March 26, 2021:
Coordinators provide names of judges to NDU Press

April 23, 2021:
Deadline for schools to submit nominated papers to NDU Press

May 7, 2021:
Judges report first-round scores to NDU Press

May 13-14, 2021:
Judges attend final-round conference at NDU


For further information, please contact:

Jeff Smotherman
Managing Editor

Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition

National Defense University (NDU) Press will host the 14th Annual SECDEF National Security Essay Competition for Academic Year 2020-2021, culminating in the final round of judging in May 2021. This competition challenges students at joint professional military education (JPME) institutions to research and write scholarly essays about significant aspects of national security strategy.

The purpose of this competition is to stimulate thinking about national security strategy, promote well-written research, and contribute to a broader security debate among professionals. NDU Press manages the competition in three phases, with assistance from coordinators and faculty judges representing each participating JPME school. First, the schools conduct internal competitions and submit their best essays to NDU Press. Second, judges evaluate nominated essays from other schools at their home station via the Internet. Finally, judges travel to NDU for the final round conference to determine winners in each category.

Students may enter essays in one category: National Security Research Essay.

Click here to read the competition rules

The 2020 Winning Essays

First Place
Mr. Daniel Hooey

Air Command and Staff College
“Pakistan's Low Yield in the Field: Diligent Deterrence or De-Escalation Debacle”

Second Place
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Gaetke, USAF

The Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy
“Mobilization in the 21st Century: Asking a Better Question”

Third Place
Major Anthony Surman, USAF

Air Command and Staff College
“Eluding the Electromagnetic Chokepoint: 'For-Space' Intelligence to Enable Spectrum Maneuver”

For the 2020 competition, the winning and other worthy essays will be published in Joint Force Quarterly 99 (4th Quarter 2020), the CJCS professional military, interagency, and security studies journal; 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 Secretary of Defense.

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.