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Program for Emerging Leaders

Founded in 2008, PEL shapes and supports the next generation of leaders from across the U.S. government to meet the challenges of countering weapons of mass destruction.

The Program for Emerging Leaders (PEL) aims to foster a community of rising U.S. government leaders with the knowledge and skill-set to respond to the dangers of WMD. The program brings together early- to mid-career national security professionals, selected on a competitive basis from across the U.S. government, to develop and enhance awareness of the variety of WMD threats—including chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons—and the full range of means, processes, and organizations for addressing them.


Since the end of the Cold War, every U.S. administration has viewed the proliferation of WMD as a top national security threat. While concerns over the potential for a full-scale conflict involving WMD have largely receded, geopolitical and technological changes have complicated efforts to prevent, deter, and defend against the acquisition and use of WMD by hostile state and non-state actors. Today’s security environment features a broad array of antagonists with a wide range of conventional and unconventional capabilities, thus increasing the risk of so-called hybrid warfare and other modes of conflict. To meet the new and emerging WMD challenges of the 21st century, the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction initiated PEL in 2008 to develop an interagency network of future military and civilian leaders with a deeper understanding of the role of WMD in U.S. and global security.


UPDATE: The 2019 PEL Application is now available!

Please download the application HERE

Email completed applications to


For more information, please contact