The inaugural class of McCain Institute National Security & Counterterrorism fellows convened in early November for a week of meetings and leadership development in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
Designed and led by Nicholas Rasmussen—director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) from 2014-2017 and senior White House national security official under Presidents Bush and Obama—the fellowship reflects the McCain Institute’s commitment to investing in the most promising character-driven leaders of the next generation.
In Washington, the fellows engaged with both current and former senior leadership at key government agencies, attended panel discussions on a range of counterterrorism issues, and participated in leadership and executive management training. Speakers included National Counterterrorism Center Acting Director Russ Travers, the Deputy Chief of Analysis at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Mission Center, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, former CIA Director John Brennan, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, and former Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Jeff Eggers, now executive director of the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute.
On their first night in New York, the fellows visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum for a special exhibition preview and reception for “Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden.” The exhibit tells the story of the more than decade-long search for the leader of al-Qaida and includes an immersive digital experience featuring excerpts from interviews with Rasmussen and others involved in the decision-making process leading up to the raid.
While in New York, the fellows also met with local law enforcement and counterterrorism leaders at the NYPD and Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, the director of Morgan Stanley’s Cybersecurity Fusion Center, former Deputy CIA Director Avril Haines, and former Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, who is also a member of the McCain Institute Board of Trustees.
The ultimate goal of the fellowship program is to create an enduring international network of future national security decisionmakers. Drawn from the nations that comprise the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, this year’s cohort includes fellows from the Office of National Intelligence and Australian Federal Police in Canberra, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Home Office in London, and the CIA, FBI, and NCTC in Washington.
The fellows will reconvene in February and May for parallel programming in London and Canberra, respectively.