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Politics, Protests, and the Post-Pandemic World: Civil-Military Relations Moving Forward

April 8, 2021 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Third Annual Conference on Civil-Military Relations

Hosted by the SAIS Merrill Center and Duke University's Program in American Grand Strategy, with support from the America in the World Consortium.

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Merrill Center and Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy co-hosted the annual conference on civil-military relations in February 2020, facilitating an organic and respectful dialogue on military service, the military experience, and the civil-military divide. Building on the 2020 conference, the 2021 conference, hosted virtually via Zoom by the America in the World Consortium (Duke University, Johns Hopkins SAIS, the University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University, and the Ohio State University), will highlight the importance of:

  • Examining civil-military relations within the context of the Trump administration, national-level movements and crises, and a presidential transition;
  • Presenting various dimensions of current civil-military relations debates, with a focus on political polarization and partisanship;
  • Challenging the audience to think critically about how cyberwarfare is shaping the future of civil-military relations and the military-civilian government-private sector relationship; and
  • Continuing to raise questions of leadership, ethics, and morals within military and civilian command, and national service more broadly.




5:00pm – 5:15pm                   

Welcome & Opening Remarks

5:15pm – 6:15pm                  

Panel 1: The American Public and Its Military

  • Matthew Donovan, President and CEO, Airpower Associates LLC; Former Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness, U.S. Department of Defense; Former Under Secretary of the Air Force, U.S. Department of Defense
  • Randee Farrell, Fellow, Counterterrorism and Public Policy Program, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
  • Debra Wada, Senior Advisor, The Roosevelt Group; Vice Chair, National Commission on Military, National and Public Service; Former Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Department of the Army, U.S. Department of Defense

6:15pm – 6:30pm                   


6:30pm – 7:30pm                   

Panel 2: Politicization of the Military

  • Jessica D. Blankshain, Assistant Professor, National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval War College
  • Eric S. Edelman, Roger Hertog Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Philip Merrill Center, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies 
  • Jim Golby, Senior Fellow, Clements Center for National Security, University of Texas at Austin; Adjunct Senior Fellow, Military, Veterans, and Society Program, Center for a New American Security; Co-host, “Thank You for Your Service” Podcast


5:00pm – 6:00pm                   

Panel 3: Civil-Military Relations at the Senior Level

  • Suzanne Nielsen, Professor and Head, Department of Social Sciences, United States Military Academy at West Point
  • Alexander Vindman, PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
  • Kathryn Wheelbarger, Former Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense

6:00pm – 6:15pm                   


6:15pm – 7:15pm                   

Panel 4: A New Dimension in Civil-Military Relations: Military, Civilian Government, and the Private Sector in Cyberspace

  • David Burbach, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval War College
  • Marc Losito, Carlucci Fellow and Fellow in American Grand Strategy, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
  • Thomas Rid, Professor of Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

7:15pm – 7:30pm                   

Closing Remarks

Location: Online SAIS Event