MIT political scientist Vipin Narang selected for Pentagon role | MIT News


Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT specializing in nuclear security, was appointed on March 28 as the first deputy assistant secretary of defense of the United States for space policy. Narang will work as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb.

“I am honored to work with this outstanding DoD team at a critical time in our nation’s security efforts,” Narang said in a brief interview.

“I look forward to contributing to the ministry’s efforts however I can,” he added.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy is responsible for interagency coordination and international engagement on space policy and strategy, which includes nuclear, cyber, and missile defense policy.

“With his extensive research, Vipin is the nation’s leading expert on nuclear strategy and proliferation,” says Mr. Taylor Fravel, Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Director of the Security Studies Program.

Narang holds the title of Frank Stanton Professor of Nuclear Security and Political Science. He is a professor in the Department of Political Science and is affiliated with MIT’s Security Studies program as part of the Center for International Studies.

David A. Singer, Raphael Dorman-Helen Starbuck professor and head of MIT’s political science department, applauded the Defense Department’s choice on Tuesday morning.

“Vipin is balanced, collaborative and intelligent. I can think of no one better to guide DoD policy in this crucial area,” he said.

Narang will take a public service leave from his post as the Frank Stanton Professor of Nuclear Security and Political Science at MIT while working at the DoD.

“I’m very grateful to MIT for being so supportive when this opportunity presented itself,” Narang said. “The Department of Political Science, the SSP, and the wider MIT administration have all been incredibly supportive.”

Narang is set to work just outside Washington at the Pentagon; his wife, Sana Aiyar, will remain in the Boston area with their two young children. Aiyar is also a professor at MIT, where she is a historian of modern South Asia.

“It’s going to be a huge lift for her,” Narang said. “I’m so grateful to my wife and family for being so supportive when this opportunity presented itself.”

Narang’s first book, “Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era” (Princeton University Press, 2014), on the deterrence strategies of regional nuclear powers won the ISA International Security Studies Section’s Best Book Award in 2015. His second book, “Seeking the Bomb: Strategies of Nuclear Proliferation” (Princeton University Press), was published in early 2022. His work has been published in a variety of media, including International Security, Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Washington Quarterly, International Organization, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post and The New York Times. He was the recipient of the International Studies Association’s 2020 ISSS Emerging Scholar Award, given to the scholar who “has made the most significant contribution to the field of security studies.”

He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Government at Harvard University in 2010. He holds a BS and MS in Chemical Engineering with honors from Stanford University and an MPhil with honors in Relations from Balliol College, University of Oxford, where he studied on a Marshall Scholarship. He was a fellow at Harvard University’s Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, a predoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and a Stanton junior faculty member at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. His research interests include nuclear proliferation and strategy, North Korea’s nuclear weapons, South Asian security, and general security studies.


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