Kiron K. Skinner

Kiron K. Skinner, PhD

Visiting Fellow, Davis Institute and Presidential Advisor

Kiron Skinner analyzes the impact of cutting-edge technology on foreign policy and national security.

Kiron K. Skinner, PhD, is a Visiting Fellow and Presidential Advisor at The Heritage Foundation. Her work at Heritage focuses on analyzing the impact of cutting-edge technology—including artificial intelligence (AI), quantum science, and a host of other breakthroughs—on foreign policy and national security. 

Skinner’s areas of expertise are international relations, international security, U.S. foreign policy, and political strategy. She is the author or editor of seven books, two of which (Reagan, In His Own Hand and Reagan, A Life in Letters) were New York Times best sellers. 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 opinion page of the New York Times on Sept. 15, 2007.

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 Policy Planning and Senior Adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the U.S. Department of State, providing essential long-term, high-level guidance and competitive thinking. In these roles, Skinner 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-ever 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 served as the Secretariat for both entities.

In August 2019, Skinner returned to Carnegie Mellon University as the Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics and Director of the Institute of Politics and Strategy, home for the study of international relations and politics at the university. She has also resumed the directorship of these CMU entities: the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program, Center for International Relations and Politics, 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 is a member of the Artificial Intelligence faculty community at CMU, which holds the number-one spot among all U.S. universities for AI graduate training. 

On Sept. 1, 2019, Skinner returned to Stanford University’s Hoover Institution as the W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow. Among other Hoover activities, she serves on the working group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict. In 2002, Skinner won the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Book Award for Reagan, In His Own Hand.

Skinner’s government and public service includes membership on the U.S. 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. She served as 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, a Senior Foreign Policy Surrogate in the fall of 2012 to the Governor Mitt Romney for President campaign, a Foreign Policy Adviser for Rand Paul during his presidential bid, and a surrogate for the Donald Trump campaign in 2016. She was a member of the Trump transition team and served as a member of the transition’s executive committee. Skinner served on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs from 2012 to 2015.

Skinner is a lifetime director on the board of the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City and the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles.

Skinner holds master’s and PhD degrees in Political Science from Harvard University and undergraduate degrees from Spelman College and Sacramento City College. She has an honorary doctor of laws degree from Molloy College, Long Island.