The Last Warrior

Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy


By Andrew F. Krepinevich

By Barry D. Watts

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Andrew Marshall is a Pentagon legend. For more than four decades he has served as Director of the Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon’s internal think tank, under twelve defense secretaries and eight administrations. Yet Marshall has been on the cutting edge of strategic thinking even longer than that. At the RAND Corporation during its golden age in the 1950s and early 1960s, Marshall helped formulate bedrock concepts of US nuclear strategy that endure to this day; later, at the Pentagon, he pioneered the development of “net assessment” — a new analytic framework for understanding the long-term military competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Following the Cold War, Marshall successfully used net assessment to anticipate emerging disruptive shifts in military affairs, including the revolution in precision warfare and the rise of China as a major strategic rival of the United States.

In The Last Warrior, Andrew Krepinevich and Barry Watts — both former members of Marshall’s staff — trace Marshall’s intellectual development from his upbringing in Detroit during the Great Depression to his decades in Washington as an influential behind-the-scenes advisor on American defense strategy. The result is a unique insider’s perspective on the changes in US strategy from the dawn of the Cold War to the present day.

Covering some of the most pivotal episodes of the last half-century and peopled with some of the era’s most influential figures, The Last Warrior tells Marshall’s story for the first time, in the process providing an unparalleled history of the evolution of the American defense establishment.


  • “[A] detailed, rigorous account of Marshall's career.... The intricacies of net assessment, which offer options but not recommendations for strategic defense policymakers, are skillfully unraveled… readers of foreign policy and specialists will find the authors' research impressive and Marshall's story enlightening.”
    Library Journal

    “A fascinating account of the life and career of one of America's leading strategic thinkers, The Last Warrior outlines much of the intellectual history of American security since World War II, while also shining a light on the challenges we continue to face.”
    —Mac Thornberry, Member of Congress

    “Andrew Marshall mentored a series of Secretaries of Defense, beginning with James Schlesinger, in devising strategies for competing successfully with global adversaries. The Last Warrior tells that story, and shows how Marshall used the revolutionary concept of ‘Net Assessment' to do it.”
    —Harold Brown, 14th U.S. Secretary of Defense
  • “[A] thoughtful and fascinating book.”
    Wall Street Journal

    “I recently had the opportunity to review an advance copy of a biography on Andrew Marshall. I'll save you the suspense: It's worth your time and money.”
    —LCDR Christopher Nelson, USN, Foreign Policy

    “A respectful biography.... If you think America's herky-jerky national security policies and the hyper-expensive establishment serving it are flawed, The Last Warrior helps explain why.”
    —Laurence Barrett, European Affairs

    “In telling Marshall's story, [Krepinevich and Watts] also cover much of the history of U.S. national security and foreign policy over the past 60 years.”
    Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

    “An objective and perceptive intellectual history of Marshall and his work.”
    Publishers Weekly

    “In clear prose, the authors trace the career of this brilliant strategic thinker.... An elucidating intellectual history of an influential strategic sage that few outsiders have ever heard of.”
    Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
Jan 6, 2015
Page Count
336 pages
Basic Books

Andrew F. Krepinevich

About the Author

Andrew Krepinevich is president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) and the author of several books on military history and strategy, including 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the Twenty-First Century and The Army and Vietnam. He lives in Leesburg, Virginia.

Barry Watts has been a senior fellow at CSBA since 2002, when he left the Pentagon as the Director of Program Analysis and Evaluation. He too has written extensively on military history and strategy, including Clausewitzian Friction and Future War. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Learn more about this author