Sara Plana

2023 Next Gen National Security Fellow


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Sara Plana currently serves in the U.S. Department of Defense as Senior Intelligence Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. She was a 2021-2022 postdoctoral fellow at Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2020-2021 predoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Her research examined proxy warfare, escalation dynamics, military organizations, civil-military relations, and control over the use of force, and has been recognized or supported by the National Science Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and the United States Institute of Peace.

Previously, Sara served on the Defense Agency Review team for the Biden-Harris Transition, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy on Turkey defense policy, as a summer associate for RAND, and as an analyst for the Department of Defense. She is passionate about advancing initiatives to bridge the academic-policy gap, most notably as a Fellow for Bridging the Gap and co-founder of the Future Strategy Forum, a conference series amplifying women-identifying scholars and practitioners in international security.

Sara received her PhD in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, specializing in security studies, and her AB in Government from Harvard University. A proud Latina, she is a first-generation American, a daughter of Cuban immigrants, and a native of South Florida.

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