Thom Shanker Named Director of Project for Media and National Security

The veteran Pentagon correspondent and New York Times editor brings expertise and experience to the SMPA project.

May 24, 2021


Thom Shanker, a longtime Pentagon correspondent and editor for The New York Times, was named the new director of the Project for Media and National Security (PMNS), an initiative within the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs that works to deepen public understanding of national security.

“We are excited to welcome Thom Shanker as the new director of the Project for Media and National Security. His experience, perspective and expertise in the coverage of national security are so important to continuing the work with journalists, public officials and students,” said SMPA Director Silvio Waisbord.

Mr. Shanker’s nearly quarter-century career with the Times included 13 years covering the U.S. Department of Defense, overseas combat operations and national security policymaking. On several occasions, Mr. Shanker was embedded with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has chronicled a historic series of defense secretaries, including Donald H. Rumsfeld, Robert M. Gates, Leon E. Panetta and Chuck Hagel. Most recently, he served as editor of military, diplomacy and veterans affairs coverage in the Times’ Washington, D.C., bureau.

Mr. Shanker is co-author of the 2011 best seller “Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.” Prior to joining the Times, he spent five years as Moscow correspondent for The Chicago Tribune, spanning the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Shanker also covered the ethnic wars within the former Yugoslavia.

“I am greatly honored by the invitation to become director of the Project for Media and National Security,” Mr. Shanker said. “I look forward to continuing the important conversation it convenes for reporters and policymakers, and I welcome the challenge to expand into emerging areas of the national security debate.”

Mr. Shanker will succeed PMNS’ founding director David Ensor, who previously served as director of the Voice of America and as a U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan. In his 32-year journalism career, Mr. Ensor covered national security for CNN and the White House for NPR. As a correspondent for ABC News, he reported from the frontlines of conflicts in Chechnya, Bosnia and El Salvador. 

Mr. Shanker will start as the new PMNS director on June 7, 2021. 

PMNS facilitates conversations between policymakers, journalists, researchers and students, focusing on military, cyber and other national security issues. The project oversees the Defense Writers Group, a 40-year Washington, D.C., institution that brings reporters and national security officials together for in-depth dialogues. PMNS’ mission involves  strengthening fact-based journalism by improving access for national security reporters to senior government and industry officials while educating future journalists and communicators in the national security field.