official, and it has never been proved [sic] ... On Oct. 30, 1980, Allen resigned from the Reagan campaign because of conflict-of-interest charges reported in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal article said Allen conducted private business negotiations with Japanese companies during his time at the White House in the early '70s; the article also said that Allen, as a result of his actitivties [sic], claimed the right to benefit from a $120,000 per year account that an associate obtained from Datsun, the Japanese automaker."
Allen has also served as a senior counselor to consulting firm APCO Worldwide and in May 2003 became a member of its "Iraq Reconstruction Task Force," which the firm created to "help existing and potential clients navigate the complicated bureaucratic terrain of contracts and subcontracts from the United States government to rebuild Iraq."