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.

Program Highlights
  • Rotations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense or an Office of the Secretary of a Military Department
  • Gain DoD experience and leadership capabilities through challenging opportunities to flourish into problem solvers, strategic thinkers and future leaders
  • Mentorship by DoD senior leaders

Congratulations, Cohort 3 Finalists!

The McCain Fellows Program Office is proud to announce the program's finalists for Cohort 3. Cohort 3 consists of 29 talented individuals with advanced degrees from top academic programs across the United States.

Cohort 3 will conduct rotations across the Department, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OUSDs), and Office of the Secretary of a Military Departments (Department of the Army, Department of the Navy and the Department of the Air Force). Cohort 3 will graduate from the Fellowship in September 2023.

Congratulations, McCain Fellows Cohort 3! We are excited to see you grow within the Department of Defense and what you will accomplish during your fellowships.

Meet the McCain Fellows, Cohort 3: McCain Fellows Cohort 3 Finalists
Application Period for Cohort 3 is closed.
  • The announcement for Cohort 4 will be posted on USAJOBS. The application period will open in February 2023 and application period dates will be announced.
  • To apply, please ensure all supporting documents are included in your application.
    • The following supporting documents will need to be complete for the application:
      • Résumé
      • Recommendation Letters and/or Endorsement Letters
      • Official Transcripts
      • Academic Writing Sample
  • Incomplete application package and/or late submissions CANNOT be accepted.

McCain Fellows Program Fact Sheet: McCain Fact Sheet 

McCain Fellows Program FAQs: McCain FAQs 

Contact if you have any questions or need assistance.

Application Requirements
Applicants are evaluated on their technical and professional excellence, character, commitment to public service and academic achievement.

  • Advanced degree - Master's Degree and above.
  • Passing background and security investigations.
  • Completed application package and supporting documents:
    1. Complete Résumé.
    2. Two letters of recommendation from previous employers, professors, coaches, internship supervisors, volunteer activity leads or work colleagues addressing work ethic, academic ability and any extra-curricular activities.
    3. An endorsement letter or recommendation letter from the applicant's graduate institution (i.e., academic advisor, career counselor, guidance counselor, university dean or professor) addressing the applicant's academic history and overall character (i.e., no record of honor investigations, plagiarism, accusations, suspension, misconduct, etc.)
    4. Official transcripts of educational achievement at the undergraduate and graduate level. To be eligible, applicants must be recent graduates at the time of application and must apply within 2 years of advanced degree(s) completion. Applicants expecting to graduate within 6 months at the time of application are also eligible to apply.
    5. Provide an academic writing sample (i.e., published articles, dissertation, thesis, etc.)
    6. Provide compelling narratives:
      1. Career goals. Describe your career goals and areas of interest and how the McCain Fellows Program will help you achieve those goals.
      2. Accomplishments. Describe and provide examples/evidence of any learning, professional, leadership and work accomplishments.
      3. Benefits for Department of Defense. Describe how your selection benefits the DoD and your motivation for service in the Department.
      4. Essay: Describe what you want to accomplish and achieve during the fellowship.

Application Resources:
Federal Résumé Writing Tips 

Career Fields:
  • Policy
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Intel
  • Financial Management
  • Program Management
  • Contracting, Acquisition and Logistics
  • Data Analytics
  • Cyber
  • STEM Fields: Science and Technology Management, Engineering, Info Technology, Data Science
To contact the program office, please email