Terrence Kelly

Photo of Terrence Kelly
Principal Mathematician
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D. in mathematics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; M.S.S. in strategic studies, U.S. Army War College; M.S. in computer and systems engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; B.S., U.S. Military Academy

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Terrence Kelly is a principal mathematician at the RAND Corporation. From 2016 to 2022 he served as the first director of the RAND Homeland Security Research Division.

Over the past decade Kelly has worked on homeland security strategy and policies; counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan; U.S. Department of Defense and Army strategy; and science, technology, and acquisition problems. From 2011 to 2014 Kelly served as the Strategy, Doctrine and Resources program director in the RAND Arroyo Center, and from 2014 to 2015 as the Arroyo Center’s acting associate director. In 2006 and 2007 Kelly served as director of the Joint Strategic Planning and Assessment Office in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and in 2004 as the director of Militia Transition and Reintegration for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Prior to joining RAND, Kelly served for 20 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

Prior to retiring from the Army, Kelly's positions included senior national security officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; chief of staff of the National Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office; legislative liaison officer in the Army's office of legislative affairs; White House Fellow; assistant professor in West Point's Systems Engineering Department and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Mathematical Sciences Department (visiting); command and staff positions in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 8th Infantry Division; and as a staff officer on the Army Staff.

Kelly holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Previous Positions

Vice President and Director, Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center; Director, RAND Homeland Security Research Division; U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq; Director, Militia Transition and Reintegration Programs, CPA, Baghdad, Iraq; Senior National Security Officer, Office of Science and Technology Policy, White House Staff; White House fellow; 20-year Army officer

Recent Projects

  • U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Counterinsurgency and stability operations theory and practice
  • Cybersecurity policy

Selected Publications

Terrence K. Kelly, "Transformation and Homeland Security: Dual Challenges for the U.S. Army," Parameters, 33, 2003

Terrence K. Kelly "The Just Conduct of War Against Radical Islamic Terrorists and Insurgents," in Eds. Charles Reed and David Ryall, The Price of Peace, Cambridge University Press (EP-20070019), 2007

Henry Willis et al., Estimating Terrorism Risk, RAND Corporation (MG-388-RC), 2005

William P. Butz et al, Will the Scientific & Technical Workforce Meet the Requirements of the Federal Government?RAND Corporation (MG-118-OSTP), 2004

Honors & Awards

  • Bronze Star Medal, United States Armed Forces
  • Outstanding Civil Service Medal, Department of the Army
  • Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: KD/PG; The New Republic

Commentary: Foreign Policy; Los Angeles Times; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends his annual special televised question and answer session at Moscow's World Trade Centre, June 30, 2021, photo by Alexei Nikolsky/Reuters

    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

  • The Lithuanian Army's rapid reaction force unit, first formed in Nov. 2014 in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea, carries out a drill in Rukla Mar. 19, 2015

    Stop Putin's Next Invasion Before It Starts

    The U.S. needs to consider stationing forces in Eastern Europe to support its commitment to protect the independence of the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania against Russian aggression. If not, and Russia invades, the options available to this or a future U.S. president are stark.

    Mar 20, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • A Pro-Russian separatist stands near the damaged war memorial at Savur-Mohyla, east of the city of Donetsk, Ukraine

    A Dispatch from the Ukrainian Front

    If Putin sought advice about what NATO is thinking, his Russian Western Front Military commander might say that given its current political indecisiveness and lack of military readiness, NATO lacks the capability to launch a credible intervention, but they should watch for changes in the alliance posture.

    Sep 5, 2014 U.S. News & World Report

  • Shi'ite volunteers, who've joined the Iraqi army against militants from the radical Islamic State, take part in weapons training, July 18, 2014

    Defeating the Islamic State: Crafting a Regional Approach

    While ISIL may achieve temporary tactical gains from declaring the caliphate, it made the strategic error of declaring all other Sunni political actors illegitimate. This may provide an opening to build a coalition that can create and implement a regional strategy to attack ISIL.

    Jul 22, 2014 warontherocks.com

  • PLA soldier plays "Glorious Mission Online" an online game that allows players to defend contested islands in the East China Sea

    U.S., China and an Unthinkable War

    Although the China-U.S. agenda is jammed with pressing issues, time must be found to improve procedures and channels to defuse crises and avert military miscalculation. Political leaders should not wait for a crisis before scrutinizing war-fighting plans and insisting on ones that strengthen, not weaken, stability.

    Aug 26, 2013 Los Angeles Times

  • Karzai's Second Term a Test for International Community

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai begins his second term with his country on the brink of chaos. To establish control, two major elements of reform are necessary, writes Terrence Kelly.

    Nov 2, 2009 RAND.org

  • Timing is Everything

    Published commentary by RAND staff: A Tool for Democracy Could Use Some Help by Robert Hunter

    Aug 13, 2005 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Forum: What's a 'Just War' These Days?

    As we move from theory toward practice, Terrence K. Kelly re-examines the standards for an era of prolific weapons of mass destruction.

    Feb 16, 2003 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Vigilance Is Our Civic Duty

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    Sep 11, 2002 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette