Research Assistant/Research Associate, Defense Program

Full Time

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) seeks to hire a Research Assistant or Research Associate to support its Defense Program. Candidates with defense research, analysis, and/or wargaming experience are strongly encouraged to apply. Please note that this is not an area studies position.

The Research Assistant or Research Associate will be expected to perform the variety of duties outlined below. The following list is an overview of primary responsibilities; other tasks may be required and responsibilities will vary over time.


Research and Analysis

  • Conceptualize new projects and assist with developing research methodologies.
  • Conduct literature reviews and in-depth research.
  • Participate in engagements with external experts and practitioners including (non-resident) adjunct fellows.
  • Assist in design, management, and analysis of wargames and table-top exercises.
  • Conduct basic operations research/analysis.


  • Project proposals and grant applications in coordination with the Center staff.
  • Op-eds, journal articles, and co-authored/authored CNAS papers and reports.
  • Short analyses such as blog entries and commentaries driven by the news cycle.
  • Interim and final grant reports.
  • Project and event descriptions for external facing materials such as the CNAS website
  • Formal invitations.

Project Development and Management

  • Assist in managing the day-to-day operations and specific projects of the team using project-management software.
  • Research potential donors.
  • Assist in proposal development.
  • Assist in generating and managing budgets.
  • Engage with existing and prospective donors.

Event Design and Management

  • Formulate event agendas including themes and speakers.
  • Manage email campaigns to promote events.
  • Manage RSVP lists.
  • Execute setup and logistics of events.

Publication Management

  • Edit content for substance, style, and layout.
  • Coordinate with outside authors and reviewers as needed.
  • Manage team publication schedules and deadlines.
  • Collaborate with Center staff to develop compelling graphics and data visualizations.
  • Promote research to target audiences.

Other Administrative Responsibilities

  • Scheduling events and meetings.
  • Booking travel.
  • Writing and submitting trip expense reports.
  • Maintaining website project content.

Institutional Responsibilities

  • Participate in interviewing, employee orientation, and other personnel processes.
  • Attend internal meetings and represent CNAS at outside events.
  • Mentor colleagues, formally and informally.
  • Networking, messaging, and outreach.
  • Staff CNAS activities as needed.
  • Travel occasionally.

Qualifications and Requirements


  • Experience researching, analyzing, and writing on defense issues;
  • Project management experience;
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail;
  • An ability to work collaboratively with others in a fast-paced environment;
  • Demonstrated interest in defense issues;
  • Familiarity with the U.S. military, Defense Department, and associated terms and research resources;
  • Superb writing skills;
  • Good analytical judgment, especially regarding the quality of data and competing information sources;
  • Strong multitasking and time management skills, as well as an ability to juggle multiple projects and competing priorities;
  • Willingness to maintain confidentiality;
  • Computer competency, including but not limited to Microsoft Office (Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint);
  • Legal right to work in the United States.

Highly Preferred

  • Master’s degree or higher in relevant area of study (e.g., political science, international relations, military history);
  • Foundational knowledge of U.S. military history;
  • Wargaming experience;
  • Experience in defense strategy, operations analysis/research, operational planning, and/or budgeting;
  • Familiarity with DoD data sets (e.g., budget data such as Justification Books);
  • Strong Excel skills.

About the Defense Security Program

Intellectual Legacy: Over the last ten years, CNAS has defined the future of U.S. defense strategy. Co-founder, former CEO, and current Board member Michèle Flournoy has played a leading role in defining U.S. defense policy for over a decade. With their 20YY report, current Distinguished Senior Fellow and former CEO Robert Work and the late Shawn Brimley laid the groundwork for the Third Offset Strategy. This effort was central to the defense strategy of the latter part of the Obama Administration, during which Senior Fellow and Deputy Director Susanna Blume played a key role in overseeing planning and programming in the Department of Defense. Current Program Director Elbridge Colby served as the principal architect of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), while Work served as Deputy Secretary of Defense during the crucial early stages of the development of the NDS. Senior Fellow Chris Dougherty, a member of the NDS core team, served as a lead drafter and developed many of the key concepts in the Strategy.

Program Overview: Building on this legacy, the CNAS Defense team is seeking to develop high-level concepts and concrete recommendations to ensure U.S. military preeminence into the future and reverse the erosion of U.S. military advantages vis-a-vis China, and to a lesser extent Russia. Specific areas of study include concentrating on great-power competition, renewing the focus of the armed forces on winning major wars, developing a force structure and innovative operational concepts adapted for this more challenging era, making hard choices to facilitate change, and integrating operational considerations with political-military and escalation factors.

2019 Research Priorities:

  • Sustaining America’s Military Advantage is the umbrella for the Defense program. It will focus on how to realize and implement the prioritization of great-power competition laid out in the National Defense Strategy (NDS).
  • A New American Way of War focuses primarily on new operational concepts, warfighting approaches, and associated force-structure requirements. It will include a robust wargaming program. Senior Fellow Chris Dougherty leads this effort.
  • Defense Priorities will link strategy to resources, identifying obstacles to change in the Department of Defense, how to overcome them, and assessing whether the Department is making investments consistent with the NDS. Senior Fellow and Deputy Director Susanna Blume leads this effort.

About CNAS

The Center for a New American Security develops bold, innovative, and bipartisan national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values. Building on the deep expertise and broad experience of its staff and advisors, CNAS engages policymakers, experts, and the public with innovative fact-based research, ideas, and analysis to shape and elevate the national security debate. As an independent and bipartisan research institution, CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow. CNAS is located in Washington, DC.

To Apply

CNAS is accepting online applications only. Candidates must apply online using this link:

Complete application must include a cover letter explaining interest and qualifications for the position, a resume or CV. A writing sample may be requested.

All qualified applicants will be considered for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin.