Tom Shugart

Adjunct Senior Fellow, Defense Program

Research Areas

Thomas Shugart is an Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). His research focuses on undersea warfare and maritime competition, military innovation and acquisition, and the broader military balance in the Indo-Pacific.

Shugart served more than 25 years in the U.S. Navy, where he last worked in the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment. He served as a submarine warfare officer during his military service, deploying multiple times to the Indo-Pacific region and commanding the nuclear-powered fast attack submarine USS Olympia from 2013 to 2016. Following his submarine command tour, he served on the Navy Staff as the principal officer providing oversight of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program, the Navy’s highest-priority acquisition effort. Over the course of his military career, he served onboard both fast attack and ballistic submarines as well as at shore headquarters. He also served on the Joint Staff as the principal officer responsible for nuclear strike planning, advising of senior Defense Department leaders on nuclear weapons employment plans, and the training of presidential military aides and command center personnel on nuclear command and control.

Shugart’s writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, War on the Rocks, The National Interest, the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, and the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter. He has provided expert testimony before to the U.S.-China Commission and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has appeared on CNBC and CBS News’ 60 Minutes, and has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Japan Times, The Economist, Nikkei Asia,, Business Insider, and other publications. During his first stint at CNAS as a Navy Fellow, he published the study First Strike: China’s Missile Threat to U.S. Bases in Asia.

Shugart is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College, and he holds an MA in national security and strategic studies. He is also an honor graduate in mechanical engineering of the University of Texas at Austin and received postgraduate training in nuclear engineering from the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. He is an instrument-rated commercial pilot and Federal Aviation Administration–certified flight instructor.

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