Kiron K. Skinner

W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow
Biography: 

Kiron K. Skinner is the W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow. Her areas of expertise are international relations, international security, US foreign policy, and political strategy. Skinner participates in numerous Hoover Institution projects, including the Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy and the working group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict. At Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), she is the Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics as well as the founding director of these academic entities: Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program; Center for International Relations and Politics; Institute for Politics and Strategy; and Institute for Strategic Analysis. In addition, Skinner is a Distinguished Fellow at CyLab, a cyber-oriented research center associated with the College of Engineering, and she 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.

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 was serialized in the New York Times Magazine on December 31, 2000, and won the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Book Award in 2002. 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 New York Times’ opinion page on September 15, 2007. A frequent contributor of opinion essays, Skinner has written for CNN.com, Forbes.com, Foreign Policy.com, National Review Online, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.  Skinner has been a Fox News contributor, appearing on both Fox News and Fox Business. She also regularly provides scholarly commentary on national and international television and radio programs.

Skinner is the editor of a new Palgrave Macmillan series on American political ideology. In this capacity, she is writing the launch book for the series on the war debate in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century.

From September 2018 to August 2019, Skinner served as Director of the Office of Policy Planning and Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary of State at the US Department of State. In those roles, she reengaged the department in red-team exercises on regional conflicts, began developing State-Defense Department ties in critical areas, and fostered transatlantic partnerships through numerous strategic dialogues, including the first Policy Planners Summit for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. She played a central role in creating the Commission on Unalienable Rights and re-chartering the Foreign Affairs Policy Board, and she served as the Secretariat for both entities. 

Skinner’s government service also has included the following memberships: the US Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board (2001–07 and 2017-18); the Eisenhower Commission’s Legacy Committee of historians (2002-03); the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO) Executive Panel (2004–2015); 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. From 2012 to 2015, Skinner served on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs.

In the arena of presidential campaigns, Skinner was 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.  She was a foreign policy adviser for Rand Paul during his presidential bid and a surrogate for the Donald Trump campaign in 2016. A member of the Trump transition team, she also served on the transition’s executive committee.

Skinner has served on the boards of the American Australian Council 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. She is a lifetime director on the board of the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, DC. 

Among Skinner’s numerous awards include 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 the Kennedy Middle School Hall of Fame (Redwood City, California, 2005).

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

Background EssayFeatured

Missile Defense: Past, Present, And Future

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Strategika
Friday, October 30, 2015

A new era of modern warfare began when German V-2 missiles hit London in September 1944. Within the next few years, the U.S. military was issuing reports on how to proceed in the development of defensive counters to ballistic missiles.

Featured

What Bill O’Reilly’s New Book On Ronald Reagan Gets Wrong About Ronald Reagan

by Craig Shirley, Kiron K. Skinner, Paul Kengor, Steven Haywardvia The Washington Post
Friday, October 16, 2015

Bad sources and old misconceptions persist in "Killing Reagan."

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.

Pentagon
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.

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