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National Security Fellows Program

The National Security Fellows Program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government is a closed enrollment program which offers a ten-month postgraduate research fellowship for U.S. military officers and U.S. government civilian officials from the Intelligence Community who show promise of rising to the most challenging leadership positions in their organizations. Selection for this program is done by the respective military services and agencies.

National Security Fellows have the opportunity to study a wide range of public management and security issues.  They belong to a fellowship community that brings other practitioners such as politicians, journalists, diplomats, and educators to Harvard.  After they leave Cambridge, Fellows continue to take part in a variety of events that are organized regularly for alumni of the Kennedy School.

Fellows pursue group research projects and write a paper aimed at senior policy makers; audit classes at Harvard, MIT, and the Fletcher School; participate in the National Security Fellows Executive Program when they arrive in the summer; attend guest speaker seminars hosted by the National Security Program and other groups around Harvard, MIT and the Fletcher School; participate in working groups associated with the various research centers of Harvard, including the Institute of Politics, the Center for Press Politics and Public Policy, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard, and the national security studies programs at the Fletcher School and MIT.

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The Curriculum

National Security Fellows design their own activities within the broad framework of the fellowship program.  They audit graduate-level courses throughout the academic year at Harvard, MIT, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  Some typical courses include

  • Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies;
  • The Arts of Political Leadership;
  • Critical Issues in Homeland Security;
  • Innovation and Public Management;
  • U.S. Security, the Law and Justice;
  • Organizational Leadership and Governance;
  • Cross Cultural Leadership and Negotiation;
  • Human Rights, State Sovereignty, and Intervention;
  • Non-State Threats to International Security;
  • The Role of Force in International Politics;
  • The American Presidency;
  • Defense Resource Allocation and Force Planning;
  • Analytic Frameworks for Explaining & Predicting Decisions in Domestic & Foreign Affairs.

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Research is the most heavily emphasized activity for the National Security Fellows.  Fellows work either in teams or alone on current national security problems and develop practical alternatives to address them.  The Fellows personally interview senior policy makers and their staffs and actively seek their comments throughout their research effort.

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Executive Education

The Fellows Executive Program is modeled on the extremely successful executive program that we conduct annually for flag officers and senior executives (NISM), and begins immediately after the Fellows arrive in August.  This formal two-week program aims to establish a foundation upon which the Fellows can develop their research projects and their course work activities.  The course is designed specifically for the Fellows' level of experience and understanding.  The case studies and lectures presented are intended to promote interaction, both formal and informal, with the faculty and with other Fellows.  A recent curriculum included sessions on:

  • understanding terrorism
  • adaptive leadership
  • political management
  • the changing patterns of world politics
  • security policy development
  • working with Congress
  • negotiations and consensus-building
  • presidential decision making
  • the ethics of intervention
  • security challenges world-wide

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More Information

For questions on the National Security Fellows program, please contact Assistant Director Jean Woodward at 617-496-4980 or

Copyright © 2016 The President and Fellows of Harvard College