Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration: Who Is Mira Ricardel?

Friday, March 23, 2018
Mira Ricardel

Mira Radielovic Ricardel, who was a member of Donald Trump’s transition team in the Defense Department, but lost a turf war with Secretary Jim Mattis, was confirmed August 3, 2017, to lead the Bureau of Industry and Security in the Department of Commerce. The bureau grants licenses for the export of sensitive goods and technologies, balancing commercial interests against those of national security, and promotes U.S. trade interests.


Ricardel was born July 5, 1960 and is from Pasadena, California. Her father, Petar, was an immigrant from Bosnia and Herzegovina and her mother’s name is Brigitta. Ricardel learned to speak Croatian at home. She attended Georgetown University, earning a B.S. in International Relations and National Security Studies in 1982 and did some graduate work at Tufts University.


In February 1986, Ricardel took a job with the Department of State as deputy director for congressional affairs in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. She moved over to Capitol Hill in June 1989 as a legislative assistant to Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, even translating for him on trips to the Balkans. When Dole ran for president in 1996, Ricardel served as a foreign and defense policy adviser.


Ricardel left government service in February 1997 to become vice president for programs at Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. The following year, Ricardel struck out on her own as a consultant. Around this time, Ricardel lived in New York and had Monica Lewinsky as a next-door neighbor.


When the Republican George W. Bush administration moved into the White House in September 2001, Ricardel took a job in the Defense Department as deputy assistant secretary for Eurasia. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Ricardel found herself in the “grin-and-bear-it” front lines of U.S. cooperation with dictators in Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. In November 2003, she was named acting assistant secretary for international security policy. In this position, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Ricardel touted the alleged success of the United States in helping the new Iraqi government create a democratic system.


Ricardel moved back to the private sector in July 2005, first as vice president for international business development for Teachscape, which provides education training. The next year, she moved to defense giant Boeing as vice president of business development for the company’s Strategic Missile and Defense Systems division, pitching Boeing’s products to the U.S. and foreign governments. After nine years with Boeing, she left in 2015 to work as a consultant for Federal Budget IQ, a company that helps private sector companies win government contracts.


When Trump won the 2016 presidential election, he brought in Ricardel as the leader of the Defense Department transition team. Early in the administration, she clashed with Mattis over the vetting of nominees for that department. Mattis threatened to quit if Ricardel wasn’t moved out of the Defense Department because she was blocking his choices for various positions. Shortly after, on March 30, 2017, Ricardel was nominated for the Commerce Department post.


Ricardel’s husband, Vincent, is a photographer and senior adviser to the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, an organization Trump has proposed eliminating.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Biography

Statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Bosnia’s Mira Image (by Matthew Rees, Weekly Standard)

Sources: Mattis, Ricardel Clashed Over Pentagon Appointees (by Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould, Defense News)   

Official Announcement


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