So You Think You Can Improve U.S. Security Policy?

Blog Post
June 15, 2020

**Note: The deadline has been extended! Submissions are now due July 16th.**

Essay Contest

The U.S. government’s ability to reshape the world and deliver for its people remains enormous. But as the COVID-19 pandemic and a string of events over the last decade demonstrate, Washington’s power is also enormously limited. While threats such as proliferation, pandemics, and climate change know no borders, global publics and policymakers are newly seized with setting and enforcing boundaries. Twentieth century institutions are on the wane and traditional IR paradigms in question.

Magazine-length pieces introducing transformative frames for how Americans respond to the world are one of the great traditions of modern U.S. foreign policy, for good and ill.  But while the boundaries between domestic and foreign policy are collapsing, the usual structures of U.S. security policymaking fail to capture the diversity of thought and experience that Americans could offer in response.

This call for policy essays from the New Models of Policy Change Initiative aims to remedy that. 

Submissions should either offer innovative approaches to security policy, or incorporate disciplines and modes of thought less well-represented in the contemporary policy process, or both. They should feature truly new thoughts on central security challenges, understood to include (but not limited to) endless war, nuclear weapons, and alliance arrangements, as well as pandemics, climate security, and migration.


  • We will award $1,000 prizes to the top three submissions.
  • We will also select 1-3 honorable mentions.
  • The prize winners and honorable mentions will be published in a media outlet or as New America publications.

Contest Rules

  • Submissions should be 1,200-2,500 word “policy memos” or 15-20 minute video “briefings."
  • Each essay or video should include a description of the problem you seek to address and a short review of why existing mechanisms are inadequate.
  • Most of the paper/video should focus on outlining an alternative approach, the specifics of how this approach would work, what obstacles it would face, and what would be needed to make the proposed approach work.

The submission deadline has been extended: submissions will be open through July 16th, 2020, at 11:59 PM EDT.

An advisory committee will read and comment on submissions.


If you have creative, original ideas about U.S. security challenges with international dimensions, and are not currently employed by New America or the Ploughshares Fund, you are eligible.


Submit your essay here.


Will you accept accept submissions with more than one author?

Yes! Submissions can have one or multiple authors.

Do you have a preferred format for citations?

No, please use any format you'd like, e.g. hyperlinks, footnotes, in-text citations, etc.

What file format should I use to submit?

You can submit your essay as a Word or PDF document via the online submission form. Videos should be uploaded to YouTube; you can then submit the link.



Thanks to the Ploughshares Fund for supporting this contest.