Michael J. McNerney

Photo of Michael McNerney
Associate Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center; Senior Defense Research Analyst
Washington Office


M.A. in international relations, University of Maryland; B.A. in Government and German, University of Notre Dame

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Michael J. McNerney is an associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center and a senior defense research analyst at the RAND Corporation. His research focuses on defense strategy and planning, civil–military coordination, and international relations. Until April 2011, he was principal director for plans in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. He and his staff supported the Secretary of Defense in providing strategic guidance on U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and interagency plans, planning assessments, force management, and overseas basing. McNerney was a civil servant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for 17 years and a member of the Senior Executive Service. His earlier assignments in the Office of the Secretary of Defense included policy support for security cooperation programs worldwide, U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, international environmental issues, nuclear arms control, and defense budgeting. He spent the 2004/5 academic year on the faculty of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. Prior to working in OSD, McNerney worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has written or coauthored book chapters on civil–military operations in Afghanistan, military involvement in humanitarian activities, and conventional arms control, and an article in Parameters on provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan. McNerney received his M.A. in international relations from the University of Maryland.

Research Focus


  • An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan

    Armed Drone Myth 3: Global Proliferation Demands Blanket Restrictions on Sales

    More than 70 countries have acquired drones of different classes and for different purposes. However, the number of countries actually developing "armed" drones is far smaller. And smaller still is the number of those countries developing long-range armed systems.

    Feb 19, 2015 | The RAND Blog

  • An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft takes off from Joint Base Balad, Iraq

    Armed Drone Myth 2: It's Counterproductive to Develop International Norms

    The challenge in establishing international norms for armed drones will be to define rules that preserve the rights of countries to use them in legitimate ways against legitimate threats (senior al Qaeda or Islamic State terrorists) while constraining illegitimate uses (political dissidents).

    Feb 18, 2015 | The RAND Blog

  • An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flightline at Creech Air Force Base, NV

    Armed Drone Myth 1: They Will Transform How War Is Waged Globally

    Long-range military drones are fundamentally misunderstood. Their champions wrongly contend they are revolutionizing warfare, while critics fear their spread would greatly increase the threat that China, terrorists, and others pose.

    Feb 17, 2015 | The RAND Blog