Cynthia R. Cook

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Director, Acquisition and Technology Policy Center, RAND National Defense Research Institute; Senior Management Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
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Ph.D. in sociology, Harvard University; B.S. in management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

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Cynthia Cook is director of the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center, part of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Since joining RAND in 1997, she has led and worked on a wide range of studies for the U.S. Air Force, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army, and the UK Ministry of Defence on subjects including defense acquisition, cost analysis, the defense industrial base, aircraft production alternatives, aircraft sustainment, and contracting practices. She was formerly the associate director of Project AIR FORCE.

Prior to joining RAND, Cook was a research specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on the Lean Aerospace Initiative. Before her graduate studies, she worked in New York as an investment banker, specializing in high-yield finance. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University and a B.S. in management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Previous Positions

Research Specialist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Recent Projects

  • Acquisition policy and cyber acquisition
  • Weapon systems sustainment, including contractor logistics support
  • Science and technology policy
  • Implementation of organizational change

Selected Publications

Michael Boito, Cynthia R. Cook, John C. Graser, Contractor Logistics Support in the U.S. Air Force, RAND Corporation (MG-779-AF), 2009

Obaid Younossi et al., Improving the Cost Estimation of Space Systems, RAND Corporation (MG-690-AF), 2008

Frank Camm, Cynthia R. Cook, Ralph Masi, Anny Wong, What the Army Needs to Know to Align Its Operational and Institutional Activities, RAND Corporation (MG-530-A), 2007

Cynthia R. Cook et al., Assembling and Supporting the Joint Strike Fighter in the UK: Issues and Costs, RAND Corporation (MR-1771-MOD), 2005

Mark A. Lorell et al., Price-Based Acquisition: Issues and Challenges for Defense Department Procurement of Weapons Systems, RAND Corporation (MG-337-AF), 2005

Cynthia R. Cook et al., Rethinking How the Air Force Manages Sustainment Surge, RAND Corporation (MG-372-AF), 2005

Honors & Awards

  • President's Award, RAND Corporation
  • Silver Medal Award, RAND Corporation


  • William LaPlante, assistant secretary of Air Force acquisition, testifies on acquisition reform before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, April 22, 2015

    Apply Principles of Professional Change Management to Any Acquisition Reform, or Risk More Failure

    If Congress enacts substantial changes to acquisition processes as part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, then it has a responsibility to ensure that the DoD has the opportunity and resources to implement proven change management principles to increase the chances for its success.

    Aug 7, 2015 The Hill

  • U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors as they fly over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., March 3, 2011

    Lessons from a Long History of Acquisition Reform

    Congress and the DoD have a long history of efforts to improve the way weapon systems are acquired. Now, significant changes to DoD acquisition policies and processes are again being proposed in the House and Senate in an attempt to get needed military capabilities to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines faster and cheaper.

    Jul 17, 2015 The Hill