The John S. McCain Distinguished Fellowship is designed to support a senior leader in international relations or security issues, enabling that individual to bring about real-world change on an issue of national or international significance.

Dr. Mark T. Esper became the 27th Secretary of Defense in July 2019 when he was confirmed 90-8 by the U.S. Senate. As Defense Secretary, Esper was responsible for ensuring the United States’ national security, protecting the American people at home and abroad, and advancing the country’s interests globally. In this capacity, he led one of the largest, most complex organizations in the world given its nearly 3 million service members and defense civilians, $740 billion annual budget, and trillions of dollars of weapons, equipment, and infrastructure located at 4,800 sites in over 160 countries. Esper’s broad scope of responsibilities ranged from organizing, manning, training and equipping the joint force, to the research and development of future weapons, concepts, and equipment; and from defense trade, diplomacy, and cybersecurity, to healthcare, hospitals, housing, and schools. During his tenure, Esper developed key relationships with senior officials throughout the Executive Branch, Members of Congress, major business and philanthropic leaders, and a wide range of international partners. View full bio here.

While serving at the McCain Institute, Dr. Esper will lead a bipartisan team to assess, discuss and promote policy solutions to the challenges facing U.S. national security decision-makers in the Executive Branch and Congress.

The discussions will center around four key principles:

  • • modernizing our armed forces,
  • • strengthening and expanding our alliances and regional relationships,
  • • reinvigorating America’s soft power globally by supporting our diplomatic and development assistance initiatives, and
  • • utilizing a whole-of-government approach alongside our allies to counter China.

The McCain Institute is excited that this new endeavor will also work with some of our existing platforms such as the America’s Alliances Working Group and the Great Power Competition Working Group to present new policy recommendations to promote U.S. national security interests.