Irina Plaks is a nonresident fellow in the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. She is a senior policy advisor at The Punaro Group, a defense-consulting firm specializing in federal budget and political analysis, government relations, and acquisition due diligence. She has provided research and support for the Department of Defense confirmation prep team that prepares the department’s and other national-security appointees for their confirmation hearings before the US Senate, for which she earned the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. She also aided in research, writing, and editing of The Ever-Shrinking Fighting Force and On War and Politics: The Battlefield Inside Washington’s Beltway by Arnold Punaro, a retired US Marine Corps major general. She has previously worked on and studied issues including nuclear nonproliferation, weapons of mass destruction, emerging technologies, defense industry issues, export controls, and Russian affairs. 

Plaks has a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and bachelor’s degrees in international affairs and Russian from the University of Georgia.