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David Barno

David Barno

Professor of Practice

Senior Fellow, The Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies


Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is Professor of Practice and Senior Fellow at the Merrill Center of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He is also a Contributing Editor and Columnist for War on the Rocks, and an Adjunct Research Staff Member at the Institute for Defense Analyses.

General Barno completed a thirty-year active duty Army career where he commanded at every level, serving as an infantry officer, Ranger and paratrooper. He completed three tours in special operations forces, serving with Army Ranger battalions in combat during both the Panama and Grenada invasions. In 2003, he was selected to establish a new three-star operational headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan and take command of the 20,000 U.S. and coalition forces in Operation Enduring Freedom. For nineteen months as the senior American commander, Barno was responsible for overall coalition military leadership of the war in Afghanistan, implementing a new counterinsurgency strategy in close partnership with the U.S. embassy and coalition allies.

Following his military career, Barno served for four years as the Director of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. Concurrently, he was the Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans and Families from 2007-2009. Following his time at NDU, he spent nearly five years as a Senior Fellow and later Co-Director of the Responsible Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security, a national security think tank based in Washington, D.C. He also later served as a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

General Barno currently serves on the Secretary of Defense’s Reserve Forces Policy Board and is a member of the U.S. Army War College Board of Visitors. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Prior to his present academic position, he was a Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at American University’s School of International Service where he taught graduate and undergraduate programs. He speaks and writes frequently on national security policy, civil-military issues, the changing character of conflict, and leader development. Since leaving military service, he has published extensively and testified before Congress over a dozen times.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, General Barno earned his master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. He has received numerous awards for his military and public service.



  • Defense Analyses

In the News

Strategic outpost brings you Santa’s 2021 national security gift list.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in War on the Rocks, 12/16

Grenada, the evacuation of Afghanistan, and the future of war.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in War on the Rocks, 11/16

Taliban triumph: Anatomy of a disaster in Afghanistan.

David Barno quoted in Nikkei Asian Review, 08/18

Cities fall to Taliban.

David Barno quoted in The London Times, 08/09

Strategic Outpost’s sixth annual summer vacation reading list.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in War on the Rocks, 07/27

In the dark of night: Did exit from Afghan base diminish U.S. leadership?

David Barno quoted in Christian Science Monitor, 07/08

Fixing oversight of special operations forces.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in War on the Rocks, 06/15

How militaries adapt.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel interviewed on Modern War Institute podcast, 05/13

Co-authors of book on military adaptation argue for a cyber force.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel interviewed on Defense Matter, 05/13

Why the United States needs an independent cyber force.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in War on The Rocks, 05/04