Deputy Director

Major John W. Spencer currently serves as the Deputy Director of the Modern War Institute and Co-Director of the Urban Warfare Project. He is the Course Director of the Strategic Studies Capstone and instructor for Introduction to Strategic Studies. Prior to his assignment to the United States Military Academy, he served as a year-long fellow with the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group.

He enlisted in the US Army in 1993. He served as an enlisted Soldier in the Infantry for eight years, reaching the rank of Sergeant First Class, before attending Officer Candidate School in 2001 where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry.

He served as a strategic planner in the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, G1 Strategic Initiatives Group and as an Action Officer in the Joint Staff Joint Force Development, J7 Joint Exercise and Training Division.

His past assignments include two combat deployments to Iraq as both an Infantry Platoon Leader and Company Commander. He also served as a Ranger Instructor with the Army’s Ranger School.

He holds a Master of Policy Management from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Science in Management Studies from University of Maryland University College. He is also a graduate of the Army’s Command and General Staff College.

His writing has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, LA Times, NY Daily News, Wired Magazine, Politico, The Hill, Foreign Policy Magazine, Defense One, Army Magazine, and many other publications.

He lives in West Point, NY, with his wife and three children.  He looks forward to connecting via Twitter @SpencerGuard.


Major Spencer’s publications include:

Professional Articles

A Soldier’s Urban Warfare Christmas Wish List,” The Modern War Institute, 19 December 2017

How drone swarms could change urban warfare,” C4ISRNET, 11 December 2017

How the military is making it hard to remember our wars,” The Washington Post, 10 November 2017

America’s Mumbai,” The Modern War Institute, 17 October 2017

Giving military equipment to police will not lead to safer streets,” The Hill, 20 September 2017, (coauthored)

A Better Approach to Urban Operations: Treat Cities like Human Bodies,” The Modern War Institute, 13 September 2017, (coauthored)

Why America Is Destroying Iraqi Cities to Save Them,” The National Interest, 23 August 2017

The City Is the Battlefield of the Future,” The Wall Street Journal, 19 July 2017

Three ‘War Hacks’ for Urban Combat,” The Modern War Institute, 03 July 2017

So You Think the Army Can Avoid Fighting in Megacities,” The Modern War Institute, 16 May 2017, (coauthored)

The Army Needs an Urban Warfare School and it Needs it Soon,” The Modern War Institute, 05 April 2017

We don’t need more money to defeat ISIS. We need more stats,” The Hill, 22 March 2017, (coauthored)

What an Army Megacities Unit Would Look Like,” The Modern War Institute, 08 March 2017

It’s time to Create a Megacities Combat Unit,” The Modern War Institute, 31 January 2017

To Help Vets, Overhaul How We Treat PTSD,” The Hill, 31 January 2017, (coauthored)

To Win at War, Make America Fit Again,” The Hill, 12 January 2017, (coauthored)

To Understand PTSD, Send Scientist to War,” Wired Magazine, 12 January 2017

Grenade Launchers and Bed Sheets: An Invisibility Kit for Urban Combat,” The Modern War Institute, 12 December 2016

Ranger School is Not a Leadership School,” The Modern War Institute, 06 December 2016

The Most Effective Weapon on the Modern Battlefield is Concrete,” The Modern War Institute, 14 November 2016

If We Really Want Women in Combat, Men Must Do More,” Los Angeles Times, 12 October 2016

Unplug, Soldier! Too Much Online Time is Hurting the Army,” Defense One, 27 September 2016

Going Off-Duty Doesn’t Protect Online Behavior,” Army Magazine, August 2016, (coauthored)

How to rethink the U.S. military’s troop deployment policy,” Politico, 27 July 2016

No, Actually Transgender Soldiers Make Us A Stronger Military,” The Huffington Post, 13 July 2016

The Softer American,” The Modern War Institute, 05 July 2016

The Challenges of Ranger School and How to Overcome Them,” The Modern War Institute, 12 April 2016

Horse Soldiers in Afghanistan and the Cost of War,” The Modern War Institute, 11 April 2016

What is Army Doctrine?The Modern War Institute, 21 March 2016

Wanted: Bullet Stopping Breakthroughs,” The Modern War Institute, 17 February 2016

An Army of sound mind and body,” NY Daily News, 8 February 2016

Right Question, Right Tools,” The Modern War Institute, 18 January 2016

Now women need to seek those combat jobs,” USA Today, 9 January 2016

The military’s real problem: Fewer Americans are joining,” Politico, 15 December 2015

From Army of One to Band of Tweeters,” The New York Times, 5 November 2015

It’s not ‘a man, man’s world’ and neither is war: Gender integration in the Infantry,” Foreign Policy Magazine, 15 September 2015

General, Tear Down that Wall: Gender and the Infantry,” War on the Rocks, 31 August 2015

Cadets discuss subterranean environments with NYC firefighters,” The Pointer View, 12 March 2015

Challenging Army Force Design,” Small Wars Journal, 22 September 2014


Published Interviews

How U.S. Soldiers Are Using Their “Warhacks” To Transform Combat,” Fast Company, 09 October 2017

Interview with Major Spencer about the future of urban warfare in megacities: “Stalingrad was a very rare episode!,” Global Review, 30 September 2017

Combat Stories from the Invasion of Iraq,” The Modern War Institute, Podcast: The Spear, 26 July 2017

Mosul Victory Marks Win for Pentagon Training Plan,” Agence France-Presse (AFP), 13 July 2017

Fort Drum Shooting Raises Questions About Army Recruitment Process,” All Things Considered, NPR, 13 July 2017

Women in the infantry: How the Army is growing its first female enlisted grunts,” The Army Times, 21 May 2017

How is Mosul Being Liberated?BBC Inquiry, BBC World Service, 07 March 2017

The Most Effective Technology in Modern War Is Concrete, Argues Military Scholar,” Vice, 21 November 2016

Opening Shock: Four Combat Jump Veterans Tell Their Stories,” West Point Center for Oral History, 21 July 2016

Big Picture Science Radio Show – Look Who’s Not Talking,” Big Picture Science, NPR, 15 December 2015


Conference Papers and Presentations

“Challenges of Military Operations in Cities.” presented at the 2017 Stockholm Security Conference, Secure Cities in an Insecure World, Stockholm, Sweden, 15 September 2017 (featured panelist)

“Combat in Hell’ Revisited: Training For Urban Combat.” presented at the 2017 Sandhurst Conference, Training to Win Tomorrow’s Wars, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY; 3 April 2017

“Training and Education with Digital Technology.” presented at the 2016 Sandhurst Conference, Preparing our Future Leaders for Modern War, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY; 4 April 2016

Operating in the Red: An Army Officer’s Autobiographical Account of Resilience from the Front Lines,” presented at the American Psychological Association, annual convention, Washington, DC 8 August 2014