John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary, is leaving his role to join the White House as the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, President Joe Biden announced Friday night.

Kirby, who earned praise for his handling of the Pentagon's messaging last summer during the botched withdrawal of Afghanistan, is making the move just a week after White House press secretary Jen Psaki stepped down and was replaced by Karine Jean-Pierre.

"John Kirby is uniquely qualified for this position, and I look forward to bringing his background, knowledge, and experience to the White House," Biden said. "From his work as the assistant secretary and spokesperson at the State Department to his work at the Pentagon, most recently as assistant to the secretary for public affairs and press secretary, John understands the complexities of U.S. foreign and defense policy, and he will ably represent the administration on important national security issues."


Kirby said he was "incredibly honored to be given the opportunity."

"[Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin has been more than just my boss — he’s been a mentor and a confidante, and he has helped make me a better communicator," he said. "He has trusted me to speak for the department, and he has trusted me to speak for him. Those are precious responsibilities, the weight of which I felt and respected every day. I thank him for that. I also thank my entire team at OSD Public Affairs. When I messed up, they fixed it. When I did well, they made it so. I’ve never known a better team of professionals. I am excited to start this next assignment very soon, but I will surely miss each and every one of them.”

Austin said he was "delighted" to see Kirby selected for the new role.

“John has served ably as our spokesperson here at the department since the very first day of this administration, and I have relied deeply on his communications skill these last 18 months," Austin said. "From crisis communications to policy guidance, and through his bold leadership of the public affairs community, John has set the example of integrity, character, transparency, and candor.

“There is simply no other communicator like him, anywhere.

“We will certainly miss him here at the Pentagon, but we all wish him the very best in this new challenge. I know John will serve well our country’s interests in this new capacity,” Austin concluded.


Kirby previously served as the State Department spokesman in the Obama administration.