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Sherri Goodman

Senior Fellow, Polar Institute and Environmental Change & Security Program

Professional affiliation

Former U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Environmental Security)
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Wilson Center Projects

Resilience & Global Security for the 21st Century

Full Biography


Sherri Goodman, Senior Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and Polar Institute, is credited with educating a generation of U.S. military and government officials about the nexus between climate change and national security, using her famous coinage, “threat multiplier,” to fundamentally reshape the national discourse on the topic. A former first Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security) and staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Goodman has founded, led, or advised nearly a dozen research organizations on environmental and energy matters, national security and public policy.

Full Bio

Sherri Goodman is an experienced leader and senior executive, lawyer and director in the fields of national security, energy, science, oceans and environment.  She is a Senior Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center and CNA, and the Senior Strategist at the Center for Climate and Security.  Previously, she served as the President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Goodman served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of CNA (Center for Naval Analyses)  where she was also the founder and Executive Director of the CNA Military Advisory Board, whose landmark reports include National Security and the Threat of Climate Change (2007), and National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change (2014),  Advanced Energy and US National Security (2017), and The Role of Water Stress in Instability and Conflict (2017) among others.  The film The Age of Consequences  in which Goodman is featured, is based on the work of the CNA Military Advisory Board.

Goodman served as the first Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security) from 1993-2001.   As the chief environmental, safety, and occupational health officer for the Department of Defense (DoD), she oversaw an annual budget of over $5 billion.  She established the first environmental, safety and health performance metrics for the Department and, as the nation’s largest energy user, led its energy, environmental and natural resource conservation programs. Overseeing the President’s plan for revitalizing base closure communities, she ensured that 80% of base closure property became available for transfer and reuse. Ms. Goodman has twice received the DoD medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Gold Medal from the National Defense Industrial Association, and the EPA’s Climate Change Award.

Goodman has served on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee for Committee Chairman Senator Sam Nunn.  She has practiced law at Goodwin Procter, as both a litigator and environmental attorney, and has worked at RAND and SAIC.

Goodman serves on the boards of the Atlantic Council and its Resilience Center, the Council on Strategic Risk, the Joint Ocean Commission Leadership Council, the Marshall Legacy Institute, Marstel-Day LLC,  the National Executive Committee of the US Water Partnership, the Advisory Committee of the US Global Change Research Program and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).  She is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, served on its Arctic Task Force in 2016 and on the Board of its Center for Preventive Action.

Previously, she served on the Boards of Blue Star Families, the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the National Academy of Sciences’ Boards on Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES) and Environmental Systems and Toxicology (BEST), and the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board.

She has also served on the Responsibility to Protect Working Group co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  In 2010, Goodman served on the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel co-chaired by former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry.

Goodman has testified before numerous committees of the U.S. Congress, and conducted interviews with print, television, radio and online media.  She has published widely in various print and on line media and in legal and scholarly journals. She has been an Adjunct Lecturer in International Affairs and Security at the Kennedy School of Government and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Kennedy School’s Center for Science and International Affairs.

The daughter of Holocaust refugees who arrived in New York in the late 1930s, she was born in Queens. 

summa cum laude graduate of Amherst College, she earned a law degree from Harvard Law School and a masters in public policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  She received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Amherst College in 2018. 

Major Publications

OPINION: Abdicating Climate Leadership Harms America's Security Interests in the Arctic, May 16, 2019

House Foreign Affairs Committee Written Testimony "How Climate Change Threatens U.S. National Security," April 2019.


The Climate and Security Podcast: Episode 6 with the Honorable Sherri Goodman, 2019,

Interview – Sherri Goodman, 2019,

OPINION: The Jordan River Valley is Running out of Water — And that's Bad for Everyone, 2018,

How climate change is fueling conflict around the world, 2018,

Who Controls the Tap? Addressing Water Security in Asia, 2018,

Viewing Climate Change as a Geopolitical Risk, 2018,

China Is Winning the Race for Water Security in Asia, 2018,

Sherri Goodman presided at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting:  “Countdown to Day Zero:  Water Scarcity and Security,” on June 1 in Washington D.C.,

Environmental and Climate Security for the 21st Century, 2018,

China Has Arrived in the Arctic: Q & A with Sherri Goodman, 2018,

China's Arctic Ambitions: Q&A with Sherri Goodman, 2018,

Arctic Imperatives: Reinforcing U.S. Strategy on America's Fourth Coast, 2017,

Ocean Action Agenda: Supporting Regional Ocean Economies and Ecosystems 2017,

State Dept. ISAB Report on Arctic Policy, September 2016.

"Meet The Woman Whose Two-Word Catchphrase Made the Military Care About Climate," 2015,

National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, 2014,

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, 2007,