David E. Johnson

Photo of David Johnson
Senior Political Scientist
Washington Office


Ph.D. and M.A. in history, Duke University; M.S., Industrial College of the Armed Forces; M.M.A.S., U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; B.A., Trinity University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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David Johnson is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation whose research focuses on military doctrine, history, innovation, civil-military relations, and professional military education. From June 2012 to July 2014 he was on loan to the Army to establish and direct the Chief of Staff of the Army Strategic Studies Group for General Raymond Odierno. He is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, teaching a course on strategy. Before joining RAND, Johnson was a vice president at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). He joined SAIC after a 24-year Army career serving in the Infantry, Quartermaster, and Field Artillery branches in a variety of command and staff assignments in the United States, Korea, and Europe. He retired as a colonel in 1997. Johnson received the National Defense University President's Strategic Vision Award for Excellence in Research/Writing and the SAIC Publication Prize for his book Modern U.S. Civil-Military Relations: Wielding the Terrible Swift Sword. He has also received RAND President's, Gold, and Bronze awards. His work has been on the professional reading lists of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Chiefs of Staff, The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Commander, the Chief of Staff Royal Air Force (United Kingdom), the Royal Australian Air Foce Chief of Staf, and the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. His latest RAND books are Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza and The 2008 Battle of Sadr City: Reimagining Urban Combat. Johnson received a Ph.D. in history from Duke University.

Previous Positions

Colonel, U.S. Army

Recent Projects

  • Joint warfighting implications of lessons learned from recent conflicts
  • Modern urban combat operations
  • The evolving roles of ground power and air power

Selected Publications

David E. Johnson, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, RAND Corporation (MG-1085-A/AF), 2012

David E. Johnson et al., Preparing and Training for the Full Spectrum of Military Challenges: Insights from the Experiences of China, France, the United Kingdom, India, and Israel, RAND Corporation (MG-836), 2009

David E. Johnson et al., In the Middle of the Fight: An Assessment of Medium-Armored Forces in Past Military Operations, RAND Corporation (MG-709-A), 2008

David E. Johnson, Learning Large Lessons: The Evolving Roles of Ground Power and Air Power in the Post-Cold War Era, RAND Corporation (MG-405.1), 2007

David E. Johnson et al., Conventional Coercion Across the Spectrum of Operations: The Utility of U.S. Military Forces in the Emerging Security Environment, RAND Corporation (MR-1494), 2002

David E. Johnson, Preparing Potential Senior Army Leaders for the Future: An Assessment of Leader Development Efforts in the Post-Cold War Era, RAND Corporation (IP-224), 2002

David E. Johnson, Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers: Innovation in the U.S. Army 1917-1945, Cornell University Press, 1998

McNair Paper No. 57, "Modern U.S. Civil-Military Relations: Wielding the Terrible Swift Sword," National Defense University Press, 1997

Honors & Awards

  • President's Strategic Vision Award, National Defense University
  • Gold Merit Award (2007), RAND Corporation
  • President's Award (2009), RAND Corporation

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Agence France-Presse; Army Times; Associated Press; Aviation Week; BBC World News Service; Boston Globe; Defense News; Defense Technology International; GlobalSecurity.org; Government Executive; Inside the Army; Inside Defense; Israel Air Force Magazine; Jane's Defence; Military.com; National Defense Magazine; National Public Radio; North County Times; San Diego Union Tribune; Wall Street Journal; Washington Post; Wired; WTOP/Federal News Radio

Commentary: Providence Journal


  • Armored vehicles of Iraqi security forces with militias known as Hashid Shaabi passing smoke arising from a clash with Islamic State militants in the town of al-Alam, March 10, 2015

    Means Matter: Competent Ground Forces and the Fight Against ISIL

    If Iraqi security forces are incapable of defeating ISIL in the cities where they have gone to ground, then the only reliable means available are U.S. ground combat forces. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have all the skills in joint combined arms warfare that the ISF lacks.

    Mar 19, 2015 | War on the Rocks

  • Soldiers move to secure a helicopter landing zone in Paktika Province

    Failure to Learn: Reflections on a Career in the Post-Vietnam Army

    In the aftermath of a decade of war, the Army must have an objective, serious debate — one that it never engaged in after Vietnam — to understand its experiences, both good and bad.

    Jan 27, 2014 | War on the Rocks

  • Iran's Counter-Strike

    Iran's headstrong attempt to join the world's nuclear-weapons club is setting the stage for a military confrontation that nobody wants, but may happen anyway, writes David E. Johnson.

    Feb 25, 2010 | Providence Journal and GlobalSecurity.org

  • Ends, Ways, and Means—the Debate We Still Need on Afghanistan

    When President Obama explained his decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to support General Stanley McChrystal's new counterinsurgency campaign, he left a key question unanswered: Will this be enough to achieve U.S. strategic ends in Afghanistan? writes David E. Johnson.

    Dec 9, 2009 | RAND.org