Dr. Mara E. Karlin

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy & Force Development

Dr. Mara E. Karlin was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Secretary of Defense’s Strategy & Force Development office in January 2015, after having been appointed Principal Director for the office in May 2014 and appointed as Principal Director for the Strategy office since November 2012. The office leads a wide range of efforts that guide Defense Department analysis and review including: formulating the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, assessing future national security challenges and risk management, developing long-term competitive strategies and force planning scenarios, coordinating global and internal policy planning, and evolving alliances/partnerships. The office also serves as the lead for policy analysis and advice to DoD senior leadership on the development of U.S. forces, assessment of capabilities, and the allocation of resources to support the defense strategy. This includes the development of related planning guidance and the coordination of Policy participation in the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution System.

Prior to re-joining the Department of Defense, Dr. Karlin was an Adjunct Scholar at the RAND Corporation and an Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (JHU-SAIS), among other universities. Her focus was on Middle East and Strategic Studies, and her Ph.D. dissertation assessed U.S. programs to build partner militaries in fragile states. She remains an Adjunct Professor in Strategic Studies at JHU-SAIS.

Previously, she served in a variety of policy positions in the Defense Department, including South Asia Specialist, Levant Director, and Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. As Special Assistant, she coordinated the Under Secretary's workload and facilitated his efforts on hundreds of national security-related actions. As Levant Director, she was deeply involved in formulating U.S. policy on Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel-Palestinian affairs. This involved inaugurating a program to build the Lebanese Armed Forces, coordinating nascent defense relations between the United States and Lebanon, deepening U.S.-Jordanian defense cooperation, expanding security sector reform in the Palestinian arena, and a wide range of efforts involving Syria. As South Asia Specialist, she helped formulate U.S. policy on India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh, focusing on terrorism, governability, security sector reform, and nonproliferation. In connection with her work, she received the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, among other honors.

She has published widely on defense and regional affairs and has delivered numerous briefings and testimony to audiences including Congress, the intelligence community, and academic and think tank audiences. She led delegations to Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, UAE, Qatar, India, Pakistan, and Nepal, and conducted research or participated in negotiations in Japan, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, India, and France.

Dr. Karlin received her B.A. summa cum laude in Political Science from Tulane University, M.A. with distinction in Strategic Studies, Middle East Studies, and Economics from JHU-SAIS, and Ph.D. in International Affairs from JHU-SAIS.