Michael J. McNerney

Photo of Michael McNerney
Acting Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center; Senior International/Defense Researcher; Affiliate Faculty, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Washington Office


M.A. in international relations, University of Maryland; B.A. in government and German, University of Notre Dame

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 media@rand.org.

More Experts


Michael McNerney (he/him) is acting director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center, a senior researcher at the RAND Corporation, and an affiliate faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. His research focuses on defense strategy and planning, civil–military coordination, security cooperation, and international relations. He has published over two dozen reports analyzing human behavior and decisionmaking in conflict, U.S. security cooperation, military roles in disaster response, targeted killing policies, and other topics.

Until April 2011, McNerney was principal director for plans in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. He and his staff supported the Secretary of Defense in providing strategic guidance on U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and interagency plans, force management, and overseas basing. He was a civil servant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for 17 years and a member of the Senior Executive Service.

His earlier assignments in the Office of the Secretary of Defense included policy support for security cooperation programs worldwide, U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, international environmental issues, nuclear arms control, and defense budgeting. He spent the 2004–05 academic year on the faculty of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.

Prior to working in OSD, McNerney worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He received his M.A. in international relations from the University of Maryland and B.A. in government and German from the University of Notre Dame.



Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Government Matters


  • A woman from Ukraine listens to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's speech on a phone, at a refugee shelter after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Beregsurany, Hungary, February 28, 2022, photo by Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

    The Will to Fight in the Age of Social Media

    Social media messaging has played a decisive role in strengthening Ukraine's will to fight—arguably the single most important factor in war—against Russia.

    Mar 22, 2022 Stars and Stripes

  • Boys gather near a building damaged by a U.S. drone air strike targeting suspected al Qaeda militants in Shabwa, Yemen, February 3, 2013, photo by Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi/Reuters

    Trying to Forestall the Next Civilian Casualty Horror

    After civilians are injured or killed, the U.S. Defense Department isn't doing enough to learn from its own failures. The Pentagon needs to devote resources and senior leader attention to an issue that has historically lacked both. Civilian protection should become the singular priority for a critical mass of people across the organization.

    Feb 3, 2022 Foreign Policy

  • The Department of State in Washington, D.C.

    Reforming Security Assistance: Why the State Department Can't Lead from Behind

    The reforms in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act are driving the Department of Defense to improve security cooperation planning. Similar reforms for the State Department could help leaders there more effectively communicate the value of security assistance and maintain their traditional leadership role.

    Sep 5, 2018 The Hill

  • An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan

    Armed Drone Myth 3: Global Proliferation Demands Blanket Restrictions on Sales

    More than 70 countries have acquired drones of different classes and for different purposes. However, the number of countries actually developing

    Feb 19, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft takes off from Joint Base Balad, Iraq

    Armed Drone Myth 2: It's Counterproductive to Develop International Norms

    The challenge in establishing international norms for armed drones will be to define rules that preserve the rights of countries to use them in legitimate ways against legitimate threats (senior al Qaeda or Islamic State terrorists) while constraining illegitimate uses (political dissidents).

    Feb 18, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flightline at Creech Air Force Base, NV

    Armed Drone Myth 1: They Will Transform How War Is Waged Globally

    Long-range military drones are fundamentally misunderstood. Their champions wrongly contend they are revolutionizing warfare, while critics fear their spread would greatly increase the threat that China, terrorists, and others pose.

    Feb 17, 2015 The RAND Blog