International Counterterrorism Fellows Program (CISA)


Following the events of 9/11, U.S. Congress authorized direct funding to the Department of Defense (DoD) for an educational program for international military officers and civilians involved in counterterrorism around the globe. The subsequent Combatting Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP) set up academic and training programs in DoD institutions around the United States, under the oversight of the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense, Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD SO/LIC). National Defense University was designated to house CTFP’s flagship program, an eight-month International Counterterrorism Fellowship Program at the School of National Security Executive Education (now the College of International Security Affairs). This program received its inaugural class of 10 students in March 2003. In 2007, the program was revamped to support one-year program similar to the International Fellows Program, culminating in a Masters of Arts Degree in Strategic Studies.

In this program, U.S. and international students study side-by-side in an academic environment. Students select a topic on a particular aspect of counterterrorism and write and defend a thesis at the end of the year. In addition to military officers, a special focus of the fellowship program is the inclusion of civilians and police officers engaged in combatting terrorism, highlighting the interagency approach needed to address counterterrorism and extremism issues.

Graduates of the fellowship program join a network of over 500 individuals engaged in combatting terrorism in over 80 countries. Alumni have used their education and associations through the network to achieve significant impact in their field. NDU strives to maintain ties with these graduates through providing continuing education, online and in-person engagement, and a range of research tools and resources for their benefit.


The National Defense University (NDU) offers a vigorous 10-month master's degree program to senior international civilian and military officers from over 40 different countries participating in the College of International Security Affairs' (CISA) International Counterterrorism Fellows (ICTF) Program. The ICTF program is a component of the Regional Defense Combating Terrorism (CbT) Fellowship Program, which is administered by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC). The purpose and goal of the ICTF program is to build and strengthen a global network of combating terrorism experts and practitioners, it currently has alumni in over 90 countries. OSD SO/LIC calls NDU's International Counterterrorism Fellows program the ‘flagship’ of its worldwide combating terrorism educational portfolio.

During their course, Fellows will participate in seminars and elective courses alongside their American counterparts from the military services, Department of Defense (DOD), and every other major U.S. federal executive agency. As a result the ICTFs will gain an in-depth understanding of American democracy and national security through seminars and lectures from military and government leaders and discussions with their international, interagency and inter-service classmates. Fellows who successfully complete the curriculum will earn a Master of Arts in Strategic Security Studies and a War College Diploma from the College of International Security Affairs.


CISA's mission is to educate and prepare civilian and military national security professionals and future leaders from the United States and partner nations for the strategic challenges of the contemporary security environment. CISA is the Department of Defense flagship for education and the building of partnership capacity in combating terrorism and irregular warfare at the strategic level. CISA prepares students for high-level policy and command and staff responsibilities through a graduate, interagency, and joint professional military education program.

During the course students will: (1) attend a six week foundational course that focuses on leadership development, ethics and the lessons learned from 10 years of war; (2) write a thesis and combating terrorism plan to address a specific national security challenge; and (3) take part in Academic Counterterrorism Field Visits and travel to key U.S. government agency headquarters that deal with combating terrorism and international security.

Applying & Acceptance to the International Counterterrorism Fellow Program

  • Rank/Experience: The optimal candidate to become a Fellow is an individual who has experience within the Combating Terrorism arena, presently combating terrorism or someone who will be assigned to this duty upon return to his home country. Military members should be officers of Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel’s rank (05/06) with civilians of a comparative status or rank and at least 15 years work experience.
  • Educational Level: In order to receive the Master’s Degree, the Fellow must meet US university baccalaureate degree requirements (4 years post-secondary). To qualify for graduate degree, candidates must submit a copy of their undergraduate and/or graduate academic transcript(s), (copy of original) as well as one translated into English, to the Registrar at NDU-use email: for submission. Transcripts will be reviewed by qualified agents to verify that candidates have successfully graduated from a U.S.-equivalent baccalaureate (BS/BA) program. If academic requirements are not met, Fellows will receive a certificate upon completion of program.
  • English Requirements: Fellows must meet a minimum English Comprehension Level (ECL) of 90. They also must obtain at 83 TOEFL score to qualify for the MA degree. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) will be administered locally from NDU and funded by the program; however, if an individual has current scores, he should bring this document with him. Please use TOEFL reporting code 7026 if student takes test prior to arrival at NDU.
  • Status: The status of a “Fellow” (as opposed to that of a “student”) reflects the level of individual initiative NDU expects from participants in this intensive program. It is recognition of the special expertise that the international student brings to the University. When participating in the core and elective portions of the curriculum, Fellows are expected to engage energetically and exchange views openly with U.S. students and other Fellows. Fellows will frequently be called upon for special insights and academic advice, and will sometimes be asked to make special presentations in their areas of regional or professional expertise.