Anna Nelson was a nonresident senior fellow with the Forward Defense practice at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. She is currently an associate vice president at The Cohen Group, where she provides strategic advice and business consulting services to corporate clients in the defense, satellite communications, biotechnology, and manufacturing industries. She previously served at the US Departments of State and Defense for more than a decade, where she focused on reforming how the United States provides assistance to foreign security forces.
She spent three years as chief of staff of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, an approximately five-hundred-person DoD field agency responsible for training, educating, advising, and equipping foreign military partners. In that capacity, she advised the director on security cooperation and organizational policy and spearheaded departmental initiatives. With these initiatives, Nelson developed of new standards for building partner capacity to prevent civilian casualties and transformed information management systems to facilitate the use of data in strategic decision making. From 2016 to 2017, Nelson was the adviser for strategy and policy for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Security Assistance at the US Department of State. In that position, she led strategic initiatives for the department’s primary foreign military assistance program, focusing on reforming strategic planning, program development, and resourcing processes. Before that, she spent five years managing military assistance programs for the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia.
Nelson has a BA from McGill University, a master’s in public policy from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a JD from George Washington University. She is a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project.