Kelly Degnan, who was confirmed by the Senate on December 19 as the next U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, was sworn in on January 16.
In hear swearing-in remarks, Ambassador Degnan said she feels “particularly honored to be selected to be the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, a country that shares America’s love of freedom and democracy.” “Like America, Georgia has had to fight for its independence – a hard-won independence that remains under threat from Russia,” she noted.
Degnan added that “now we are fighting together in NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to help Afghans secure their freedom and build their democracy.”
New U.S. Ambassador also noted that “like Americans, Georgians want to grow businesses, vote in fair elections, hear from a responsible media, worship freely, and raise their families in a country where rule of law governs.”
Ambassador Degnan said “I’m also committed to continuing America’s deep collaboration with Georgia, including on democratic development, trade and prosperity, and security cooperation.” She further added that “through joint training and exercises, we are strengthening Georgia’s ability to defend its own borders — an important sign of America’s steadfast commitment to support Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Degnan noted that “our assistance programs, including a robust USAID mission, promote inclusive economic growth and support the development of strong democratic institutions,” adding that “our military and security cooperation enhances Georgia’s interoperability with U.S. and NATO forces, contributes to regional and global security, and makes Georgia better prepared to defend its territory.”
Ambassador Degnan then spoke of Georgia’s achievements since restoring its independence from Soviet occupation. “Even as we look toward Georgia’s promising future, it’s worth remembering Georgia’s starting point, and just how much the country has achieved, despite war, occupation, economic embargoes, and a hostile, aggressive neighbor,” Degnan said.
Degnan underlined that “Georgians have transformed a former Soviet Republic into a functioning, democratic State — no small feat. Georgia has made impressive progress on ease of doing business, tackling corruption, and building the institutions necessary to support democracy.”
She then highlighted that “the focus now is on implementing systems and laws to ensure greater equality, justice, and transparency.” Speaking of crucial October 2020 polls, Degnan said “Parliamentary elections later this year are an important opportunity for Georgians to show the world that the progress they have worked so hard for cannot be reversed.”
“I look forward to working with the Georgian government and civil society to support a free and fair election process,” new U.S. Ambassador to Georgia further noted.
Degnan also stressed that “we have an ambitious work plan with Georgia, and high expectations of our Georgian friends.” She then added that “Georgians have shown they have the determination, and the fortitude to implement the reforms needed to protect the democratic process they have worked so hard to establish, and that is essential to Georgia’s trans-Atlantic integration.”
“There is no doubt that Georgia is an important and strategic partner for the United States,” Degnan underlined, further noting that “during almost 30 years of working together, we have witnessed a remarkable transformation – the result of Georgians’ courage and love for their country’s independence.”
U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Kelly Colleen Degnan, native of California, as the new U.S. ambassador to Georgia in September 2019. The position has remained vacant for year and half since Ambassador Ian C. Kelly completed his mission in March 2018.
Degnan, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with 26 years of experience, recently served as the Political Advisor to the Commander of United States Naval Forces Europe–Africa. Degnan’s prior diplomatic postings include Rome, Pristina, Ankara, Brussels and Khost, Afghanistan.
In her hearing speech October 29, military and security issues loomed large. Degnan also spoke of Georgia’s Russian occupation, as well as stressed that Georgia’s commitment to the rule of law and democracy is “fundamental.”
Degnan obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and the doctorate in law from the University of Southern California Law Center.
Besides her native English, Degnan speaks Italian, French, Turkish and Urdu.