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Thomas Mahnken

Thomas G. Mahnken

Professor of Practice

Co-Director, Master of Arts in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence


Thomas G. Mahnken is Professor of Practice and Co-Director of the Master of Arts in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence at SAIS. Between 1997 and 2016, he served as a Professor of Strategy at the US Naval War College.Prof. Mahnken served as a member of the Congressionally-mandated National Defense Strategy Commission and as a member of the Board of Visitors of Marine Corps University. His previous government career includes service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning from 2006–2009, where he helped craft the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review and 2008 National Defense Strategy. He served on the staff of the 2014 National Defense Panel, 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, and the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. He served in the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment and as a member of the Gulf War Air Power Survey. He served for 24 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, to include tours in Iraq and Kosovo.
He holds a MA and PhD in international affairs from Johns Hopkins SAIS and BA degrees in history and international relations (with highest honors) from the University of Southern California.
In 2009 he was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service and in 2016 the Department of the Navy Superior Civilian Service Medal.
  • Learning the Lessons of Modern War (Stanford University Press, 2020)
  • Net Assessment and Military Strategy: Retrospective and Prospective Essays (Cambria Press, 2020)
  • The Gathering Pacific Storm: Emerging U.S.-China Strategic Competition in Defense Technological and Industrial Development (Cambria Press, 2018)
  • Arms Races in International Politics from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century (Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • Strategy in Asia: The Past, Present and Future of Regional Security (Stanford University Press, 2014)
  • Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, History, and Practice (Stanford University Press, 2012)
  • Technology and the American Way of War Since 1945 (Columbia University Press, 2008)
  • Uncovering Ways of War: U.S. Intelligence and Foreign Military Innovation, 1918–1941 (Cornell University Press, 2002)



  • American Defense Policy
  • American Foreign Policy
  • Arms Control and Disarmament
  • Counterterrorism
  • Elections and Foreign Policy
  • Intelligence
  • International Relations
  • Nuclear Policy and Proliferation
  • Strategic and Security Issues
  • Terrorism
  • U.S. Presidency and Foreign Policy
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction

In the News

The U.S. sea-based nuclear deterrent in a new era.

Thomas G. Mahnken wrote in RealClearDefense, 6/11

Assessing the changing nuclear balance

Thomas G. Mahnken and Jacob Cohn wrote for SAIS Review of International Affairs, 4/17

Preparing for a dark future: Biological warfare in the 21st century

Thomas G. Mahnken wrote in RealClearDefense, 4/16

Antiques road show: The real state of the U.S. military.

Thomas G. Mahnken wrote in The Atlantic, 7/27

Hearing on “A ‘World-Class’ Military: Assessing China’s Global Military Ambitions”.

Thomas G. Mahnken testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 6/20

Andrew W. Marshall: In memoriam.

Thomas G. Mahnken wrote in War on the Rocks, 4/8