- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Marisa Porges' Journey from Naval Flight Officer to Counterterror Expert

  • Wesley Nord
| Summer 2013

Belfer Center Fellow Marisa Porges' career has already spanned the worlds of academia and policymaking, the government, and the military. As an undergraduate at Harvard, Porges earned honors with a degree in geophysics and, during senior year, commanded her Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps unit. After graduation, she commissioned as a naval flight officer in the U.S. Navy and managed the weapons systems aboard EA-6B Prowlers, a carrier-based electronic warfare jet. Upon leaving active duty, Porges became a counterterrorism policy adviser in the U.S. Departments of Defense and the Treasury. As a doctoral candidate in the Department of War Studies at King's College London and a research fellow with the Belfer Center's International Security Program, she now combines scholarship and practice.

Porges' work, in and out of government, covers a range of terrorism-related issues, from detention to terrorist financing. She says that it is critical to develop a diverse portfolio of counterterrorism tools, which should include both "hard" and "soft" tactics. Her latest research focuses on the latter by studying de-radicalization programs for terrorist detainees, a topic that became of interest while she was at the Pentagon.

In particular, Porges looks at how de-radicalization, more commonly called "rehabilitation for terrorists," is conducted around the world, especially in critical countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. She aims to determine the impact of these programs, including whether they help decrease the risk posed if a detainee is released. Porges also investigates whether these programs have a positive effect on "efforts to combat radicalization amongst the wider public, including the friends and families who are looking at the prison systems and counterterrorism operations."

Throughout, she has built upon her years of military and government service. "That work influenced how I look at questions. I definitely keep in the back of my mind how my research is going to affect both policymakers and practitioners." Porges also noted the particular impact of her military experience. "I became interested in how the decisions I was being asked to implement were being made and what national security policy and decision-making looked like."

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Nord, Wesley. Marisa Porges' Journey from Naval Flight Officer to Counterterror Expert.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2013).

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