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DEF is dedicated to connecting and empowering individuals in the national security community. Through our events, partnerships, and initiatives, we strive to foster a culture of disruptive innovation and collaboration. We bring ideas and initiatives from the community doers forward to take action.

Expeditionary Diplomacy Fellowship

An operational paradigm shift

The U.S. The National Security apparatus is not optimized to solve on-the-ground problems in geopolitically restrictive near-peer environments. Current training and operational standards do not emphasize cultural intelligence, cultivation of informal networks or the adaptable mindsets required to effectively support and operate in harmony with allied partner forces.  


There is an immense opportunity to create advanced training through cross cultural exposure for both junior national security personnel and national security adjacent civilians with international partner forces and civil society. To achieve readiness, we must enhance exposure to the tradecraft of cultural empathy, situational awareness and successful network cultivation, to enable effective interoperability, diplomacy and the likelihood of mission success in geopolitically restrictive areas of operation.

Expeditionary Diplomacy Fellowship

The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum and strategic partners are architecting an Expeditionary Diplomacy Fellowship (EDF) for DoD employees and national security adjacent civilians. The exchange will focus on the proactive development and cultivation of cultural empathy and informal working relationships with partner nations in areas of interest to expose our more junior national security professionals to the nuances of in situ realities inherent to areas of operation that might preclude large conventional footprints.

"Little capacity and few initiatives exist in terms of fostering cross-national camaraderie, especially in informal gatherings, below the FOGO level and for enlisted." - Evanna Hu, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council



The EDF is designed to offer training and hands-on cultural immersion to increase readiness by empowering younger national security professionals to build relationships and establish rapport between partner forces and between civ/mil communities. This is a prerequisite to enable fluid operations that must be cultivated before kinetic engagements. Cross-pollination between civ/mil communities, both domestically and abroad, will help participants to garner nuanced operational insights and to cultivate the unconventional resource communities required to facilitate effective and efficient interoperability and advise, assist, and accompany efforts.


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The Approach

Fellowship participants will be nominated from domestic and partner force Civ/Mil communities based on character traits, nominations and review by a selection committee from the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. MIlitary personnel from US and partner forces will be selected from Junior Officer and enlisted communities with civil society counterparts being selected from a wide field of expertise.   


Proactive establishment of CIV/MIL communities both domestically and abroad will enable the US to more effectively support and operate alongside partner forces. Informal working relationships and trusted networks are paramount to effective national security, and this fellowship aims to afford younger national security practitioners the ability to codify such networks earlier in their careers.

"Informal networks and trusted relationships are critical to facilitating the social fabric for creative webs of collaboration and to empower economic stability, advise, assist, accompany and strategic support efforts in today's geopolitically constrained AOs." - Jesse Levin, ED, Defense Entrepreneurs Forum.

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Prompted by a public meeting conversation with the Defense Innovation Board in March of 2024, The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum community set to work developing the framework for the Fellowship. In May, a DEFx event was hosted in Mexico to put structure and rigor to the initiative. 


A pilot program over the course of the next year is being run to host two cohorts of six Fellows over a five week period to hone and refine curriculum. On a go forward basis the Fellowship is intended to run for six weeks with cohorts of 12 twice per annum. 

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