Even though direct military force will continue to play a role in the campaign against terror, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory. Military operations must be subordinate to measures to promote participation in government, economic programs to spur development, and efforts to address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies and among the discontented from whom terrorists recruit. It will take the patient accumulation of quiet successes over time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and their ideology. Moreover, much of our national security strategy depends upon securing the cooperation of other nations, which will depend heavily on the extent to which our efforts abroad are viewed as legitimate by their publics.

Because of these new roles of participation, development, and cooperation both within and outside of the military realm, the 2017 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition seeks to stimulate new approaches to coordinated civilian and military actions from a broad spectrum of civilian and military students. Essays should address U.S. Government structure, policies, capabilities, resources, and/or practices and provide creative, feasible ideas on how best to orchestrate the core competencies of our national security institutions.

Click here to read the competition rules

The 2016 Winning Essays

FIRST PLACE, National Security Essay:

Major Lee M. Turcotte, USAF
Air Command and Staff College
The Viability of Moral Dissent by the Military (or, Chapter 6 of the U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Conclusions Regarding the Second Internment of American Citizens

SECOND PLACE, National Security Essay:

Colonel David Christopher Menser, USA
U.S. Army War College
“Did the United States Lose China Again?”

THIRD PLACE, National Security Essay:
Lieutenant Colonel William H. Mengel, USA
U.S. Naval War College
“Untangling the Gordian Knot? The Socio-Cultural Challenge of Syria”


For the 2017 competition, the winning and other worthy essays will be published in Joint Force Quarterly 87 (4th Quarter 2017), the CJCS professional military, interagency, and security studies journal; or in the journal PRISM, the Journal of the Center for Complex Operations; or in other NDU Press publications as appropriate. Authors of the first-, second-, and third-place essays will be recognized by the CJCS with certificates and—if conditions permit—a personal meeting with the Chairman. Finally, the first-place winners will receive a monetary prize courtesy of the NDU Foundation.

This is a joint, interagency writing competition, and essays are expected to meet rigorous academic standards. Thus senior faculty commitment in each participating college or school is an imperative for a healthy competition. Faculty essay coordinators are requested to actively promote and inform students of the opportunity to compete with their colleagues, and faculty judges are requested to make a significant investment of their time in reading and evaluating essays during both phases of judging.


March 31, 2017:
Coordinators provide names of judges to NDU Press

April 21, 2017:
Deadline for schools to submit nominated papers to NDU Press

May 10, 2017:
Judges report first-round scores to NDU Press

May 18-19, 2017:
Judges attend final-round conference at NDU


For further information, please contact:
Dr. Bill Eliason 
Director, NDU Press
Editor in Chief, JFQ