Sean McFate


Adjunct Assistant Professor - Center for Security Studies (CSS)


School of Foreign Service (SFS)
General profile


Alt. phone

(202) 687 5679

Alt. email

Office hours

By appointment


Sean McFate is an expert in international relations, grand strategy and war. He is a professor at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and an adjunct social scientist at the RAND Corporation, both think tanks.

McFate has an unconventional background across the public, private and non-profit sectors. He worked in Africa for several years for DynCorp International, a private military company. In Liberia, he demobilized warlords and led efforts to rebuild the military “from the ground up,” after its long civil war and Charles Taylor’s exile. In Burundi, he trained the Presidential Guard to avert a genocidal threat in 2004. He also worked on programs in South Sudan and Eastern Europe. From 1992 to 2000 he was an U.S. Army officer, serving as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Following this, he was an advisor to Amnesty International on human rights and armed conflict, and a Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, a think tank. In the private sector, McFate was a Vice President at TD International, a political risk consulting firm with offices in Washington, Houston, Jakarta, Singapore and Zurich. He was also a Business Advisor at BearingPoint (now Deloitte Consulting) and an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton.

McFate co-wrote the novel Shadow War: A Tom Locke Novel (William Morrow/Harper Collins), the first in a series and based on his experiences in the field as a private military contractor. He authored the non-fiction book The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order (Oxford University Press) which the Economist called a “fascinating and disturbing book.” He has spoken at the British House of Commons, and has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, The Economist, Fox News, Bloomberg, Discovery Channel and other outlets. He has written articles for Foreign Policy, The New Republic, African Affairs, Military Review, Royal United Services Institute Journal, Review of African Political Economy, Daily Beast, Vice, Salon, Aeon and War on the Rocks. He has published eight book chapters in edited academic volumes, a monograph for the US Army War College on how to raise foreign armies, and was a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Intelligence and Counterintelligence and also War Crimes and Trials: A Historical Encyclopedia.

McFate holds a BA from Brown University, a MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).


  • PhD (2012) London School of Economics and Political Science, International Relations
  • MPP (2006) Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Public Policy
  • BA (1992) Brown University, History, Religious Studies