Dakota Wood

Dakota Wood

Senior Research Fellow, Defense Programs, Center for National Defense, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

Areas of Expertise

  • Defense

Dakota L. Wood, who served America for two decades in the U.S. Marine Corps, is the Senior Research Fellow for Defense Programs.

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Dakota L. Wood, who served America for two decades in the U.S. Marine Corps, is the Senior Research Fellow for Defense Programs at The Heritage Foundation.

Wood’s research and writing at The Heritage Foundation focus on programs, capabilities, operational concepts, and strategies of the U.S. Department of Defense and military services to assess their utility in ensuring the United States has the ability to protect and promote its critical national security interests.

Wood grew up in Claremore, OK and graduated in 1985 from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor of science degree in oceanography. He was named a distinguished graduate for his work in earning a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the College of Naval Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College. He was also recognized for meritorious distinction by the Marine Corps’ School of Advanced Warfighting.

In his service as a Marine, Dakota participated in the planning and execution of operations around the world to include Operation Enduring Freedom following the attacks of 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom to depose Saddam Hussein. Dakota culminated his career conducting studies on military, technology, economic and political matters for senior officials at the highest levels of the Marine Corps and the Defense Department.

Wood retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005, having enjoyed a 20-year career during which he served with a variety of operational units and in various high-level staff assignments.  His operational experiences included a number of contingencies ranging from the evacuation of American citizens from countries in crisis to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

His professional and personal travel took him to over thirty countries on five continents and transit through most of the world’s oceans and seas, experiences that included multiple deployments to Asia and the Mediterranean region, NATO support operations in the Balkans, and contingency operations in W. Africa.  

Then-Major Wood was a lead operational/logistics planner for U.S. Central Command during the initial operational response to the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, as well as numerous plans that included non-combatant evacuation operations and WMD counter-proliferation plans as well as logistics support for the bed-down of special operations forces in Central/Southwest Asia in the early phases of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Recruited by-name in late 2002, he was deployed to augment and lead operational analysis and logistics planning and execution efforts in support of Marine Corps combat forces for the invasion phase of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

Mr. Wood also served as a strategic analyst for the Commandant of the Marine Corps and, later, while assigned to the Office of Net Assessment, the Secretary of Defense’s internal “think tank,” where he participated in a range of comparative analyses of military, technological, political, economic, and other factors governing the relative military capabilities of nations, with a specific focus on identifying emerging or potential threats and opportunities for the United States.

Following retirement in 2005, Mr. Wood helped to organize and operationalize the National Biosurveillance Integration System, a Department of Homeland Security effort intended to provide national leadership with the earliest indications of a potential biological threat to the United States.

From 2006 to 2011, Mr. Wood served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments where he organized or materially contributed to numerous seminar-style wargames conducted for various Department of Defense sponsors as well as authoring papers on a diverse array of topics that included: conventional operations against a nuclear-armed adversary; US response options to the imminent failure of a large state; the operational challenges of a protracted global irregular warfare (IW) campaign; the many implications of the proliferation of advanced technologies and weapons; evolving security challenges within the Western Hemisphere; and the development of transformation strategies to improve the ability of the US military to protect the US and its interests.

Most recently, Mr. Wood served as the Strategist for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Special Operations Command. In this capacity, Mr. Wood was responsible for advising the Commander on strategic level guidance, policies, and operational concepts effecting the future employment of MARSOC forces, personally facilitated the development of a new concept for the integration of operational capabilities of special operations forces and forward-deployed conventional forces, and helped shape MARSOC’s understanding and explanation of the utility of Marine Corps special operations forces in support of national security interests.

Mr. Wood has been a frequent contributor to the news media, having been consulted on a wide range of national security and defense matters by a number of national and international outlets. He has also provided expert testimony to the U.S. Congress and has been consulted by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), Congressional Research Service (CRS), and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Wood and his wife, Dixie, have three grown children.