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Director, CCW & Secretary of State’s Office for Net Assessment & Challenge (SONAC)

Dr Robert Johnson


Dr Rob Johnson is the Director of the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre, Senior Research Fellow of Pembroke College, and Associate of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Norwegian Defence University Staff College and Adjunct Professor of Strategic Studies at Rennes School of Business. He is a historian/IR scholar combining academic analyses with ‘knowledge exchange’ policy impact.

Dr Johnson advises and delivers direct support to government and armed forces in defence and security matters, transferring his knowledge in related academic and research fields. His bespoke advisory support is not limited to the United Kingdom, but is requested by governments and armed forces in the United States, Europe and Australia. The Director is now prominent within professional military education, as a member of the advisory panel of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, lecturer for the Royal College of Defence Studies, and as the director of ‘insight and understanding’ study days and workshops. His former military career involved innovations in counter-terrorism, but also gives him a clear understanding of the requirements and thinking of the armed services. He is specialist in military strategy, operations, military conceptual developments, and strategic decision making.

Dr Johnson has delivered courses in Strategic Studies (Politics and IR) and the History of War (History). He has offered postgraduate supervision on theses concerned with strategy, as well as undergraduate tutorials for a number of colleges, tuition on foreign exchange programmes, lectures in the undergraduate International Relations and General History circus and an unexamined lecture series on the history of war and strategy. He delivers teaching to overseas academic programmes, including those of Stanford, Harvard, and Yale.

Dr Rob Johnson’s primary research interests are in strategy, its development, and the history of war which informs it. His regional interest is in the Middle East and Asia, but he is familiar with a number of global conflict and security issues. In light of recent strategic challenges, his research has necessarily addressed sub-threshold strategy/hybrid warfare, unconventional operations, cyber operations, multi-domain operational art, as well as insurgency and counter-insurgency. He has also examined how conflicts can be terminated, through transition and negotiation.

Dr Johnson has also published on the issue of civil-military relations in the making of strategy, and has examined the problems of maintaining internal security, the dynamics of insurrection, and the role of auxiliary forces. He has written on strategic advantages and risks of partnering irregular indigenous forces. His work on grand strategy, defence policy and military strategy includes a study of the First World War in the Middle East and edited volumes on military strategy in the 21st century, and the conduct of war. He has delivered papers on ‘cohesion in combat’, ‘joint operations’, ‘future operating environment’, ‘innovation’ and ‘strategy-making in the twenty-first century’, amongst other themes.

Currently he assists the UK and NATO armed forces in planning for reconfigured structures and missions and is focused on the difficulties of ‘planning future war’ using historical cases. He is actively involved in developing doctrine and new concepts. He also runs strategic exercises, including scenario-based learning processes grounded in history and recent conflicts, at the Royal College of Defence Studies, and lectures at the Higher Command and Staff Course at the UK Defence Academy.

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