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David Barno

Senior Fellow, Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies

Visiting Professor of Strategic Studies


Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Visiting Professor of Strategic Studies 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

Adaptation under fire.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s book reviewed in Military Review, 03/01

Biden has lifted the military ‘trans ban.’ But there’s more work to do.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in The Washington Post, 01/25

Adaptation under fire.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel interviewed on New Book Networks podcast, 01/08

Most read War on the Rocks articles of 2020.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s article and Mark Cancian’s article cited in War on the Rocks, 12/31

War books: Major General Mick Ryan’s 2021 reading list.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s book cited by Modern War Institute, 12/29

Civil-military relations from Trump to Biden.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel quoted in Task & Purpose, 12/16

Elf Confidential: Santa’s 2020 national security gift list.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel wrote in War on The Rocks, 12/15

December 2020 book reviews.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s book reviewed by Association of the U.S. Army, 11/18

Change or die.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel interviewed on War on The Rocks podcast. 11/10

How should U.S. military forces plan for a future that’s nothing but variables?

David Barno and Nora Bensahel interviewed on Federal News Network’s Federal Drive podcast, 11/10