Heather Peterson

heather peterson, p0387, heather peterson, p0387
Associate Policy Researcher
Santa Monica Office


M.P.A., Syracuse University; M.A. in international relations, Syracuse University; B.A. in international relations, University of Southern California

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

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Heather Peterson is an associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Prior to joining RAND, she was a foreign affairs specialist in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, or OUSD(P).

Peterson is an expert on security cooperation, peacekeeping, interagency planning, and stability operations. She developed the first DoD Directive on stability operations and negotiated a Presidential Directive on stabilization and reconstruction. Peterson also developed the first interagency guidance for a DoD contingency plan and was instrumental in overhauling DoD's security cooperation planning process. At RAND, she has assessed multiple security cooperation programs for the U.S. Air Force and Army and visited each of the Combatant Commands to evaluate their planning processes for security cooperation.

Peterson has expertise in a wide variety of countries and regions. While in the Department of Defense (DoD), she traveled to Haiti for discussions with the President and UN Force Commander following the U.S. military deployment in 2004 and visited Argentina for bi-lateral talks on peacekeeping. At RAND, she traveled to Nepal to work with their Ministry of Defense on strategy development. In addition, Peterson has conducted in-depth case studies on Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines.

Peterson also has expertise on humanitarian affairs, institutional reform, and strategic planning. While in DoD, she managed the Department's strategic planning relationship with the Australian Department of Defence and the Canadian Department of National Defence and participated in efforts to better align major DoD processes including the planning, programming, budgeting and execution system.

Selected Publications

McNerney, Michael J., Angela O'Mahony, Thomas S. Szayna, Derek Eaton, Caroline Baxter, Colin P. Clarke, Emma Cutrufello, Michael McGee, Heather Peterson, Leslie Adrienne Payne and Calin Trenkov-Wermuth, Assessing Security Cooperation as a Preventive Tool, RAND (RR-350), 2014

Paul, Christopher, Michael Nixon, Heather Peterson, Beth Grill and Jessica Yeats, The RAND Security Cooperation Prioritization and Propensity Matching Tool, RAND (TL-112), 2013

Heather Peterson and Joe Hogler, Understanding Country Planning, RAND (TR-1186-AF), 2012

Schaefer, Agnes Gereben, Lynn E. Davis, Ely Ratner, Molly Dunigan, Jeremiah Goulka, Heather Peterson and K. Jack Riley, Developing a Defense Sector Assessment Rating Tool, RAND (TR-864), 2010

Heather Peterson "Chapter 3: Recent Efforts to Build Capacity," in Bensahel, Nora, Olga Oliker and Heather Peterson, Improving Capacity for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations, RAND (MG-852), 2009

Honors & Awards

  • Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service, Office of the Secretary of Defense (2006)
  • Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service (Bronze Palm), Office of the Secretary of Defense (2008)


  • Peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon patrol the Lebanese-Israeli border, January 19, 2015

    U.N. Peacekeeping Is a Good Deal for the U.S.

    Why should America spend taxpayer dollars on foreign peacekeepers when it could use the money to increase the capabilities of its own military? It turns out that U.N. peacekeepers are an incredibly good deal when compared to U.S. forces.

    Apr 2, 2017 U.S. News & World Report