February 2024:
Coordinators provide names of judges to NDU Press.

April 2024:
Deadline for schools to submit nominated papers to NDU Press (POC: Jeff Smotherman,

May 2024:
Judges report first-round scores to NDU Press.

May 2024:
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 18th Annual SECDEF National Security Essay Competition for Academic Year 2023-2024, culminating in the final round of judging in May 2024. 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 2023 Winning Essays

First Place
Lieutenant Colonel Karl Scheuerman, ANG

Eisenhower School
"Weaponizing Wheat: How Strategic Competition with Russia Could Threaten American Food Security"

Second Place
Lieutenant Colonel Bryony Slaughter, USSF

National War College
“Patrolling the Celestial Narrows: How the United States and Japan Can Shape and Enforce Space Governance”

Third Place
Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Wong, USMCR

Eisenhower School
“Alexa, Write My OPORD: Promise and Pitfalls of Machine Learning for Commanders in Combat”

For the 2023 competition, the winning and other worthy essays will be published in Joint Force Quarterly 111 (4th Quarter 2023), 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.