National Security and Counterterrorism Fellowship

The fellowship brings together the most promising rising leaders engaged in national security and counterterrorism work in the Five Eyes partner nations. The McCain Institute will select a group of character-driven leaders as fellows — young women and men of extraordinary achievement and promise who have demonstrated their commitment to national security and public service. The program prepares these individuals for future leadership opportunities and builds a professional network that connects them in a meaningful and enduring way.

Executed in partnership with the Australian National University, the current fellowship experience is taking place over the course of the 2022-2023 academic year with three week-long visits to Five Eyes capitals: Washington, D.C. in fall 2022, London in winter 2023, and Canberra in spring 2023.

The NSCT Fellowship is designed and led by McCain Institute Non-Resident Senior Fellow Nicholas Rasmussen, who brings a wealth of national security expertise and networks to the program. Rasmussen is currently the executive director of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). He was previously the director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) from 2014 – 2017 and a former White House senior counterterrorism official under Presidents Bush and Obama.


  • Meetings with senior leaders at key government agencies, such as the NCTC and State Department in Washington, the Home Office and Foreign Office in London and the Department of Home Affairs in Canberra
  • Briefings with top journalists who cover counterterrorism and national security issues in each country
  • Events with experts from academic research centers
  • Leadership and executive management training to include workshops with premier scholars and national security practitioners
  • Visits to New York City, Birmingham and Sydney for meetings with local law enforcement and counterterrorism leaders (as well as discussions with former extremists now partnering with counterterrorism officials)
  • Access to complementary online and in-person coursework with experts at the McCain Institute and Arizona State University’s Center on the Future of War
  • Collaboration on yearlong research and writing projects aimed at identifying and evaluating opportunities for national security and counterterrorism cooperation across Five Eyes nations
  • Possible participation in signature McCain Institute and Arizona State University conferences

For questions, please contact Neil Saul at [email protected] 

Application Details


Young professionals (35 and under) with exemplary character and a record of leadership, distinction and achievement in national security and counterterrorism work.

Class Composition

Approximately 12 fellows from the countries that compromise the Five Eyes intelligence partnership: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Covered by the McCain Institute with contributions, when possible, from the fellow’s home organization towards travel costs.


Submit resume/CV, statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation through the application portal. The application window for the 2023-2024 cohort will open in spring 2023.


What is unique about the McCain CT fellowship program?
The McCain NSCT fellowship is unique because of its emphasis on educating and creating a lasting network of rising leaders in national security and CT in the Five Eyes partner nations. Other peer programs do not share this Five Eyes focus. The program’s substantive focus on extremism and counterterrorism issues also differentiates it from other “Next Gen” leader programs. As this set of problems will be a part of the national security landscape for the foreseeable future, it is essential that we identify and prepare our best young leaders to tackle these challenges.

Why the Five Eyes construct?
There is no closer or more critical relationship than that between the United States and its anglophone security and intelligence partners. The mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand this year only reinforced the need for improved and more innovative collaboration across this alliance—particularly to address the transnational elements of far-right extremism.

Where will you draw your fellows from?
The fellows will come from both within and outside of government service in the Five Eyes. The fellows will fully reflect the diversity of background and experience that exists across the Five Eyes partner nations— women and men of distinction and exceptional character.

How will you select fellows?
The selection committee will seek to identify applicants who possess significant professional experience in the field, as well as exceptional personal qualities that would position them to excel as values- and character-based leaders of the next generation.

When does the program begin and end?
The fellowship will run from September 2022 through May 2023, with virtual leadership orientation programming in fall 2022.

How much travel does the fellowship require?
All fellows are required to travel to Washington, D.C., London and Canberra for one week each over the course of the 2021-2022 academic year. Any other travel opportunities (to relevant conferences, e.g.) will be completely optional. Please note that ongoing COVID-19 global travel restrictions may result in changes to these travel plans, with some virtual programming instead of in-person engagements.

When will the trips to Washington, D.C., London and Canberra will take place?
The trips to Washington, London and Canberra will most likely take place in November, February and May, respectively. Accepted fellows will be notified of the exact dates at a later point.

What will fellows do between the international trips?
The fellows will convene virtually for two-hour sessions approximately once a month from October through May. Fellows will be asked to read briefing materials in advance of these meetings, as well as to work on collaborative writing projects at certain points throughout the academic year.

Are fellows able to work while participating in the program?
Yes! We fully encourage and expect fellows to continue working full-time.

How strict is the age limit?
“35 and under” is a guideline, not a requirement.

Do applicants need to be citizens of a Five Eyes country (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States or the United Kingdom)?
Yes. Individuals from beyond the Five Eyes are not eligible at this point.

How many years of experience should applicants have?
The most competitive applicants will be mid-career, meaning that they will have had at least five years of experience working in national security and counterterrorism.

National Security & Counterterrorism Fellows