WASHINGTON—The Harvard Kennedy School named James Cartwright, a former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a senior fellow dividing his focus on cybersecurity issues and on the rivalry between the United States and China, the school announced Tuesday.

“General Cartwright is widely respected as one of the boldest and most creative thinkers of his generation of American military leaders,” said Graham Allison, the Kennedy School’s director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. “He will bring great insight and hands-on experience to the center’s work on national security policy issues.”

Cartwright was widely considered a leading candidate to chair the Joint Chiefs and was highly regarded by President Obama, but the post went to General Martin E. Dempsey. Cartwright had served as vice chair for four years, ending in August of last year.

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Cartwright, who was the former commander of the country’s nuclear forces, has called for a dramatic reduction of the US nuclear arsenal.

At the Belfer Center, Cartwright will be part of an initiative to evaluate how best to deal with cyberthreats to the country’s economic, communications and security infrastructure.

Harvard said he would also use his expertise for “exploring challenges that China and the United States face as a rising power rivals a ruling power over the decades ahead.”

“General Cartwright consistently demonstrated a capacity to think beyond the box,” Allison said. “In his prior job as commander of US Strategic Command—American nuclear forces—Cartwright asked the hardest questions about America’s nuclear arsenal. From cyber frontiers and the killing of Osama bin Laden to hard choices about service legacy systems, he confronted unpleasant realities and worked creatively to find feasible initiatives.”