The John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellowship Program was established by Section 932 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 and was amended by section 1113 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2024. Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) is responsible for program implementation and management under the oversight of Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service (DCPAS).

This program provides Department of Defense (DoD) components with the ability to recruit and develop future leaders from across the nation.

Why Host a John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellow?

Hiring a McCain Fellow is an investment in your organization’s future.

  • Tailored Recruitment to Support Specific Mission Needs: The McCain Fellowship Program Office recruits recent and current graduates annually from graduate schools nationally and across all academic disciplines. Our recruitment is tailored specific to the needs of the organization to ensure they receive a pool of top candidates.
  • Shaping Future DoD Leaders: While building on existing talent, McCain Fellows are required to establish an individual plan in which they will be required to pursue professional development critical to their career track. Organizations have the unique opportunity in honing and developing the skills and knowledge of their Fellows to expand the future workforce.

Eligibility and Participation

As amended by the John S. McCain NDAA of Fiscal Year 2024, the covered offices authorized to participate in the program are defined by section 111 of title 10 of the United States Code and the offices of Secretaries of the Military Departments.

Agencies interested in becoming a stakeholder in the McCain Fellowship Program must first be a covered office authorized to host a McCain Fellow. As a pre-requisite for participation in the program, components must agree to sign a Memorandum with WHS to confirm eligibility for participation and commitment in adhering to the program requirements as set forth by program policies and guidance.

Agencies that agree to sponsor a Fellow are responsible for managing and overseeing the overall fellowship experience for their Fellow. This responsibility and oversight include:

  • Direct Fellow to a position with impactful work and long-term projects
  • Assign a senior level mentor to undertake a level of commitment to the Fellow’s development
  • Develop an Individual Development Plan with the Fellow for placement on a performance plan and adherence to all other performance management-related requirements
  • Identify and provide appropriate training opportunities professional development opportunities
  • Expose Fellows to senior leaders, key partners, and the organization

Getting Started

If you are new to participating in the McCain Fellowship Program or have participated in the past, please contact the McCain Fellowship Program through your Human Resources/Human Capital Office for additional information and guidance.