Kim Cragin

Director and Distinguished Research Fellow, CSR

Cragin, Kim

Areas of Expertise: Counter-terrorism; Violent Extremism; Foreign Terrorist Fighters; Irregular Warfare; Middle East & North Africa; Southeast Asia

Dr. Kim Cragin is the Director of the National Defense University’s Center for Strategic Research (CSR), and a Distinguished Research Fellow for Special Operations and Counterterrorism. Dr. Cragin periodically teaches irregular warfare courses at NDU’s College of International Security Affairs (CISA) and advises students on their master’s theses. Nevertheless, Kim’s primary responsibility is to execute research projects for senior leaders in the Joint Staff, Combatant Commands, and/or Office of Secretary of Defense. To that end, Dr. Cragin led a 42-person team for a grand strategy project on behalf of General Milley (Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff) in fiscal year 2021.

Prior to joining NDU, Dr. Cragin was a Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation for fifteen years. She also taught counterterrorism and homeland security courses at the Naval Postgraduate School, Georgetown University, and the University of Maryland. While at RAND, Kim oversaw multiple research projects every year, including studies related to unconventional warfare, proxy warfare, counterterrorism, building partnership capacity, counter messaging, terrorist radicalization and recruitment, al-Qaeda and Islamic State foreign fighters, the Sovereign Citizen Movement, and technology transfers between non-state actors, amongst others. These studies resulted in published, peer-reviewed, monographs (see selected examples below). Dr. Cragin also was detailed as senior staff to the Congressionally-mandated 9/11 FBI Review Commission, deployed to Baghdad and served as an advisor to the Multi-National Force – Iraq, and participated as research staff in the Congressionally-mandated Gilmore Commission.

Dr. Cragin’s mixed methods approach to research has allowed her to gain extensive experience in conducting and overseeing field studies in conflict zones. Kim has personally conducted field research in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Indonesia, the southern Philippines, southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and northwest China. Dr. Cragin also has managed local teams executing interviews, focus groups, and/or surveys in Yemen, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Malaysia, southern Thailand, southern Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Many of these studies have been released as RAND monographs, but Kim also has published her research in academic journals, such as Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Political Violence and Terrorism, Defence Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, and The Historical Journal (see selected examples below). She is a recognized expert on violent extremism and has been invited to testify before Congress on multiple occasions. Kim’s commentary, more often than not, can be found on the Lawfare Blog.

Dr. Cragin has received multiple achievement awards for her research and analysis over the past twenty years. These include the Joint Civilian Service Achievement Award from the Department of Defense and four achievement awards from the RAND Corporation, including the President’s Award, which is the highest honor given for impactful research. Kim also is a recipient of the Sherman Emerging Scholar Award, Boren Fellowship, and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship. She studied Arabic at Birzeit University in the West Bank and Hebrew at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Dr. Cragin received her undergraduate degree (honors) from Oklahoma Baptist University, a Masters in Public Policy from Duke University, and a PhD in Cultural History from the University of Cambridge (Clare College) in the United Kingdom.

Selected Publications