William J. Perry

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 

William Perry is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies. He is the Michael and Barbara Berberian Professor at Stanford University and serves as codirector of the Nuclear Risk Reduction initiative and the Preventive Defense Project. He is an expert in US foreign policy, national security, and arms control. He was the codirector of CISAC from 1988 to 1993, during which time he was also a half-time professor at Stanford.

Perry was the nineteenth secretary of defense for the United States, serving from February 1994 to January 1997. He previously served as deputy secretary of defense (1993–94) and as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering (1977–81). Perry currently serves on the Defense Policy Board, the International Security Advisory Board, and the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. He is on the board of directors of Covant, Fabrinet, LGS Bell Labs Innovations, and several emerging high-tech companies.

From 1946 to 1947, Perry was an enlisted man in the Army Corps of Engineers and served in the Army of Occupation in Japan. He joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1948 and was a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves from 1950 to 1955. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997 and the Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1998. He has received awards from the enlisted personnel of the army, navy, and air force. He has received decorations from the governments of Albania, Bahrain, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Poland, Slovenia, and Ukraine. He received a BS and MS from Stanford University and a PhD from Pennsylvania State University, all in mathematics.

Perry's most recent book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, is a continuation of his efforts to keep the world safe from a nuclear catastrophe.

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Recent Commentary


The Extension Of A Nuclear Treaty Between The U.S. And Russia Would Be A Crucial, Responsible Step

by George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Sam Nunnvia The Washington Post
Thursday, October 22, 2020

Albert Einstein is said to have thought that God does not play dice with the universe. Two nations, Russia and the United States, now possess about 90 percent of the world’s inventory of nuclear warheads and have the godlike power to destroy most of humanity and all it has built.


Open Skies Help Keep The Peace With Russia

by George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Sam Nunnvia The Wall Street Journal
Sunday, October 20, 2019

Ike’s idea, codified in a 1992 treaty, is still a good one. The U.S. shouldn’t abandon the pact.


The Threat Of Nuclear War Is Still With Us

by George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Sam Nunnvia The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

[Subscription Required] The U.S., its allies and Russia are caught in a dangerous policy paralysis that could lead—most likely by mistake or miscalculation—to a military confrontation and potentially the use of nuclear weapons for the first time in nearly 74 years.


In the News

Atomic Scientists: Humanity Flirting With Annihilation

quoting Herbert Lin, William J. Perryvia Tribune Star (IN)
Sunday, February 3, 2019

Some scientists say the world is, figuratively, two minutes away from the end. Citing rising threats of nuclear war and a lack of world action against climate change, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has kept the hands of the symbolic Doomsday Clock as close to annihilation as it has ever been since 1953 at the height of the Cold War.

Analysis and Commentary

A Meeting Between President Trump And Kim Jong Un

by William J. Perryvia The William J. Perry Project
Thursday, March 8, 2018

I was very encouraged to hear that a summit meeting is being planned for May to deal with the dangerous North Korea nuclear program. This is a major improvement over diplomacy that consisted of shouting insults at each other.

Analysis and Commentary

The Terrifying Lessons Of Hawaii's Botched Missile Alert

by William J. Perryvia Politico
Monday, January 15, 2018

“This is not a drill,” announced the emergency alert, and for 37 minutes hundreds of thousands of Hawaiians and tourists were left to contemplate the possibility that an incoming missile might soon end their lives.

Analysis and Commentary

North Korea And The Potential For A Nuclear Catastrophe

by William J. Perryvia Stanford Magazine
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

On Wednesday, North Korea launched what was believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile that traveled 1,000 kilometers before landing in the Sea of Japan. It was the 23rd missile launched in 16 tests since February, according to CNN.

Analysis and Commentary

Spending Less On Nuclear Weapons Could Actually Make Us Safer

by William J. Perryvia The Washington Post
Thursday, November 16, 2017

The United States plans to spend $1.7 trillion over the next three decades to replace its nuclear arsenal. This is a lot of money, more annually than the country spends on the entire State Department. Even so, if we thought this level of spending were required to ensure U.S. national security, we would support it. It is not. The nation can spend much less and still be safe. In fact, safer.

Analysis and Commentary

North Korea Called Me A ‘War Maniac.’ I Ignored Them, And Trump Should Too.

by William J. Perryvia Politico
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Smart diplomacy backed by the threat of force, not Twitter bluster, is the way to deal with Kim Jong Un.

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Diplomacy, Not Doomsday

by William J. Perryvia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 24, 2017

When dealing with North Korea, diplomat and Hoover fellow William J. Perry advises, set aside the big stick—and the Kim regime might actually listen.