John Spencer
Chair of Urban Warfare Studies, Modern War Institute at West Point
2024 Speaker

John Spencer is an award-winning scholar, professor, author, combat veteran, national security and military analyst, and internationally recognized expert and advisor on urban warfare, military strategy, tactics, and other related topics. Considered one of the world’s leading experts on urban warfare, he served as an advisor to the top four-star general and other senior leaders in the U.S. Army as part of strategic research groups from the Pentagon to the United States Military Academy.

He is the author of three books: Understanding Urban Warfare, (Howgate Publishing, 2022), Connected Soldiers: Life, Leadership, and Social Connections in Modern War (Potomac Books, 2022;  and The Mini-Manual for the Urban Defender (John Spencer, 2022), winner of the 2023 Gold Medal Award, Best Military History Memoir, Military Writers Society of America.

Spencer serves as the chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point, co-director of the Urban Warfare Project, and host of the Urban Warfare Project podcast. He also serves as the chair of urban warfare studies with the Madison Policy Forum, a New York-based think tank. He is a founding member of the International Working Group on Subterranean Warfare.

In February 2022, Spencer wrote a guide, The Mini-Manual for the Urban Defender, for the citizens of Ukraine on how to defend their cities. Serving for more than 25 years in the active Army as an infantry soldier, Spencer has held ranks from private to sergeant 1st class and 2nd lieutenant to major while serving in military units including the 75th Ranger Regiment, 173rd Airborne and the 4th Infantry Division. His assignments as an Army officer included two combat deployments to Iraq as both an infantry platoon leader and company commander, a Ranger instructor with the Army’s Ranger School, a joint chief of staff and Army staff intern, fellow with the chief of staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group, and co-founder, strategic planner and deputy director of the Modern War Institute at West Point. While teaching at West Point, he received the West Point Apgar Award for Excellence in Teaching.

After active duty, Spencer served as a colonel in the California State Guard with assignment to the 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard as the director of urban warfare training.

Spencer holds a Master of Policy Management from Georgetown University.

His writings have appeared in Time, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Wired, Politico, The Hill, Foreign Policy, Defense One, Army magazine and many other publications. Spencer is also a regular military analyst and commentator for CNN, MSNBC, Fox, BBC, and numerous news and media organizations.