Elbridge Colby

Elbridge Colby is co-founder and principal of The Marathon Initiative, a policy initiative focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition.

Previously, Colby was from 2018-2019 the Director of the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security, where he led the Center’s work on defense issues.

Before that, he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development from 2017-2018. In that role, he served as the lead official in the development and rollout of the Department’s preeminent strategic planning guidance, the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS). The NDS focuses the Department on the challenges to U.S. military superiority posed by China in particular as well as Russia and therefore prioritizes sustaining the Joint Force’s warfighting edge against these major power competitors. He also served as the primary Defense Department representative in the development of the 2017 National Security Strategy.

Prior to this, Colby was from 2014 to 2017 the Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. From 2010 to 2013 he was principal analyst and division lead for global strategic affairs at CNA. Earlier in his career he served for over five years in the U.S. Government working on a range of strategic forces, arms control, WMD, and intelligence reform matters, including service with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003 and with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during its stand-up in 2005-2006. Colby has also served on the staff of a number of government commissions, including the 2014 National Defense Panel, the 2008-2009 Strategic Posture Commission, and the 2004-2005 President’s WMD Commission.

Colby’s work has appeared in outlets such as Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and Survival. He is also the author of many book chapters, reports, and articles on defense and foreign policy issues, and co-edited a volume on Strategic Stability: Contending Interpretations. He has testified a number of times before Congress and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Colby is a recipient of the Distinguished and Exceptional Public Service Awards from the Department of Defense and of the Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the Department of State. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Colby is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School.


A New Bargain

Internationale Politik | The rapid rise of China is inevitably forcing a major shift in the US-European relationship. It is time for both sides to root the transatlantic bond in shared interests, rather than often ill-defined values. Fortunately, such a basis exists.....

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Book Chapters

  • “A World Order Critique of Nuclear Abolition,” in Global Nuclear Disarmament: Strategic, Political, and Regional Perspectives. N. Hynek and M. Smetana, Eds., Routledge, 2016.
  • “The Need for Limited Nuclear Options,” in Challenges in U.S. National Security Policy. D. Ochmanek and M. Sulmeyer, Eds., RAND Corporation, 2014. https://www.rand.org/pubs/corporate_pubs/CP765.html
  • “The United States and Discriminate Nuclear Options in the Cold War,” in On Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century. J. Larsen and K. Kartchner, Eds. Stanford University Press, 2014.
  • “Defining Strategic Stability: Reconciling Stability and Deterrence,” in Strategic Stability: Contending Interpretations. E. Colby and M. Gerson., Eds. Strategic Studies Institute, 2013. (Also volume co-editor.) https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/2216.pdf
  • “Why Nuclear Deterrence is Still Relevant” in Deterrence: Rising Powers, Rogue Regimes, and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century. A. Lowther Ed., Palgrave MacMillan, 2012. https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/
  • “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy and Policymaking: The Asian Experience,” in Nuclear Weapons and NATO. J. McCausland et al, Eds., Strategic Studies Institute, 2012. https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep12088.7?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
  • “U.S.-Central European Relations After the ‘Pivot,’” in Navigating Uncertainty: U.S.-Central European Relations, Center for European Policy Analysis, 2012.
  • Chapters on the U.S. nuclear force, U.S. alliances, deterring WMD terrorism, and ways to address the challenge of a nuclear Iran in In the Eyes of the Experts: Analysis and Comments on America’s Strategic Posture. Bolz, Ed., U.S. Institute of Peace, 2009. (Compendium of memoranda drafted for the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.) https://www.usip.org/

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