Thomas Spoehr

Thomas Spoehr

Director, Center for National Defense

Areas of Expertise

  • Defense

Thomas W. Spoehr conducts and supervises research on national defense matters.

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Thomas W. Spoehr conducts and supervises research on national defense matters such as budgets, acquisition, strategy, and policy as director of the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation.

Before joining the leading Washington think tank in 2016, Spoehr served America for more than 36 years in the Army, where he attained the rank of lieutenant general before retiring.

In senior leadership positions at the Pentagon, Spoehr was responsible for charting the Army’s financial plans, developing strategies to modernize equipment, and achieving business efficiencies and reform.

He recalls becoming passionate about ensuring that every dollar provided to the U.S. military goes toward improving readiness.

The secretary of the Army and other senior leaders used Spoehr’s analysis and recommendations to reduce or eliminate military headquarters, lower back-office costs, and streamline lengthy bureaucratic processes, saving millions of taxpayer dollars. 

His early service included operational assignments to ensure Army and joint forces were proficient in countering weapons of mass destruction -- whether chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear.  

As one of the Army’s foremost uniformed experts in this area, Spoehr served as commandant of its Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he was responsible for policy, training, and strategy. His other assignments included command at the company, battalion, and brigade levels. 

In the wake of the 2015 incident in which Defense Department laboratories shipped live anthrax spores, the secretary of the Army tapped Spoehr to lead a task force that resulted in approval of corrective actions to prevent future occurrences. 

Spoehr has published articles in various journals, including Parameters and Military Review, on methods to make the military more efficient and effective. He is a widely requested speaker on these topics, and has testified before Congress on Army modernization strategies and acquisition.

His operational experiences include service with combat units including the 82nd Airborne Division and the 1st Armored Division. He participated in Operation Urgent Fury, the 1983 invasion of Grenada.

In 2011, Spoehr served as deputy commanding general of U.S. Forces Iraq during Operation New Dawn, overseeing the safe withdrawal of all American forces and equipment from Iraq ahead of schedule. The operation is considered one of the most complex, logistically intensive operations ever attempted by the U.S. military.

Spoehr holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia; a master’s degree in public administration from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri; and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

He won the Army War College Foundation Award for a research paper presenting options for the international peacekeeping force in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula known as the U.S. Multinational Force and Observers.

Spoehr and his wife, Cynthia, live in Alexandria, Virginia, where he enjoys kayaking, home repair, and hiking. They have two grown children, Catherine and Peter, and two grandchildren.