Kiron K. Skinner

W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow

Kiron K. Skinner is the W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. She is a member of three Hoover Institution projects: the Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy; the working group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict; and the Arctic Security Initiative. At Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), she is founding director of the Center for International Relations and Politics; founding director of the Institute for Strategic Analysis; director of the Institute for Politics and Strategy, a new academic unit in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences; director of the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program; and associate professor (tenured) of international relations and political science. In addition, Skinner is a Distinguished Fellow at CyLab, a cyber-oriented research center associated with the College of Engineering, and holds courtesy faculty positions at CMU’s Heinz College and the Institute for Software Research, an academic department in the School of Computer Science. She has also taught political science courses at Hamilton College, Harvard University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. Her areas of expertise are international relations, international security, US foreign policy, and political strategy.

Professor Skinner is an award-winning and best-selling author. Her coauthored books Reagan, In His Own Hand (2001) and Reagan, A Life in Letters (2003) were New York Times best sellers. Reagan, In His Own Hand won the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Book Award and was serialized in the New York Times Magazine on December 31, 2000. Reagan, A Life in Letters was selected as one of the best books of 2003 by the Los Angeles Times, was Time magazine’s cover story on September 29, 2003, and was the subject of a September 29, 2003, editorial written by the New York Times editorial board. The Strategy of Campaigning: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin (2007), a book Skinner coauthored with Serhiy Kudelia, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and Condoleezza Rice, was excerpted on the opinion page of the New York Times on September 15, 2007. A frequent contributor of opinion essays, Skinner has written for,, Foreign, National Review Online, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. She also regularly provides scholarly commentary on national and international television and radio programs.

Among Skinner’s numerous awards are the Truman Scholarship for the State of California (1979); Glamour magazine’s Top Ten College Competition for Women (1981); Harvard University’s Sidney Matz Prize for excellence in advising undergraduates (1989); Delegate to the Bellagio “New Faces” Conference sponsored by the Arms Control Association and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (1989); University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow (1996-98); Olin Foundation Faculty Fellowship (1999-2001 and 2001-2002); BMW Transatlantic Forum Fellow (US and Germany, 2004 and 2005); and Kennedy Middle School Hall of Fame (Redwood City, California, 2005).

Professor Skinner’s government service includes membership on the US Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board as an adviser on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (2001–07);  the Eisenhower Commission’s Legacy Committee of historians (2002-03); the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO) Executive Panel (2004–present); the National Academies’ Committee on Behavioral and Social Science Research to Improve Intelligence Analysis for National Security (2009–11); and the National Security Education Board (2004–11). In 2010, Skinner was appointed to the advisory board of the George W. Bush Oral History Project. She served as a foreign policy surrogate for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004, a senior foreign policy adviser in 2011-12 to Speaker Newt Gingrich during his presidential campaign, and a senior foreign policy surrogate in the fall of 2012 to the Governor Mitt Romney for President campaign. Professor Skinner served on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs from 2012 to 2015.

Skinner serves on the boards of the American Australian Education Leadership Foundation in Washington, DC; the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, DC; Grove City College in Grove City, PA; Propel Schools in the Pittsburgh area; and Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. She is a life member of the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Professor Skinner holds MA and PhD degrees in political science and international relations from Harvard University and undergraduate degrees from Spelman College and Sacramento City College. She received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Molloy College, Long Island.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

Five Questions With Kiron Skinner On Rand Paul, Reagan, And The GOP Race

by Kiron K. Skinner, John Amblevia War on the Rocks
Thursday, September 17, 2015

This is a very special #NatSec2016 edition of our 5 Questions series. I had a chance to speak with Kiron Skinner, the director of the Institute of Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University and a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign.

In the News

Carnegie Mellon’s Dietrich College To Create New Institute For Politics And Strategy

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Carnegie Mellon News
Thursday, April 2, 2015

Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences will open a new Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS), effective July 1.

Analysis and Commentary

U.S. Universities Going Global Is Vital To Society

by Mark S. Kamlet, Kiron K. Skinnervia New York Times
Monday, January 19, 2015

Setting up international campuses and programs require great care as cultures, political systems and levels of economic development, of course, differ. Finding ways to bridge these differences is not only one of the challenges but one of the important opportunities. Establishing basic research and teaching initiatives abroad, when feasible, provides unique ways to encourage mutual respect, understanding and growth.

Analysis and Commentary

Red, White And Peaceful: Advancing U.S. Security Through Peaceful Means

by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Kiron K. Skinnervia National Interest
Monday, December 15, 2014

National security and environmental well-being can go hand in hand with solving major disputes without the use of force. America can help make this happen.

Analysis and Commentary

A Secretary Of Defense With A Doctrine Could Help Obama

by Kiron K. Skinnervia New York Times
Sunday, November 30, 2014

Many Defense Department observers are saying that the next Pentagon leader should be either an intense political infighter or someone who is able to be conciliatory with the president and his White House team.

US flag on military helmet
Blank Section (Placeholder)Interviews

Strategika: “Planning for Defeat” with Kiron Skinner

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Strategika
Friday, August 15, 2014

The dangerous distance between means and ends in Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

Analysis and Commentary

Airstrikes, Sure; but What About a Strategy in Iraq?

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Room for Debate (New York Times)
Friday, August 8, 2014

It has been a tragically spectacular year for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken control of numerous towns in Iraq and Syria, seized energy assets, targeted religious minorities, unleashed murderous rampages against those who do not subscribe to its tenets, and declared a caliphate.

Poster Collection, US 1153, Hoover Institution Archives.
Featured Commentary

The U.S. Cannot Wish Away Its Present Security Concerns

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Strategika
Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Grand strategy requires states to have a long-term plan. It also requires that means and ends be clearly articulated and calibrated to each other. The Obama administration’s long-term plan appears to shift U.S. economic and military assets away from the Middle East and toward Asia. The Middle East, however, shows no signs of relinquishing its role as the world’s central battleground. Furthermore, means and ends are mixed together as priorities under the Obama doctrine.

US flag on military helmet
Analysis and Commentary

Honor The Sacrifice of Our Troops

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Room for Debate (New York Times)
Monday, June 16, 2014

According to the Obama Doctrine, making a lighter footprint around the world and ending the wars inherited from President George W. Bush will improve U.S. global standing and encourage other states to take greater responsibility for their own peace, security, political liberalization and prosperity.

Ronald Reagan
Analysis and Commentary

The Most Misunderstood And Least Appreciated Aspect Of Ronald Reagan's Legacy

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Forbes
Sunday, June 8, 2014

The tenth anniversary of President Reagan’s death, observed on June 5, is a fitting time to review the most misunderstood and underappreciated aspect of his legacy.