Faculty Expert Profile

Mara Karlin

  • Director of Strategic Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies
  • Executive director of the Merrill Center for Strategic Studies

Affiliations

  • School of Advanced International Studies
  • The Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies

Mara Karlin is a professor and director of Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is also executive director of SAIS' Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies, and a nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution.

Karlin has served in national security roles for five U.S. defense secretaries, advising on policies spanning strategic planning, defense budgeting, future wars and the evolving security environment. She also provided insight into the regional affairs of the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. She is currently a commissioner for the Congressionally-mandated Syria Study Group and previously worked on the Congressionally-mandated National Defense Strategy Commission.

Most recently, Karlin served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development. In that role, she developed and executed the overarching defense policy and strategy to shape the more than $550 billion Defense Department budget. She was a key architect of several mission-critical strategies, including the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the president’s 2015 National Security Strategy, the counter-ISIL strategy, two classified and ground-breaking secretary of defense-signed strategies on long-term global challenges, and three Defense Planning Guidance, including the earliest one in Pentagon history.

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