Ambassador Virginia E. Palmer

Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Advisor


A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor, Ambassador Virginia E. Palmer assumed her duties as Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Advisor at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy in August 2019.   She served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malawi from January 2015 until June 2019.  There, she oversaw an annual bilateral assistance budget of more than $500 million and the work of eleven U.S. government agencies.   As Deputy Chief of Mission and ChargĂ© d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa from 2011 to 2014, she was responsible for the strategic direction and operational effectiveness of 1100 staff from 28 U.S. government agencies and oversaw a $480 million/annum PEPFAR (HIV/AIDS) program budget.  She negotiated agreement with the South African government for their takeover of HIV/AIDS care and treatment programs, the first such transition in the world.  As Deputy Chief of Mission and ChargĂ© d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam from 2008-2011, she promoted major trade initiatives and helped shape new U.S. dioxin (Agent Orange) remediation efforts. 

From 2005-2008, Ambassador Palmer was the  State Department’s Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, responsible for terrorist finance issues and establishing regional initiatives to strengthen partner nations’ capacity to degrade terrorist capability.  From 2004-2005, she was Director of the East Asia Bureau’s Office of Economic Policy and the alternate U.S. Senior Official for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) .  From 2001-2004, she was Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

Other postings during her 33 year career include assignments in Canada, Zimbabwe, the People’s Republic of China, and Hong Kong working on political-military affairs, corruption, trade and agriculture, labor and human rights issues, health and development.   In the State Department, she served in the Office of Maghreb Affairs and the Secretary’s Operations Center.  She is the recipient of numerous Superior Honor, Meritorious Honor and Senior Performance awards.

Ambassador Palmer obtained her Masters and did doctoral studies at the University of Virginia.   She received a BSFS. from Georgetown University and also attended Washington University in St. Louis.  She speaks Chinese and French. She and her husband, Ismail Asmal, a retired Foreign Service Officer, have two daughters.