Chad C. Serena

Senior Political Scientist
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D., M.P.I.A. in public and international affairs, University of Pittsburgh; B.A. in political science, University of Pittsburgh


Chad C. Serena is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, an adjunct instructor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy, and an affiliated scholar at the University of Pittsburgh’s Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies. Serena has a professional and academic background in military transformation, military intelligence, security strategy and operations, cyber and information operations, martial organizational behavior and adaptation, terrorism and insurgency, and strategies to defeat networked organizations. 

From 1999 to 2004, he served in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence officer, a signals intelligence officer, electronic warfare officer, and in various other positions in the U.S. Army’s second Stryker brigade (1/25 SBCT). Serena has led or participated in a range of studies on issues related to cyberspace and electronic warfare, information operations, military use of social media, unit and staff organization, mission command, tactical proficiency and training, military readiness, iand the development of coalition networks.

Serena has authored numerous commentaries and articles examining the behavior and evolution of martial organizations. His publications have appeared in Global Crime, Parameters, Small Wars Journal, Defense One, The National Interest, Reuters, Defense News, The Washington Post, and U.S. News & World Report. Serena has also published two books dealing with the same subject—A Revolution in Military Adaptation: The U.S. Army in the Iraq War (Georgetown, 2011); and It Takes More than a Network: The Iraqi Insurgency and Organizational Adaptation (Stanford, 2014). Serena holds a Ph.D. in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Selected Publications

Chad C. Serena, A Revolution in Military Adaptation: The U.S. Army in the Iraq War, Georgetown University Press, 2011

Chad C. Serena, It Takes More than a Network: The Iraqi Insurgency and Organizational Adaptation, Stanford University Press, 2014

Chad C. Serena, Isaac R. Porche, III, Joel B. Predd, Jan Osburg, Bradley Lossing, Lessons Learned from the Afghan Mission Network: Developing a Coalition Contingency Network, RAND Corporation (RR-302), 2014

Chad Serena, "Combating a Combat Legacy," Parameters, 40(Spring), 2010

Chad Serena, "Dynamic Attenuation: Terrorism, Transnational Crime and the Role of the US Army Special Forces," Global Crime, 8(4), 2007


  • A helicopter co-pilot reads a map en route to Playas Training Area, New Mexico during exercise Angel Thunder 2013, photo by Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

    America's National Defense Strategy and the Paradox of Technology

    The need for the military to make greater investments in technology is difficult if not impossible to separate from the risks posed by an increasing military reliance on this technology. Striking a balance between the two won't be easy.

    Feb 4, 2019 The National Interest

  • The Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

    How to Harden America's Soft Targets

    The U.S. government must choose where to apply limited resources to defend soft targets. But it could expand its information-sharing efforts with other governments and local law enforcement. Broad intelligence sharing and more training could help identify potential attackers before they can execute their plans.

    Jul 5, 2017 The National Interest

  • A student in the Army's first Cyber Basic Officer Leader Course uses a field computer to probe for a targeted wireless network signal during a field training exercise at Fort Gordon, Georgia, February 1, 2017

    What Happens After ISIS Goes Underground

    As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria suffers defeats on the battlefield, it is expanding its cyber presence to continue to encourage attacks abroad. The more the group relies on cyberspace, the more likely it will expose important segments of its organization to detection and disruption.

    May 30, 2017 The National Interest

  • Pakistani soldiers at an army post in the Shawal mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, near a known haven for al Qaeda militants, April 29, 2006

    Beware the New Mujahideen: The Threat from Future Jihadist Networks

    Today's terrorist networks will multiply far beyond the wars in Iraq and Syria. When one conflict ends, these fighters often join another. It is critical they be denied safe haven and the ability to train and network in ungoverned territories.

    Mar 14, 2017 The National Interest

  • Somali government soldiers secure the scene of an explosion in front of Dayah hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 25, 2017

    U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy Must Be About More Than ISIS

    ISIS is a worthy candidate for eradication, but failing to also target its franchises, al-Qaida splinters, and other non-aligned groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia could allow other threats to metastasize.

    Feb 9, 2017 Defense One

  • Hezbollah members salute during the funeral of Ali Fayyad, a senior commander who was killed fighting in Syria, Lebanon, March 2, 2016

    Hezbollah Is Winning the War in Syria

    Most parties have been on the losing side of the war in Syria. Meanwhile, Lebanese terrorist militia Hezbollah has cemented its status as a regional power player. The group has gained fighting experience and benefited from a growing alliance with the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia.

    Jan 30, 2017 The National Interest

  • A sailor opens a network monitoring program during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, August 22, 2016

    America's Cyber Security Dilemma — and a Way Out

    The United States should continue to pursue international cooperation in cyberspace, improve its ability to identify and expose the sources of attacks, and improve its oversight of the development and adoption of cyber-related technologies.

    Dec 22, 2016 Defense One

  • Women mourn the death of their relatives after an airstrike in the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, August 25, 2016

    Why Syria's War May Be About to Get Even Worse

    Whether or not Jabhat Fateh al-Sham's new name means a genuine break from its parent organization al Qaeda, the mere rebranding could prolong Syria's civil war. The worst-case scenario is that the group could embed itself within the rebel opposition in Syria the way Hezbollah did in Lebanon.

    Aug 25, 2016 Reuters

  • U.S. Marines with their Georgian counterparts preparing for NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, March 24, 2015

    How Defense Choices Affect Military Readiness

    Because the U.S. cannot afford to prioritize and defend against every possible threat, it must accept risk with each decision. And the more adaptive the adversary, the more likely it will confound readiness investments made previously to confront it.

    Aug 10, 2016 Defense News

  • Staff Sgt. Todd Reinert, a motor transportation operations chief, guides soldiers through shooting drills prior to a live-fire range in Tiguet, Mauritania, Feb. 15, 2016.

    This Is the Problem with Trying to Destroy the Islamic State

    Would counterterrorism forces be better served by containing terrorist groups instead of attempting to destroy them? Dismantling and destroying the Islamic State and similar organizations is a worthy strategic goal, but policymakers must also be prepared to limit the effectiveness of splinter groups as they emerge in the aftermath.

    Jul 12, 2016 The Washington Post Monkey Cage Blog

  • Soldiers from U.S. Army Europe's Charlie Company show Ukrainian Marines and National Guard soldiers the proper procedures for clearing a room, September 16, 2014

    It's Getting Harder to Define Military Readiness. Here's What to Do About It.

    Focusing on one type of threat or the other — whether state or non-state in its general nature — is becoming a less tenable option as the United States considers how to assess and improve its military readiness.

    Jul 12, 2016 Defense One

  • Iraqi counterterrorism forces in Falluja after they recaptured the city from the Islamic State in June 2016

    To Defeat ISIL's Brand, Its Territory Must Be Reclaimed

    ISIL has been forced out of 56 places it once controlled, including five major cities. Taking its territory and diminishing its brand is required to reduce the group's operational capacity for carrying out or influencing local or distant attacks.

    Jul 8, 2016 The National Interest

  • A member of the Peshmerga forces inspects a tunnel used by Islamic State militants in the town of Sinjar, Iraq

    Islamic State May Be Down, but It's Far from Out

    The Islamic State's loss of territory, money, and recruits would seem to demonstrate significant progress by the U.S.-led coalition. But if there is one accepted truism in the battle against the group, it is that its leaders intend to fight to the death to establish an Islamic caliphate.

    May 23, 2016 Reuters

  • Syrian army soldiers inspect the site of a two bomb blasts in the government-controlled city of Homs, Syria, on February 21, 2016

    A New Kind of Battlefield Awaits the U.S. Military — Megacities

    Megacities are urban areas that seep into one another and have more than 10 million inhabitants. To counter violent non-state actors operating in megacities in the future, the U.S. military will have to be able to piece together a comprehensive and actionable intelligence picture, and under enormously challenging circumstances.

    Apr 6, 2016 Reuters, The Great Debate blog

  • Two teens using laptops

    The Military Should Increase Efforts to Find and Enlist Young Hackers

    Some notorious cyberattacks have been carried out by computer-savvy teens. They don't all have criminal intentions, they just have a particular aptitude for writing code and operating in cyberspace. The U.S. military should consider embracing and cultivating this pool of talent.

    Mar 10, 2016 U.S. News & World Report