Joseph Felter

Research Fellow / National Security Affairs Fellow 2008-2009
Biography: 

Joe Felter is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and William J. Perry Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation.

From 2017 to 2019, Felter served as US deputy assistant secretary of defense for South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. There he was the principal advisor for all policy matters pertaining to development and implementation of defense strategies and plans in the region and responsible for managing bilateral security relationships and guiding Department of Defense (DoD) engagement with multilateral institutions.  

At Stanford, Felter is codirector of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project and coauthor of Hacking for Defense, a defense innovation­–focused academic curriculum he helped develop and pilot at Stanford, sponsored by the DoD and taught at more than 30 universities across the country. His previous academic positions include director of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, assistant professor in the US Military Academy’s Department of Social Sciences, and adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs. His research focuses on addressing politically motivated violence and has appeared in the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and a range of other academic and policy-focused publications.  He is coauthor of Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution and Modern Conflict (Princeton University Press, 2018). 

A former US Army Special Forces and Foreign Area officer, Joe served in a variety of special operations and diplomatic assignments across East and Southeast Asia. His combat deployments include Panama with the 75th Ranger Regiment, Iraq with a Joint Special Operations Task Force, and Afghanistan, where he commanded the COMISAF Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, reporting directly to Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.

Felter is founder and senior advisor at BMNT a Silicon Valley–based technology incubator and problem-solving platform named by Forbes magazine in 2016 as one of the nation’s top-25 veteran-founded start-ups. He served as a member of the Marines Memorial Board of Advisors and is currently a board member of Spirit of America, a nonprofit supporting the needs of US military members deployed overseas.

He received a BS from the US Military Academy at West Point, a masters in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a graduate certificate in management from the University of West Australia, and a PhD in political science from Stanford University. He is a graduate of the Singapore Armed Forces Senior Service College and was a US Army War College Fellow at the Hoover Institution. 

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Recent Commentary

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Area 45: Joe Felter: The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy

interview with Joseph Felter via Area 45
Monday, November 4, 2019

In an era of competitive influence with China and Russia, what are the policy implications for the Indo-Pacific region? 

Featured AnalysisAnalysis and Commentary

ISIS In The Philippines: A Threat To US Interests

by Joseph Felter via The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On 23 May 2017, several hundred militants acting in the name of the Islamic State seized control of a portion of Marawi City, in the southern Philippines, after months of preparation and stockpiling of arms and munitions. The group was led by Isnilon Hapilon, a member of the Islamic extremist Abu Sayyaf Group whom ISIS named its Emir for Southeast Asia.  Isnilon Hapilon used ISIS’s extremist ideology to galvanize support amongst several disparate extremist groups, most notably Omar and Abdullah Maute, who founded Dawlah Islamiyah. 

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Agility in the Arsenal

by Joseph Felter via Hoover Digest
Friday, July 7, 2017

Technology makes for better weapons—but only until our foes catch up. Why the Pentagon needs to move faster. 

Featured CommentaryAnalysis and Commentary

It’s Not Just The Technology: Beyond Offset Strategies

by Joseph Felter via Strategika
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A range of breakthrough technologies are emerging today that have the potential to radically change how we fight and deter threats across all conflict domains—air, land, sea, space, and cyber. Artificial intelligence, directed energy, robotics, and machine learning are just a few examples. 

Know Thy Enemy

by Joseph Felter via Hoover Digest
Monday, April 20, 2015

Identifying the ideological foundations of hostile Islamism may enable us to defeat it.

Analysis and Commentary

How Empirical Studies Of Political Violence (Can) Help Policymakers

by Joseph Felter , Eli Berman, Jacob N. Shapiro, Ethan B. Kapsteinvia Washington Post
Monday, March 16, 2015

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Where Terrorism Research Goes Wrong,” social psychologist Anthony Biglan argues that, given the importance of antiterrorism programs and the huge resources devoted to them, far too few are subjected to randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating their efficacy.

War Plane
Analysis and Commentary

The Super Smart Way To Dismantle ISIS

by Eli Berman, Joseph Felter , Jacob H. Shapirovia National Interest
Friday, February 27, 2015

Every week, the Islamic State (IS) makes further headlines with its ruthless behavior. The many tactics of IS raises the question: which type of war are we fighting against it?

Syrian Refugees
Analysis and Commentary

Aid For Peace

by Eli Berman, Joseph Felter , Jacob N. Shapirovia Foreign Affairs
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The future of humanitarian assistance and security policy in chaotic places such as Syria and Iraq could rest on a single question: Does aid in conflict zones promote peace or war? It seems intuitive to assume that hunger and exposure push people to violence and that aid should, therefore, lead to peace.

Featured CommentaryAnalysis and Commentary

Know the Enemy and the Nature of the Conflict We Face

by Joseph Felter via Strategika
Friday, December 19, 2014

An important first step in rebooting U.S. Middle East policy and more effectively addressing the roots of the problems that have manifested into threats to U.S. and international security demands that we more holistically embrace Sun Tzu’s maxim of the importance of knowing one’s enemy.

War Plane
Analysis and Commentary

Airstrikes Can Only Do So Much to Combat ISIS

by Joseph Felter via Room for Debate (New York Times)
Thursday, August 14, 2014

At the tactical level, air-delivered munitions can significantly degrade the ability of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, to mass their forces or employ artillery, mortars, rockets and other weapons that can have a devastating impact on civilians as well as Iraqi military forces in the field. We’ve seen air power achieve positive results in other cases.

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