The Office of Net Assessment and U. S. Defense Policy: 1973-Present

Date of Graduation

Fall 2007


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Bradley Thayer


How has the Office of Net Assessment, an organization of a dozen or so people buried within the Pentagon, influenced the way senior Department of Defense (DoD) leaders think about military threats and strategic competition? Has the office been a consistent driver of defense policy or has its influence fluctuated over the years? Since its establishment in 1973, the Office of Net Assessment and its work has, at times, influenced--and often with tremendous subtlety--they way senior DoD officials think about defense and military matters. Through its sponsorship of important research and its ability to convey its findings directly to the secretary and deputy secretary of defense, the Pentagon's internal think tank has served an important function within DoD. The office's influence has varied greatly since 1973, depending largely on the office's relationship with the secretaries it served. Research suggests that the office enjoyed its greatest influence under secretaries of defense Donald Rumsfeld and Harold Brown and its least influence under Casper Weinberger and William Cohen. Taking an historical approach, this thesis explores the office's contributions in three main areas: the U.S.-Soviet strategic nuclear balance, Northeast Asia and China and the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). At times, elements of the office's work have paralleled important policy changes and top-level guidance, including Presidential Directive-59 and the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review. This thesis fills a gap in the existing literature by including a thorough review of primary source documents and interviews with former senior DoD officials.


net assessment, Andrew Marshall, U.S. defense policy, Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), defense transformation

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Thomas M. Skypek, Jr.


Open Access