John Birkler

John Birkler
Adjunct Senior Fellow
Off Site Office


M.S. in physics, University of South Carolina; B.S. in physics, Roanoke College

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

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John Birkler is an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND Corporation. He has held a variety of research and management positions since joining RAND. From 1987 to 1997, he served as director, Acquisition and Support Policy Program, then from 1998 to 2019, as director of RAND's Maritime Programs, where he led and managed research for the U.S. Navy, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), U.S. Coast Guard, the Australian DoD, and the UK Ministry of Defence, and mentored U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard executive fellows at RAND. 

Birkler's research spans RDT&E strategies and planning, industrial base, acquisition, management, and organization issues. In addition to the above maritime clients, his research has covered a wide range of aircraft systems (including the Joint Strike Fighter, F-15, F-14, B-1, B-2, A-12, C-5, C-17, F-117, F/A-18 E/F), missiles and munitions (including the advanced cruise missile, the Tomahawk cruise missile, and precision conventional munitions), and surface and subsurface combatants. He also has led studies on the links between the health of the defense industrial base and levels of innovation and competition. His most recent work has involved managing or leading multiple Analyses of Alternatives (AoAs) for the Navy, USMC and Army, and SOCOM, Australian DoD, and leading a high-profile RAND analysis of Australia's Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

Birkler received his M.S. in nuclear and solid state physics from the University of South Carolina and completed the UCLA Executive Program in Management. After completing his third Command tour, he retired from the Navy Reserve with the rank of Captain.

Recent Projects

  • Combat aircraft
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Aircraft carriers
  • Surface combatants
  • Submarines/submersibles

Selected Publications

Birkler, John, John F. Schank, Mark V. Arena, Edward G. Keating, Joel B. Predd, James Black, Irina Elena Danescu, Dan Jenkins, James G. Kallimani, Gordon T. Lee, Roger Lough, Robert Murphy, David Nicholls, Giacomo Persi Paoli, Deborah Peetz, Brian Perkinson, Jerry M. Sollinger, Shane Tierney, and Obaid Younossi, Australia's Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise: Preparing for the 21st Century, RAND Corporation (RR-1093), 2015

Birkler, John, John F. Schank, Mark V. Arena, Jessie Riposo, and Gordon T. Lee, Strengthening the Shipbuilding Industry, U. S. Naval Institute (EP-50406), 2013

Birkler, John, John F. Schank, Jessie Riposo, Mark V. Arena, Robert W. Button, Paul DeLuca, James Dullea, James G. Kallimani, John Leadmon, Gordon T. Lee, Brian McInnis, Robert Murphy, Joel B. Predd, and Raymond H. Williams, Australia's Submarine Design Capabilities and Capacities: Challenges and Options for the Future Submarine, RAND Corporation (MG-1033), 2011

Arena, Mark V., John Birkler, Determining When Competition Is a Reasonable Strategy for the Production Phase of Defense Acquisition, RAND Corporation (OP-263), 2009

Birkler, John, Industry and Infrastructure for Future Submarines: An International Perspective, RAND Corporation (CP-622), 2011

Birkler, John, Paul Bracken, Gordon T. Lee, Mark A. Lorell, Soumen Saha, and Shane Tierney, Keeping a Competitive U.S. Military Aircraft Industry Aloft: Findings from an Analysis of the Industrial Base, RAND Corporation (MG-1133), 2011

Birkler, John, Mark V. Arena, Irv Blickstein, Jeffrey A. Drezner, Susan M. Gates, Meilinda Huang, Robert Murphy, Charles Nemfakos, and Susan K. Woodward, From Marginal Adjustments to Meaningful Change: Rethinking Weapon System Acquisition, RAND Corporation (MG-1020), 2010

Birkler, John, Untying Gulliver: Taking Risks to Acquire Novel Weapon Systems, RAND Corporation (OP-268), 2009

Honors & Awards

  • RAND President's Award, James Thomson

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews:; Boston Globe; Newhouse News Service; Reuters


  • Submarines

    Nuclear Subs Idea Worth Floating

    Whether Australia should operate and maintain nuclear-propelled attack submarines has been debated for years. While controversial to some, the option of nuclear subs in Australia's future fleet may be a useful alternative given trends in the country's security environment.

    Oct 1, 2019

    The Australian