Molly Dunigan

Photo of Molly Dunigan
Senior Political Scientist; Associate Director, Defense and Political Sciences Department
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D. in political science, Cornell University; M.A. in international relations, Cornell University; B.A. in political science, Vassar College

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Molly Dunigan is a senior political scientist and associate director of the Defense and Political Sciences Department at the RAND Corporation, and a lecturer in Carnegie Mellon University's Institute for Politics and Strategy. Her research interests focus on private military and security contractors, civil–military relations, irregular warfare, counterinsurgency, maritime security, and civilian deployment. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a U.S. Institute of Peace Jennings Randolph Peace Fellowship, a U.S. State Department Foreign Language Areas Studies Fellowship, and an International Studies Association Catalytic Research Grant.

Prominent among Dunigan's published work are Victory for Hire: Private Security Companies' Impact on Military Effectiveness (Stanford University Press, 2011), The Markets for Force: Privatization of Security Across World Regions (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), and RAND reports Out of the Shadows: The Health and Well-Being of Private Contractors Working in Conflict Environments (Dunigan et al., 2013) and Expeditionary Civilians: Creating a Viable Practice of Department of Defense Civilian Deployment (Dunigan et al., 2016).

An internationally recognized expert on private security contracting, Dunigan's work on this topic has been cited in USA Today, Time Magazine, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, and Forbes. Dunigan's publications have been favorably reviewed in Military Review, The Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, The Journal of Military History, Survival, Parameters, and The Boston Globe, and her op-eds have appeared in The National Interest, USA TodayThe Hill, U.S. News & World Report, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Dunigan received her Ph.D. in government from Cornell University.  

Research Focus

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Lecturer, Institute for Politics and Strategy, Carnegie Mellon University

Recent Projects

  • Defining Total Force Staffing Requirements to Enable, Plan For, and Integrate Operational Contract Support
  • End-to-End Review and Analysis of DoD Civilian Deployment
  • The Health and Well Being of Private Contractors Working in Conflict Environments
  • Sources of Success in Counterinsurgency
  • Maritime Irregular Warfare

Selected Publications

Molly Dunigan, Susan Everingham, Todd Nichols, Michael Schwille, Susanne Sondergaard, Expeditionary Civilians: Creating a Viable Practice of Department of Defense Civilian Deployment, RAND Corporation (RR-975), 2016

Molly Dunigan, The Markets for Force: Privatization of Security Across World Regions, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015

Molly Dunigan, Carrie Farmer, Rachel Burns, Alison Hawks, Claude Messan Setodji, Out of the Shadows: The Health and Well Being of Private Contractors Working in Conflict Environments, RAND Corporation (RR-420), 2013

Molly Dunigan, Dick Hoffmann, Peter Chalk, Brian Nichiporuk, Paul DeLuca, Characterizing and Exploring the Implications of Maritime Irregular Warfare, RAND Corporation (MG-1127), 2012

Molly Dunigan, Victory For Hire: Private Security Companies' Impact on Military Effectiveness, Stanford University Press, 2011

Molly Dunigan, Considerations for the Use of Private Security Contractors in Future U.S. Military Deployments, RAND Corporation (CT-349), 2010

Sarah K. Cotton, Ulrich Petersohn, Molly Dunigan, Ed O'Connell, Q Burkhart, Megan Zander-Cotugno, Michael Webber, Hired Guns: Views About Armed Contractors in Operation Iraqi Freedom, RAND Corporation (MG-987), 2010

Nancy Young Moore, Molly Dunigan, Frank Camm, Samantha Cherney, Clifford A. Grammich, Judith D. Mele, Evan Peet, Anita Szafran, A Review of Alternative Methods to Inventory Contracted Services in the Department of Defense, RAND Corporation (RR-1704), 2017

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Al Jazeera - English; Stars and Stripes; WBUR-FM Online


  • U.S. troops assess the damage to an armored vehicle of the NATO-led military coalition after a suicide attack in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, August 2, 2017

    Privatizing the Military Unlikely to Be a Viable Solution in Afghanistan

    Operational contractors are now an entrenched part of the Department of Defense’s total force and are here to stay. But replacing U.S. military personnel with contractors is not likely to be a militarily effective solution for the Afghanistan problem.

    Aug 14, 2017 The National Interest

  • A private security contractor and soldiers look at a destroyed vehicle after an attack near Najaf, Iraq, May 18, 2006

    Military Security Contractors Get PTSD, Too

    Largely absent from the conversation about the use of military security contractors are the parallel issues of mental health and the deployment-related stress contractors can face.

    Jun 12, 2015 USA Today

  • Contractor personnel inspect an Afghan national police facility

    Out of the Shadows, Into the Light: Why Americans Should Care About the Health of Contractors Deploying to Conflict Environments

    In contrast to the numerous mental health resources available to members of the U.S. military, very few (if any) resources are available to help private contractors struggling with mental health problems. It is in the best interest of all involved to ensure that contractors receive the support and treatment they need.

    Jan 21, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • Civilian contractor at Ghulzani Warrior Training Center

    A Lesson from Iraq War: How to Outsource War to Private Contractors

    Both to repeat the successes of private military contracting and to avoid the mistakes of contractors in the recent wars, the Department of Defense must consider several points specific to security contractors, writes Molly Dunigan.

    Mar 19, 2013 Christian Science Monitor

  • The Philippine flag

    High Hopes for Philippine Peace Plan

    The government has successfully used a combination of counterinsurgency strategies against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in recent years, raising expectations that the new peace deal will also succeed—and in a manner that favors the government's interests, writes Molly Dunigan.

    Dec 6, 2012 U.S. News & World Report

  • A contractor hired to supplement security stands watch at main entry point tower, Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, photo by Michael D. Heckman/U.S. Navy

    U.S. Control of Contractors in Iraq Is Vital

    With U.S. troops out of Iraq, the U.S. presence there will fall to 5,000 private security contractors....The experience with private security contractors during the war was fraught with challenges that pose risks now, writes Molly Dunigan.

    Feb 1, 2012 The Hill