John T. Watts is a nonresident senior fellow in the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a strategic partnership manager at Zignal Labs.

At the Atlantic Council, he was foundational in the development of Forward Defense and created the Emergent Futures Lab to develop new insights into future threats by combining experimental approaches and nontraditional perspectives with established expertise. His work there has included research and papers on creating a trusted and resilient global 5G telecommunications network, the threat and geo-political implications of hypersonic weapons in the Indo-Pacific, the threat of disinformation to national sovereignty, and a range of Indo-Pacific national-security issues and regional relationships. He is particularly noted for his work running innovative and high-profile war games to explore long-term great-power competitive technology strategies, future Army concepts of operations, alternate cybersecurity challenges, and complex Baltic and Middle East security issues.  

He was recently a senior policy advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense—Policy. There, he managed strategic evaluations of security cooperation activities, including those relating to great-power competition and the counter-ISIS campaign, and helped establish a rigorous learning agenda through the stand-up of a series of security cooperation tabletop exercises. He also worked on the response to sensitive civilian casualty incidents. 

Previously, Watts has been a partner at a defense technology consulting firm and head of consulting at a boutique strategy consulting firm. In those roles, he has advised start-up technology firms; US and international federal, state, and local governments; international organizations; and large corporate firms. Prior to moving to the United States, Watts was a staff officer at the Australian Department of Defence, working in a variety of strategic planning, implementation, evaluation, and management roles. Watts also spent more than a dozen years in the Australian Army Reserves, where he held command, training, officer-development, and emergency-management positions. His most recent position was as a liaison officer with the Virginia National Guard. 

Watts holds a Master of International Law from the Australian National University and Honours of Arts in international studies from the University of Adelaide, Australia.