Cynthia R. Cook

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Adjunct Management Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
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Ph.D. in sociology, Harvard University; B.S. in management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

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Cynthia R. Cook is an adjunct management scientist at the RAND Corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Since joining RAND in 1997, Cook led and worked on a wide range of studies for FEMA, the United States Department of Defense, Australia, Canada, and the UK on subjects including disaster recovery, defense acquisition policy and organization, cost analysis, defense industrial base, weapon systems production and sustainment, and contracting practices. Notable research leadership includes the support for the government of Puerto Rico in the development of their congressionally mandated hurricane economic and disaster recovery plan, and the publication of 20 supplementary analytic reports on recovery in every sector of the island's society. She led the implementation research for the 2010 report “Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy,” which contributed to the elimination of Don't Ask Don't Tell. RAND management jobs include terms as the associate director of Project AIR FORCE and as the director of the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center in the National Security Research Division. Prior to joining RAND, Cook was a research specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on the Lean Aerospace Initiative. Before her graduate studies, Cook worked in New York as an investment banker, specializing in high-yield finance. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University and a B.S. in management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Previous Positions

Research Specialist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Recent Projects

  • Space acquisition
  • Disaster recovery operations and management
  • Science and technology policy
  • Implementation of organizational change

Selected Publications

Shelton, William, Cynthia R. Cook, et al. , A Clean Sheet Approach to Space Acquisition in Light of the New Space Force, RAND (RR-A541-1), 2021

Cynthia R. Cook, David Luckey et al., Improving Intelligence Support to the Future Warfighter: Acquisition for the Contested Environment, RAND (RR-A537-1), 2021

Culbertson et al., Recovery in the U.S. Virgin Islands: Progress, Challenges and Options for the Future, RAND Corporation (RR-A282-1), 2020

Cynthia R. Cook, Emma Westerman, Megan McKernan et al., Contestability Frameworks: An International Horizon Scan, RAND Corporation (RR-1372), 2016

Rostker et al., Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy An Update of RAND's 1993 Study, RAND Corporation (MG-1056), 2010

Honors & Awards

  • Gold Medal Award, RAND Corporation
  • Silver Medal Award, RAND Corporation
  • President's Award, RAND Corporation


  • A 155 mm artillery tube enters a heat treatment furnace at Watervliet Arsenal to improve the microstructure and hardness of the steel

    Uncertainty Ahead: Defense Technology and Acquisition Trends in 2017

    The change in administration, coupled with the new management structure being imposed by Congress on the Department of Defense's acquisition enterprise is creating a shifting and unpredictable landscape for 2017.

    Jan 3, 2017 The Cipher Brief

  • Soldiers look at a portable lifting system by Stertil-Koni at the Marine West Military Expo at Camp Pendleton, California, February 1, 2012

    DIUx: Capturing Technological Innovation

    The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) aims to find new sources of advanced technology to give America an edge over potential foes. DIUx is evidence of another form of innovation: organizing in new ways to capture new ideas.

    Nov 23, 2016 The Cipher Brief

  • William LaPlante, assistant secretary of Air Force acquisition, testifies on acquisition reform before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, April 22, 2015

    Apply Principles of Professional Change Management to Any Acquisition Reform, or Risk More Failure

    If Congress enacts substantial changes to acquisition processes as part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, then it has a responsibility to ensure that the DoD has the opportunity and resources to implement proven change management principles to increase the chances for its success.

    Aug 7, 2015 The Hill

  • U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors as they fly over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., March 3, 2011

    Lessons from a Long History of Acquisition Reform

    Congress and the DoD have a long history of efforts to improve the way weapon systems are acquired. Now, significant changes to DoD acquisition policies and processes are again being proposed in the House and Senate in an attempt to get needed military capabilities to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines faster and cheaper.

    Jul 17, 2015 The Hill