Heather J. Williams

Heather J. Williams
Acting Director, International Security and Defense Policy Program; Senior Policy Researcher; Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Education

M.S. in strategic intelligence, National Intelligence University; B.S. in U.S. foreign policy and national security, Boston University

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.

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Overview

Heather Williams is the acting director of the International Security and Defense Policy (ISDP) Program, part of the RAND National Security Research Division. She is a senior policy researcher at RAND and a professor at Pardee RAND Graduate School. Williams previously served as associate director of the Strategy, Policy, and Operations Program (SPOP) within the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC).  She focuses on violent extremism, homeland security, Middle East regional issues, and intelligence policy and methodology. 

Williams joined RAND from the National Intelligence Council, where she served as deputy national intelligence officer for Iran and acting national intelligence officer for Iran. In her twelve years within the intelligence community, she worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Special Operations Intelligence Center, and the Department of Homeland Security/Transportation Security Administration. She served as a founding member of the Foreign Fighter Task Force and served three overseas tours supporting Special Operations Forces counterterrorism operations.

Williams holds an M.S. in strategic intelligence from the National Intelligence University and a B.S. in U.S. foreign policy and national security from Boston University, and she was a Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholar.

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: BBC News; Bloomberg Television; CNBC Online; CNN International; Federal News Network; The Gist, Peach Fish Productions; KCRW/Press Play; KNBC-TV; NPR/All Things Considered; NPR/National Public Radio Online; NPR News; PBS NewsHour; Sky News Australia; SpyCast; WOSU Public Media Radio Online; WPR, Wisconsin Public Radio

Commentary

  • Social Media

    Protecting Free Speech Compels Some Form of Social Media Regulation

    Given the profound challenges posed by social media, corrective measures need to go beyond “deplatforming” bad apples. But how can the United States make such a structural change without compromising the democratic tradition of free speech?

    Oct 20, 2023

    The RAND Blog

  • Information Operations

    Truth Decay and National Security

    Even if the U.S. national security apparatus can operate entirely outside of politics, it remains exposed to the effects of Truth Decay—the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. Little work is being done to understand how severe the impact of Truth Decay is on national security and, more importantly, how to mitigate it.

    Aug 1, 2023

    Lawfare

  • Social Media Analysis

    The Promise—and Pitfalls—of Researching Extremism Online

    How big of a problem is extremism in the United States and around the world? Is it getting worse? Are social media platforms responsible, or did the internet simply reveal existing trends? We have few answers because this research is easy to do poorly and hard to do well.

    Jul 17, 2023

    The RAND Blog

  • Gun Violence

    When Mass Shooters Are Seeking Fame

    What motivates mass shooters? And what might break the cycle of violence? Developing an effective policy response first requires better understanding of the factors that drive would-be attackers to kill.

    Jul 13, 2023

    The RAND Blog

  • Trauma

    Intelligence Work Is Exciting. And Traumatizing

    The intelligence community needs to communicate to its workforce about the varied forms of trauma, how it affects individuals, and what resources exist to help. Protecting the intelligence workforce can help protect us all.

    Nov 30, 2022

    Politico

  • Iran

    The Iran Nuclear Deal: Is the Juice Still Worth the Squeeze?

    The talks to reinstate the Iran nuclear deal have been dragging on for 18 months. But the negotiations are not about very much; the general contours of the original agreement still hold. As the clock keeps ticking, though, it gets harder to revive it. At some point, the juice won't be worth the squeeze.

    Oct 10, 2022

    The Hill

  • Counterterrorism

    How to Root Out Extremism in the U.S. Military

    The military has a growing extremism problem because America does. Service members who embrace violent extremism are thankfully few; Americans citizens who do so are sadly far too many. As a nation we need to deal with both.

    Feb 1, 2021

    Defense One

  • Counterterrorism

    The Dangers of Designating Antifa as a Terrorist Organization Now

    The notion of designating Antifa as a terrorist organization may be intended to be a discrete act. But the precedent it would set could bring major strategic changes to how the United States uses counterterrorism laws, with uncertainties about whether those changes better serve national security.

    Jun 22, 2020

    RealClearPolicy

  • Work-Family Conflicts

    Reopened Offices Won’t Mean Back-to-Normal for Caregivers

    As some workplaces start to reopen and work-from-home guidelines relax, corporate leaders may hope things will quickly get back to normal. But for employees who are also caregivers, that's likely not going to be the case.

    Jun 4, 2020

    CNN

  • Work-Family Conflicts

    Can We Emerge from COVID-19 with a Healthier Work Culture?

    American families want greater choices in determining how their work and their families fit together. Post-pandemic, can we create a system that fits workers? If so, we have the opportunity to emerge from this crisis with both healthier employees and better performing organizations.

    Apr 16, 2020

    Harvard Business Review

Publications