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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


Application Period is CLOSED. Application Period for Upcoming December 2020, Cohort 2 to be Announced.

  • Cohort 1 Application Period was February 10, 2020 through March 10, 2020
  • Submit your complete application package to whscareers@mail.mil prior to the application deadline (March 10, 2020 at 11:59 PM EST).
  • Combine all required supporting documents, signed application form and participant agreement into one final package and convert into one PDF file. Follow file naming convention: LastName_FirstName_McCain_Cohort1
  • 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 whscareers@mail.mil 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. Professional history information. Provide a resume not to exceed six pages.
    2. Provide U.S. proof of citizenship or lawful permanent residence (i.e.: U.S. Passport, Certificate of Naturalization, or Permanent Resident Card/Green Card).
    3. Two letters of recommendation from previous employers, professors, coaches, internship supervisors, volunteer activity leads or work colleagues addressing character, work ethic, academic ability and any extra-curricular activities.
    4. 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 ability, character, work ethic and any extra-curricular activities.
    5. Official transcripts of educational achievement at the undergraduate and graduate level.
    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.
    7. Assessments. Complete all requisites that apply.


McCain Fellows Positions:
McCain Fellow - Financial Analyst
McCain Fellow - General Engineering
McCain Fellow - Management Analyst
McCain Fellow - Policy Analyst


Application Resources:
Federal Resume Writing Tips


Download the McCain Fellows Program Application Package (Application form and Assessment form), below:
Download application form
Download assessment form


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