My research examines how, when, and why state governing capacity is influenced by bottom-up and non-state forces. I explain security outcomes in the US and European Union, particularly policies and institutions at the intersection of political economy and security. I address the conditions under which parochial actors (industry and bureaucracy) either constrain or enable national and international security institutions. As my work lies at the nexus between comparative politics and IR, I examine the links between interest groups and institutions in overlapping contexts: bureaucratic politics; defense spending and industry; defense industrial politics; information security; public opinion; arms exports and procurement policy; migration, trafficking, and border security; and European integration. I highlight four areas of research below: Global Private Security; Political Economy of Security; Defense Spending and Procurement; and EU and US Institutions, Interests, and Identities.


The Logic of Outsourcing Security

My next project is on the privatization and outsourcing of state security functions. It takes a institutional and political economy lens on why states outsource security, whether by privatization to market actors or delegation to other political entities. It is driven by three observations: that state security practices are 1) internationally converging,  2) appear to be diffusing from illiberal to liberal states, and 3) shifting government functions to private actors. I use historical and contemporary cases of citizen and noncitizen population management in the US, North Africa, the Gulf, and Europe and a dataset measuring private security organizational networks, contracts, and markets. This project was awarded a EU Jean Monnet Erasmus+ Grant (2016-2018) and will result in a second book. The book proposes that private actors and markets drive international convergences in security practices, particularly in the areas of border control, internal security, and migration and refugee management.

“Follow the Money: The Political Economy of EU Border Security” under review.

evaluates the politics of redistribution, markets, and interest groups in EU border security funding. Finds that paths of parochial influence over border security (bureaucratic, industry, parliamentary, revolving door) produce path-dependent distributional politics.

“Security cooperation and conflict in the global commons” in progress

addresses internal-external security cooperation and conflict in the global commons.


Political Economy of Security


My particular area of interest in the topic of the political economy of security centers on the politics of defense industries in the US, the EU, and beyond. I focus on the relative impact--over time, and across countries--of private defense interests on public policy, from EU security policy (in my 2017 book), to innovation policies, arms export policies, and other national and international security policy areas. 

“Internal Defense R&D: The Privatization of Government Risk and Capability Planning” in progress.

measures the phenomenon of defense firms (US + European) using their own profits to invest in defense R&D prototypes. Findings demonstrate both variation over time, with private R&D overtaking US public defense R&D in the 1990s, as well as a countercyclical relationship, where firms spend more on R&D during public spending downturns, reflecting either intentional or unintentional coordination over future defense technology in a ‘military industrial complex’.

“Defense Industrial Innovation and Overcapacity in a Hegemonic World” with Florian Bodamer, under review.

First paper in a research agenda on the comparative political economy of defense industrial bases. It is inspired by an empirical puzzle, specifically why states appear to be protecting their domestic arms markets while international arms markets are becoming increasingly globalized and interdependent. The paper argument harnesses the developmental state literature to create an explanatory framework based on variation in state-society balances of power and relative bureaucratic centralization. Our paper finds that domestic responses to defense supply-chain globalization produces defense protectionism, often resulting in state industrial policy supporting arms exports for the sake of relieving defense industrial overcapacity, because domestic demand does not match supply. We link domestic structure and state strategies to subsequent international phenomena: state structure and state-society relations produce different industrial strategies for managing international interdependence, but state strategies for supporting defense industries also produce arms export patterns, which, may, in turn, fuel global arms proliferation. In sum, state industrial strategies for pursuing autonomy may have unintended international consequences that ultimately fuel interdependence and further undermine state autonomy.



Defense Spending and Procurement



A research agenda emphasizing the nonpareto and nonlinear relationship between domestic defense spending, capabilities, and national security outcomes. Research and papers address serious shortcomings in conventional defense spending analyses to problematize 1) the role of strategic preferences and national interest, and 2) intentional design versus institutional inefficiencies, constraints, redundancies, and waste.

"European Defense Budget Cuts: Undercutting European Power and Military Capabilities?" with Lenka Wieluns, in progress.

addresses the strategic intentions of European states over a decade of defense spending cuts. Demonstrated that cuts reflect primarily reinvestments and reforms, rather than retrenchment or intentional decline. We are currently revising the paper to incorporate recent defense spending data to account for post-2014 spending increases. 

“Privileging Procurement?: Understanding Procurement Trends in Military Spending from 1950  to Today” with Rosella Cappella-Zielinski and Benjamin Fordham), in progress. 

disaggregates US defense budgets with historical ‘line item’ data (procurement, R&D, operations, and personnel) hypothesizing inverse pressures, tradeoffs, and structural constraints within defense budgets.


EU and US Institutions, Interests, and Identities


My research questions sui generis assumptions about the US and EU and demonstrates political outcomes as driven by standard organizational rather than exceptional processes. My book explains EU security policy with comparative politics; my other articles describe EU policies as driven by economic interests and external threat as much as ideas or values. My work on the US characterizes US defense decision making as subject to constraints and tradeoffs, due to relative domestic interest group configurations. Papers in progress are listed below.

“The Borders of the EU: Understanding the political development of EU migration and security institutions” with Sara Wallace Goodman, in progress.

evaluates the political development and policy failures of EU migration and security institutions.

“Us vs Them: The negative frame of European belonging in the context of migration and security” with Alexandra Sojka, in progress.

experimental survey for understanding variation in European public support for EU defense and border security policies, as well as European identification, under different framing treatments of non-EU ‘others’, such as migrants, refugees, and other perceived international threats.