Christopher T. O’Neil
National Association of Government Communicators
Chris O’Neil assumed the duties of President elect of the National Association of Government Communicators in June 2015 after serving on the association’s board of directors for three years as their Communications Director.
Representing government communicators from local, county, state, tribal and federal governments, O’Neil helps set the strategic direction of an association dedicated to the goals of better communication, understanding, and cooperation among all people. NAGC members believe that truth is sacred; that providing public information is an essential civil service; and that each citizen has a right to equal, full, understandable, and timely facts about the activities, policies and people of the agencies comprising his or her government. O’Neil directs the activities of other board members, in concert with the president’s vision, to advocate, promote and recognize excellence in government communication.
O’Neil practices his profession as the Chief of the Media Relations Division, in the Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications, at the National Transportation Safety Board, assuming that position in January 2016 following his tenure as the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Public Affairs, at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. O’Neil has more than 29 years of public affairs experience gained through full-time and collateral-duty public affairs positions in both government and military public affairs offices.
His military full-time public affairs positions include assignments to Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs, New York, New York; 7th Coast Guard District Public Affairs, Miami, Florida, Coast Guard Chief of Media Relations, Coast Guard Headquarters, and Coast Guard Chief of Strategic Communication, Coast Guard Headquarters. He also gained public affairs experience as a collateral duty public affairs officer for operational assignments at the 438th Security Police Squadron, McGuire AFB, NJ; Coast Guard Station New York; Coast Guard Marine Safety Office Morgan City, LA; and Marine Safety Office St. Louis, MO.
O’Neil has twice been hand selected to write the public affairs annexes to Department of Homeland Security Plans for maritime and land mass migration. He contributed to the rewrite of National Response Team Joint Information Center Manual, focusing on better alignment between the ESF-15 and NRT JIC structures and functions.
As the Coast Guard’s Chief of Media Relations, O’Neil was responsible for developing and implementing policy and doctrine for all Coast Guard media relations activities and served as a national spokesperson. He supported two area and nine district public affairs officers and their staffs, and directly supervised a staff of four. O’Neil deployed to provide public affairs support for the responses to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. He served as the Chief of Strategic Communication on the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill Response National Incident Command Staff, from May to July 2010, and served as the Gulf Coast Incident Command/Unified Area Command Public Information Officer in New Orleans, from October to November 2010. He deployed to Juneau, Alaska, to serve as the external affairs officer for Operation Arctic Shield 2012.
As the Chief of the Office of Strategic Communication, O’Neil served as the Coast Guard’s technical authority on the design, development and execution of national level communication action plans that conveyed strategic intent to internal and external audiences by synchronizing and integrating the communication efforts of more than 60 public and governmental affairs officers at 13 regional offices across the U.S. He concurrently served as Public Affairs Officer for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Military Campaign Office, providing the full spectrum of public affairs services including national spokesperson, communications planning, counsel, theme and key message development, interviews, interview preparation for principals and subject matter experts.
At the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Public Affairs, he led, directed and coordinated the activities of 94 personnel to develop, implement and manage external and internal communication strategies that met the operational objectives and organizational priorities of the nation’s largest federal law enforcement agency. O’Neil was instrumental in the development of strategy and policy for the release of information in use of force incidents and served as a non-voting member on the agency’s National Use of Force Review Board. He also served on the CBP Employee Engagement Steering Committee, International Trade Committee and the Automated Commercial Environment Steering Committee. He also drafted a comprehensive public affairs doctrine and policy document – the CBP Public Affairs Policy Handbook.
O’Neil holds three degrees; a Master’s in Public Relations from Boston University; a Bachelor’s in Communication from Charter Oak State College; and an Associate’s in Criminal Justice from University of Phoenix.
O’Neil’s professional volunteer work includes serving on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Government Communicators as President-Elect, and prior membership in the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter on the Public and Government Affairs Committee.
He is married to his wife of 27 years, April O’Neil. His daughter, Christina, is an IT specialist with Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.