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Nora Bensahel

Nora Bensahel

Professor of Practice

Senior Fellow, The Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies 


Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Visiting Professor of Strategic Studies and Senior Fellow of the Merrill Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and a Contributing Editor and Columnist for War on the Rocks. She is also an Adjunct Research Staff Member at the Institute for Defense Analyses.  Her work focuses on the future of warfare, and military strategy and operations. She is the co-author of the recently-published book Adaptation Under Fire: How Militaries Change in Wartime, and currently serves on the Executive Board of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS).

Before joining SAIS, Dr. Bensahel was a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the School of International Service at American University and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. Prior to that, she was a senior fellow and co-director of the Responsible Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security. Her early career included over eleven years at the RAND Corporation, where she rose to the position of senior political scientist. She also spent more than a decade as an adjunct professor in the Security Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, where she taught graduate classes and received the Alumni Leadership Council Teaching Award.

Dr. Bensahel received her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from the Department of Political Science at Stanford University, and her B.A. magna cum laude from Cornell University. While at Stanford, she worked as a research assistant for former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry.  She previously served on the Secretary of Defense’s Reserve Forces Policy Board, and the President’s Council on Cornell Women.



  • Defense Analyses
  • U.S. defense policy
  • U.S. and coalition military operations

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

Could cyberwar make the world safer?

Nora Bensahel quoted in New York Times, 8/23

Strategic Outpost’s sixth annual summer vacation reading list.

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

The 2021 War on the Rocks summer fiction reading list.

Nora Bensahel quoted in War on the Rocks, 07/09

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

Transforming the U.S. Army for the 21st century.

Nora Bensahel wrote in Parameters 03/02

Adaptation under fire.

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