Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson
Defense Research Analyst, Sr
Off Site Office


M.A. in theater operations, Command & General Staff College; M.A. in international relations, Monterey Institute of International Studies; M.A. in strategic studies, Command & Gen. Staff College; B.S. in European studies, U.S. Military Academy at West Point


Michael Johnson is a former U.S. Army strategic plans and policy officer with expertise in military strategy, risk assessment, joint campaign planning, joint and Army operations, and doctrine. His key assignments included serving as special assistant for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Staff J-5 Strategy Division, speechwriter for the Army Vice Chief of Staff, HQDA G-3/5/7 Army Transformation Office, and operational planner at U.S. Third Army (CFLCC) and I Corps. Since joining RAND, he has worked on the evolving defense strategy, Russia-NATO waragames, options to strengthen deterrence, Army operational roles in Asia, force sufficiency, modernization and risk analysis.

Recent Projects

  • Strategic Framework for Defense Planning
  • Army Strategic Choices
  • NATO-Russia Wargames
  • Army Operational Roles in Asia

Selected Publications

Karl Mueller, David Shlapak, David Ochmanek and Michael Johnson, "In Defense of a War-game: Bolstering Deterrence on NATO's Eastern Flank," War on the Rocks, 2016

David Shlapak and Michael Johnson, "Outnumbered, Outranged, Outgunned: How Russia defeats NATO," War on the Rocks, 2016

David Shlapak and Michael Johnson, Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO's Eastern Flank, RAND (RR-1253), 2016

Admiral Michael Mullen, assisted by Colonel Michael Johnson, Chairman's Risk Assessment, The Joint Staff, 2010

Michael Johnson, Strange Gravity: Toward a Unified Theory of Joint Warfighting, U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, 2001

Michael Johnson, Clausewitz on Kosovo, U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, 2000

Michael Johnson, The Future of Just War Theory, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2000

Michael Johnson, The Causes of State Failure, Monterey Institute of International Studies, 1998

Honors & Awards

  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal, United States Military
  • Legion of Merit, United States Military
  • Meritorious Service Medal (3), United States Military


  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization

    After Russia's Ukraine Invasion, Seven Assumptions the U.S. and NATO Allies Should Drop

    Given the realizations wrought by the recent invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its NATO allies might reconsider several assumptions and arguments that have limited conventional military deterrence in Europe. Making sure we are ready to defend and thus deter a larger war that must never be fought is critically important.

    Mar 18, 2022

    Breaking Defense

  • Russia

    Deterring Putin in Eastern Europe

    After having gone years without a significant threat from Russia, NATO leaders and legislatures now may be recognizing that the security environment has changed and that the more comfortable political status quo is gone. But if NATO were to decide to stand firmly together, conflict in Europe may be deterred and strategic stability restored.

    Dec 16, 2021

    The RAND Blog

  • Nuclear Deterrence

    Contain, Deter, Transform: A Winning Strategy on North Korea

    North Korea's missile tests and reported progress in nuclear warhead design have produced a volatile new urgency in U.S. policy. Contain, deter, and transform isn't a radical solution, but it's one that has worked before. This approach could preserve U.S. interests while avoiding war.

    Aug 9, 2017

    The Hill

  • Wargaming

    In Defense of a Wargame: Bolstering Deterrence on NATO's Eastern Flank

    A series of wargames examined the potential results of a Russian invasion of the Baltic states. While such an invasion appears unlikely, its consequences would be so dangerous that not taking steps to deter it more robustly would be imprudent.

    Jun 14, 2016

    War on the Rocks

  • Russia

    Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO

    Today NATO is outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned by Russia in Europe and beset by a number of compounding factors that make the situation worse. But it is possible to begin restoring a more robust deterrent posture and to do so at a price tag that appears affordable.

    Apr 21, 2016

    War on the Rocks

  • Military Force Planning

    U.S. Needs Larger Army, Not a Smaller One

    To meet potential challenges in the Baltics and Korea while at the same time countering the existing terror threat posed by the Islamic State group and dealing with other problems that will doubtless emerge, the United States would need more troops, not less.

    Sep 9, 2015

    Army Times