Elizabeth M. Bartels

Photo of Elizabeth Bartels
Associate Policy Researcher
Washington Office


PhD in policy analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School; M.S. in political science, MIT; B.A. in political science, University of Chicago


Elizabeth (Ellie) Bartels (she/her) is an associate policy researcher and specialist in national security policy analysis gaming. Her work explores a wide range of strategic and operational concerns, with a focus on games on novel topics and those that integrate other analytical techniques. She also advises government centers seeking to improve the quality of their gaming capabilities. Other research includes work on defense planning, force development, and measures short of armed conflict (including long-term competition, gray zone, hybrid warfare, and irregular warfare). 

Prior to joining RAND, Bartels was a senior associate at Caerus Associates, where she led the development and testing of an analytical framework for analyzing and planning urban operations for the U.S. Department of Defense. She previously worked as a research analyst at the National Defense University’s gaming center, where she designed educational and analytical games for military schoolhouses, U.S. interagency initiatives, and partner-nation militaries. Her PhD is from the Pardee RAND Graduate School, where her work focused on how to apply social scientific practices to the design of games for policy analysis. She also has a M.S. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. in political science with a minor in Near Eastern languages and civilization from the University of Chicago. 


  • Naval War College President Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, left, views the wargaming hub at the college's Naval Postgraduate School program in Monterey, CA, January 29, 2020, photo by Javier Chagoya/U.S. Navy

    Wargaming the Department of Defense for Strategic Advantage

    Defense acquisition, personnel, and management systems have long been seen as areas in need of reform, as costs and man-hours continue to increase over the years. Gaming new policies that govern these areas can offer early insights into potential stumbling blocks and provide leaders valuable feedback on decisions before major costs are incurred.

    Aug 3, 2020 War Room

  • Wargaming at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas,  March 9, 2018

    Building a Pipeline of Wargaming Talent: A Two-Track Solution

    How does the Department of Defense imagine the future of war and make long-term investments to confront the challenges ahead? On issues ranging from potential conflicts with Russia to the future of transportation and logistics, senior leaders have increasingly turned to wargames to imagine potential futures.

    Nov 15, 2018 War on the Rocks

  • Smoke trails are seen as rockets are launched towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip July 12, 2014

    Is Iron Dome a Poisoned Chalice? Strategic Risks from Tactical Success

    While Iron Dome's past success in defending Israel makes it a tempting solution to future challenges, it does have shortcomings. This becomes even more serious when considering using the system in Korea, where the threat posed is substantially greater, and the targeted terrain substantially harder to defend.

    Nov 29, 2017 The Strategy Bridge

  • Wargaming at the Naval Postgraduate School

    Adding Shots on Target: Wargaming Beyond the Game

    Figuring out what the future may look like—and what concepts and technology we should invest in now to prepare—is hard. How can the wargaming community build a cycle of research to help understand what these paths might be?

    Oct 9, 2017 War on the Rocks

  • Members of the 183d Air Operations Group conduct simulated battle operations during exercise Virtual Flag, December 2015

    Getting the Most Out of Your Wargame: Practical Advice for Decisionmakers

    While some famous historical cases offer a compelling narrative of what wargames can be at their best and worst, they cannot illustrate the full range of contemporary wargaming that leaders should strive to achieve. A better understanding of how wargames can be helpful — or how they can backfire — is critical.

    Jan 26, 2016 War on the Rocks