Allen received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Notre Dame. He served as a senior staff member of President Nixon's National Security Council in 1968 and served various Republican administrations up to and including that of President Reagan.
In November 1981, while serving as Reagan's National Security Advisor, Allen was accused of receiving a bribe from a Japanese journalist for setting up an interview with First Lady Nancy Reagan. Although the claims were never proven, Allen was eventually pressured into resigning his position.
He is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a founding member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Chairman of the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center Advisory Council, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States Defense Policy Board, the American Alternative Foundation, and the United States National Security Advisory Group. He also serves on the advisory council of the Nixon Center.
Allen is president of the Richard V. Allen Company, a Washington-based consulting services firm. He offers his consulting services and considerable expertise to international companies and organizations. He currently serves on APCO Worldwide's Iraq reconstruction task force  and is considered one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington for South Korean interests.