Joseph Felter

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Joseph Felter, PhD

  • Lecturer


Joe Felter is a William J. Perry Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and research fellow at the Hoover Institution.  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 sponsored by the DoD and taught at more than 20 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 ReviewJournal of Political EconomyJournal of Development EconomicsJournal 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.

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.

In The News

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Felter: Insurgents attack aid programs to undermine governments

Research by CISAC Senior Research Scholar Joe Felter shows that insurgents try to derail government-delivered aid programs in poor areas because they fear successful programs will boost the government's credibility. Preventive measures include providing greater security around aid projects and limiting advance knowledge about them.
Encina Hall and its front lawn

Felter: Development projects don't always win 'hearts and minds'

CISAC senior research scholar Joe Felter provides evidence that the strategy of "winning hearts and minds" with development projects can backfire in some conflict zones where insurgents are suspicious of government intent.

Stanford scholars: Lessons learned from the Afghanistan War

With the Taliban now open to peace talks, a political end to the war in Afghanistan appears in sight. A number of Stanford scholars have been closely involved with the war - as diplomats, soldiers, analysts and educators. In this video they discuss lessons learned from America's second-longest war and talk about what's next for Afghanistan.