Andrew F. Knaggs (born August 30, 1974) is a former Green Beret, attorney, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism in the Trump Administration. He is currently a candidate for United States Congress for Virginia’s 7th District as a Republican.
Early Life and Education:
A first-generation American, Knaggs was born in New York to a Haitian father and Barbadian mother, both of whom became naturalized citizens.
Following high school, Knaggs attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
After leaving the Army in 2005, Knaggs attended William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia and graduated in 2008 with a juris doctor degree. While in law school, Knaggs was elected president of the William & Mary chapter of the Federalist Society and served as a General Editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Volume 30, Number 1, 2006.
Upon graduation from West Point in 1996, Knaggs was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and joined the 11th Engineer Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division, headquartered at Fort Stewart, Georgia. In 1998, as a combat engineer platoon leader in 3rd ID, Knaggs deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Thunder.
Knaggs went on to become a Special Forces officer and joined the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) headquartered at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. There, he commanded an Operational Detachment-A which specialized in High-Altitude Low-Opening (HALO) airborne operations, sensitive site exploitation, and time-sensitive targeting.
As a Green Beret in 5th Group, Knaggs deployed for combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003 and Operation Iraqi Freedom II in 2004. While in command of his Special Forces team during Operation Iraqi Freedom II, Knaggs conducted joint special operations in western Iraq in collaboration with multiple interagency and indigenous elements. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for combat actions directly contributing to the coalition’s success.
After graduating from law school in 2008, Knaggs was hired as a legal associate in a regional law firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. In 2013, he founded Knaggs Law PLLC.
Department of Defense:
In 2009, DoD’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) hired Knaggs as a federal civilian employee to serve as the Operations Support Branch Chief. Later he was promoted to GS-15 and served as the Chief of Research & Engineering Division. In this role, in addition to managing JIEDDO’s technology research and development effort, Knaggs led research investigating the DoD’s potential use of venture capital for the discovery and development of new, mission-oriented capabilities.
In 2013, following his time at JIEDDO, Knaggs was asked to join to the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he served as the Deputy Director for Special Operations & Irregular Warfare. Knaggs left the federal civil service in 2014.
In 2017, Knaggs was selected by the Trump Administration for appointment to the Senior Executive Service, and for assignment as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism. He was sworn in on September 5, 2017. In that role, Knaggs led the Department’s policies, plans, authorities and resources related to special operations and irregular warfare, with special emphasis on counter-terrorism, counterinsurgency, unconventional warfare, information operations and sensitive special operations.
Knaggs has spoken extensively around the world on a range of security topics, including DoD’s approach to irregular warfare, countering violent extremism in Southeast Asia, comprehensive security responses to terrorism, strategic developments in information operations, and countering militarized terrorism.
He was the keynote speaker at Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Veterans Day Ceremony in 2017, 2018, and 2019. In 2018, The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star quoted Knaggs as stating “The last 17 years of conflict, since 9/11, have taken a great toll on our armed forces and individual service members…and yet all of you have stood the test of time and risen to the challenges put before you. All of us in leadership at the Department of Defense are immensely proud of all you do.”
Knaggs resigned from the Trump Administration on September 20, 2019.
2020 Congressional Campaign:
On October 1st, 2019, Knaggs announced his candidacy for U.S. Congress against incumbent Abigail Spanberger to represent Virginia’s 7th District. Knaggs describes himself as a lifelong conservative; he is a proponent of stronger border security and opposes stricter gun-control laws. In an interview discussing his candidacy, Knaggs said: “I am running for office because I believe the Democrats’ vision for this country is wrong,” and, “I think it’s not aligned with principles our nation was founded on. Congresswoman Spanberger’s principles are not aligned with the voters of the 7th District.”
Knaggs married his wife, Sara, in 1998. They have two children. They have lived in Virginia since 2005 and they built a home in Montpelier, Hanover County, Virginia in 2008. Knaggs served as the Parliamentarian on the Hanover County Republican Executive Committee. Knaggs is a life member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Knaggs currently serves as an adjunct professor at The George Washington University Law School, where he teaches a course on national security law and holds the position of Professorial Lecturer in Law.