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

Iowa Is Deceptive; Political Artistry Matters

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Advancing a Free Society
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Success in Iowa is no guarantee of subsequent victories, but candidates and their advisers who dismiss the importance of the caucuses do so at their own peril.

Analysis and Commentary

American exceptionalism

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Sunday, July 3, 2011

...[T]he GOP -- on the basis of its experience in demonstrating commitment to the American Creed -- will be in a unique position to impart a comprehensive narrative about the tenets of the Declaration of Independence and the significant challenges of implementing them...

American Exceptionalism

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Advancing a Free Society
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Analysis and Commentary

American Exceptionalism

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Advancing a Free Society
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Recently, [the American Creed] has emerged once again as Republicans, Libertarians, and conservatives more generally seek to distinguish themselves from the current White House leadership...

Analysis and Commentary

Ronald Reagan and the African American

by Kiron K. Skinnervia National Review Online
Monday, February 21, 2011

Reagan established the rhetorical base for a broader tent. It is time for the party to realize his vision...

Ronald Reagan and the African American

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Advancing a Free Society
Friday, February 18, 2011

Ronald Reagan, who narrowly lost the Republican party’s presidential nomination in 1976, realized that his party needed to broaden its base into a durable coalition

Wikileaks no favor to historians

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Advancing a Free Society
Monday, January 3, 2011

Nearly a half-century ago, the public was riveted by the release of confidential and classified U.S. documents, the Pentagon Papers, and later by the private exchanges that President Nixon had secretly taped at the White House.

Analysis and Commentary

WikiLeaks no favor to historians

by Kiron K. Skinnervia CNN.com
Saturday, January 1, 2011

Kiron Skinner says leak sites springing up globally will stifle private diplomatic exchanges scholars rely on to make sense of the past and will transform the study of history...

Leaked documents can’t tell the whole story

by Kiron K. Skinnervia Advancing a Free Society
Thursday, December 2, 2010

Critics and supporters of the Obama administration alike, others concerned foremost about national security, the so-called whistle-blowers of WikiLeaks, and both U.S. allies and enemies believe the released diplomatic documents contain significant revelations about U.S.

Analysis and Commentary

Leaked documents can't tell the whole story

by Kiron K. Skinnervia CNN.com
Thursday, December 2, 2010

We face a different kind of threat to national security, perhaps the most dangerous threat of all. The historian's craft must be part of the public debate about the documents released by WikiLeaks...

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