John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellows Program

Program Summary

The John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellows Program is a one-year civilian fellowship program designed to provide leadership development for the commencement of a career track toward senior leadership in the Department of Defense.

John S. McCain

Program Highlights

  • Gain DoD experience in the Office of the Secretary of Defense or the Office of a Military Service Secretary
  • Develop leadership capabilities to flourish into a problem solver, strategic thinker, and future leader
  • Learning and development opportunities
  • Mentorship by a DoD senior leader
  • Potential for a career within the DoD
  • Student loan and relocation incentives

To contact the program office, please email


The John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellowship Program is a 12-month Department of Defense (DoD) leadership development program for recent advanced degree program graduates from across multiple academic disciplines. Established by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2019, this program provides the DoD headquarters staff offices with the ability to recruit and develop future leaders from across the United States. Fellows are provided with challenging developmental opportunities and flourish into problem solvers, strategic thinkers, and future leaders. The Program instills a spirit of public service and a commitment to the larger DoD community. Fellows that successfully complete the program are eligible for conversion into a position with the DoD.

Key Fellowship Benefits

  • A full-time job with salary at the GS-10 level
  • Employment benefits (e.g., health, life, dental and vision, Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), paid holidays and leave, and flexible work schedules
  • Additional benefits including public transportation subsidies and telework
  • Program Incentives including Student Loan Repayment and Relocation
  • Professional development and training opportunities
  • The Opportunity to Serve!

Program Requirements

  • Individual Development Plan (IDP)
  • Assignment to a senior-level mentor
  • Formal professional training and development
  • Potential opportunity to non-competitively convert to a permanent Federal Position upon successful completion of the Fellowship

Career Series

  • Miscellaneous Administration and Program Analysis (0301)
  • Foreign Affairs (0130)
  • Operations Research Analysis (1515)
  • Management Analyst (0343)
  • Financial Administration and Program Analysis (0501)
  • Information Technology (2210)
  • Budget Analyst (0560)

The McCain Fellowship Cohort 4 (2023-2024) application has now closed. The application was open from February 27, 2023 - April 21, 2023.

Applicants may track the progress of their application via their USAJOBS account by clicking the Track This Application link. Through USAJOBS, applicants will be notified of the status of their applications throughout the process and may be contacted directly for additional information or for an interview. If selected, applicants will be contacted personally by the human resources office.

For additional information on next steps in the application process, please review our FAQ found in the resources section. For any questions or concerns regarding your application, please contact the McCain Program Office directly.

Application Timeline

The dates below are tentative and may be subject to change. Please check back regularly for updates.

May - June 2023 Applications will be reviewed by participating DoD components for consideration. Participating DoD organizations may contact applicants directly to schedule an interview.
June - July 2023 Tentative job offers will be extended to selected applicants via USAJOBS on a rolling basis.

The McCain Fellows Program Office is honored to welcome such a strong, diverse, and highly driven group of individuals as the program’s third cohort. Each McCain Fellow exemplifies extraordinary qualities which have positioned them to be the best candidates to become future leaders in the Department of Defense.

Cohort 3 Fellows come from a diverse range of academic institutions with different experiences and backgrounds that will shape their contributions to the Department mission.

» Learn more about our current Fellows