Prior to joining Deutsche Bank, Burnham served as Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Management, the “chief operating officer” of the United Nations. Appointed by Kofi Annan on June 1, 2005, Burnham was the highest-ranking American in the United Nations Secretariat. He was tasked by Secretary General Annan with overhauling the accountability and transparency of the United Nations in the wake of the Oil for Food scandal. Burnham was also responsible for all human resources, information technology, treasury, finance, budgeting, accounting, peacekeeping finance and budgeting, and facilities at the United Nations, and served as the sole fiduciary of the $40 billion United Nations pension fund.
Within one year of his appointment, Burnham led in the creation of a new United Nations Ethics Office, the creation of a United Nations Independent Audit Advisory Committee, the adoption of new International Public Sector Accounting Standards, and he created and produced the first comprehensive consolidated annual report in the history of the United Nations. In addition, he implemented a new whistleblower protection policy which has received independent recognition as the “gold standard” of such policies, and he led the reform of new financial disclosure reporting by senior United Nations officials and staff, based on the U.S. Government model.
Burnham joined the United Nations after serving as acting Under Secretary of State for Management for Secretary Condoleezza Rice, and as Assistant Secretary of State for Resource Management and chief financial officer of the State Department for General Colin Powell. Burnham joined the Department of State in September 2001.
Under Burnham's leadership, the State Department rebuilt all global financial operations, consolidated all budgeting, accounting and disbursing, strategic planning, budget and performance integration, and global financial operations. A two-decade old Wang-based accounting system was replaced with one integrated Web-based global financial reporting system. All budgeting was linked to performance measures for all aspects of the Department, and a business planning process was implemented for all bureaus and embassies. In addition, the Department produced the first joint performance plans with USAID, the first joint annual report on performance and reporting with USAID, and also for the first time, the Department eliminated all material weakness from its financial audit.
A twenty-three year veteran of the United States Marine Corps Reserve and Lieutenant Colonel, in 1990 Burnham volunteered for active duty and served as an infantry platoon commander in the Gulf War. He and his men were part of the lead Allied forces to reach and liberate Kuwait City on February 27, 1991.
In 1987, Burnham was elected to the first of three terms in the Connecticut House of Representatives, where he served as assistant minority leader. He was elected Treasurer of Connecticut in 1994, and quickly overhauled, reformed, and modernized the Connecticut Treasury. He eliminated 90% of the $7 billion unfunded liability in the workers compensation second injury fund, reduced 25% of staff positions, and turned the worst performing state pension fund in the country into one of the top performing pension systems. Burnham was defeated in his bid for the 1992 U.S. Senate Republican nomination in the Republican Primary of that year.
Prior to his service to the United States, Burnham had a distinguished career in business and elected office, including as president and chief executive officer of Columbus Circle Investors, at the time PIMCO's largest equity management subsidiary, and as vice chairman of PIMCO mutual fund group. Earlier in his career, Burnham was an investment banker with CS First Boston, and with Advest, Inc.
Burnham graduated from the Kent School in 1975. He completed his B.A. in Political Science at Washington & Lee University in 1980 and attended Georgetown's National Security Studies Program from 1987 to 1988. He then completed his M.P.A. from Harvard University in 1990.
Burnham was the youngest Under Secretary General at the United Nations during his tenure. At the time of his confirmation by the United States Senate, Burnham was the youngest Assistant Secretary in the State Department. And during his term in office, Burnham was the youngest state treasurer in the nation.2011 Elected to Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), the national leadership honor society, by Washington and Lee University;
2007 One To World Fulbright Award for Global Public Service;
2005 United States Secretary of State's Award for Distinguished Service (highest award in the Department);
2004 Presidential Award for Management Excellence for "Innovative and Exemplary Practices in Budget and Performance Integration;”
2004 Association of Government Accountants "CEAR" Award for excellence in financial reporting (one of only four Federal departments);
2003 Association of Government Accountants "CEAR" Award for excellence in financial reporting (one of only three Federal departments);
2002 Association of Government Accountants "CEAR" Award for excellence in financial reporting (first ever awarded to the Department of State);
2000 Finalist, Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year" Award;
1997 "Individual Excellence Award" by the New England Association of Comptrollers;
1996 National Government Finance Officer's Association Award for excellence in financial reporting (first ever awarded to any state treasury);
1996 "Outstanding Citizen" Award, Greenwich Chambers of Commerce;
1995 "Friend of Democracy Award" by Connecticut Common Cause for authoring legislation to stop "Pay to Play;”
1991 Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Citation, Meritorious Unit Citation;
1988 "Legislator of the Year," Connecticut Children's Coalition.