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Paula Georgia Thornhill

Associate Director of Strategic Studies

Associate Professor of the Practice

Acting Director of the Merrill Center


Paula Thornhill is Associate Director of the Strategic Studies program at Johns Hopkins SAIS and Associate Professor of the Practice. Prior to joining the school she was a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

Thornhill retired from the US Air Force as a brigadier general in 2009. Her last assignment was as the commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (2006-09). Just prior to her time as commandant, Thornhill served as the principal director for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In addition, she has commanded at the group level, taught at the Air Force Academy and been assigned to the Air Staff, the Joint Staff, US Strategic Command, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Thornhill served as the dean of Faculty and Academic Programs at the National War College and as special assistant to the 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard B. Myers, USAF. She has a BS in history from the US Air Force Academy, an MS in strategic studies from the National War College, an MA in history from Stanford University, and a DPhil in history from Oxford University. Thornhill is also an adjunct senior political scientist at the RAND corporation.



  • Military Education and Training
  • Military Force Planning
  • Military Strategy

In the News

Serving the greater good.

Paula Thornhill interviewed in Johns Hopkins HUB, 10/15

Veering toward a civilian-military crisis.

Dean Eliot A. Cohen, David Barno, and Nora Bensahel quoted and Mara Karlin and Paula Thornhill cited in Johns Hopkins Hub, 6/30

“Beyond the beltway”—what’s the civil-military crisis?”

Paula Thornhill wrote in War on the Rocks, 6/17

89 former Defense officials: The military must never be used to violate constitutional rights.

Dean Eliot A. Cohen, Mara Karlin, and Paula Thornhill cited in The Washington Post, 6/5

A military straining against civilian control?

Nora Bensahel, Mara Karlin, and Paula Thornhill interviewed on War on The Rocks podcast, 2/24

Americans have faith in the military, but they don't understand it

Paula Thornhill wrote in The National Interest, 9/11