Elaine Bunn

PEL Senior Mentor

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Ms. Elaine Bunn is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy (DASD/NMD), a position she held from 2013 to 2016. In this capacity, Ms. Bunn directed the offices of the Under Secretary for Policy that develop and review Departmental and National policies for nuclear and missile defense capabilities. These responsibilities include defining requirements for future capabilities, reviewing and adjusting operational planning, and leading discussions to develop strategies and options with allies and friends as well as international cooperation or agreements in the areas of nuclear forces, global strike and missile defense.


Prior to being appointed DASD/NMD, Ms. Bunn was a Distinguished Research Fellow in the Center for Strategic Research at National Defense University’s (NDU) Institute for National Strategic Studies, where she headed a project on future strategic concepts. 

Before joining INSS in 2000, she was a senior executive in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), where she worked for twenty years in international security policy. She served as Principal Director, Nuclear Forces and Missile Defense Policy, from 1993-98. During that time, she was executive director of the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review. Her other assignments in OSD included the offices of Strategic Defense Policy, Strategic Arms Control Policy, and Theater Nuclear Forces Policy. She began her DoD career as a Presidential Management Intern in 1980-82, with a number of rotational tours, including at the State Department. Ms. Bunn was a visiting fellow at the RAND Corporation 1998-2000. From February through June 2001, she co-chaired a panel for the Secretary of Defense, framing issues for the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review. She was again seconded to OSD in April-May 2009 to chair the strategy panel for the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. She served on the Defense Science Board’s 2003 study on strategic strike, and on an expert working group of the Commission on Strategic Posture in 2008-09.

In the 1970’s, she served as a research assistant at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and at the Congressional Research Service, as well as a staff analyst for the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and an intern for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn.

Ms. Bunn, a 1988 graduate of the National War College, received an M.A. in International Security from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 1980. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in 1974-75, after graduating from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in International Political Communications. In addition to serving as a Senior Mentor for NDU’s Program for Emerging Leaders, she is currently on the Board of Visitors for the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia, and as Chair of the Board of Advisors for the CSIS Project on Nuclear Initiatives (PONI). She was awarded the Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service in 1995, and the Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service in 1989 and 1993. 

She has published a number of articles and book chapters on deterrence, assurance of allies, strategic planning, nuclear policy, missile defense, and preemption, and has spoken frequently on these issues at U.S. and international conferences.