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

Vladimir Putin
Analysis and Commentary

As Putin's Confidence Grows, Cold War Concerns Gain Credibility

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Forbes
Monday, May 26, 2014

Concerns about reigniting a Cold War gain credibility as President Putin continues his militarism in Ukraine and draws his country into the on-going crisis in Egypt.  Thus, it is time to look back at the Reagan administration’s strategy that helped end the Cold War by breaking with long-held policies enshrined in US-Soviet détente of the 1970s.

Gold Globe

Special: the John Batchelor Show from the Hoover retreat

by Peter Berkowitz, Abbas Milani, Kori Schake, Kiron K. Skinnervia John Batchelor Show
Friday, May 9, 2014

As part of the annual Hoover Spring Retreat, John Batchelor of the John Batchelor Show and Mary Kissell of the Wall Street Journal did a special live taping of the John Batchelor Show featuring Hoover senior fellow Peter Berkowitz and Hoover research fellows Abbas Milani, Kori Schake, and Kiron Skinner. The topic of the discussion was President Obama’s Biggest Foreign Policy Challenges.

Related Commentary

Credible Leadership Should Seek More Than Containment

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

U.S. Cold War presidential directives coalesced around precepts that defense experts and foreign policy elites advocated: Mutual Assured Destruction (having enough nuclear retaliatory power so that the adversary would not risk a first strike); containing Soviet expansionism, especially in key industrial centers; nuclear arms control negotiations at all costs; the policy of linkage—tying U.S.-Soviet negotiations on one front to bilateral progress on other fronts; and preemptive concession making to demonstrate goodwill toward the Soviet Union.

Is Russia now an enemy, neutral, irrelevant to US strategic interests, or a poss

Russia, the United States, and the Middle East

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Strategika
Monday, November 25, 2013

Kiron Skinner discusses how the relationship between the United States and Russia bears on the future of foreign policy in the Middle East.

Poster Collection, RU/SU 2429 (OS),  Hoover Institution Archives
Featured Commentary

Russian Revival

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Strategika
Friday, November 1, 2013

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had military ties with Iraq, Libya, Syria, and South Yemen. President Anwar Sadat expelled thousands of Soviet troops and military advisers from Egypt in 1972 and turned to the United States for a strategic alliance. In 1979, the U.S.-brokered peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed; it marked the first time that an Arab country had recognized Israel.

Global Puzzle Pieces
Analysis and Commentary

Diplomacy Requires Trust Among Allies

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Room for Debate (New York Times)
Friday, October 25, 2013

If Washington undermines its own leadership or that of its allies, the collective ability of the West to combat terrorism will be compromised. By Kiron K. Skinner.

Analysis and Commentary

Protecting & Preserving the American Idea

by Kiron K. Skinnervia TribLive
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It is a common belief that the main role of conservatives in U.S. national security during the second half of the 20th century was to ...

Analysis and Commentary

What ‘The Butler’ Gets Wrong About Ronald Reagan and Race

by Kiron K. Skinner, Steven Hayward, Paul Kengorvia Washington Post
Thursday, August 29, 2013

Four presidential historians say the film gets it wrong.

Analysis and Commentary

The Dream Today

by Kiron K. Skinnervia National Review Online
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fifty years after the March on Washington

Analysis and Commentary

Assessing The True Terror Threat

by Kiron K. Skinnervia TribLive
Friday, August 16, 2013

Immersed in a war against terrorism, the United States is in crisis because it has been unable to reach a consensus about the true nature ...

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