Irregular Warfare Initiative

Call for Submissions: Irregular Warfare and Competition Essay Contest

The Joint Staff J7 Office of Irregular Warfare and Competition (OIWC), in cooperation with the Irregular Warfare Initiative (IWI), is pleased to announce an essay contest to foster interest in and generate new ideas about the future of irregular warfare and competition.

Disclaimer: No follow-on contract is intended from this competition.


Irregular warfare (IW) is a struggle among state and non-state actors to influence populations and affect legitimacy. IW favors indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ the full range of military and other capabilities, in order to erode an adversary’s power, influence, and will.

Essay Prompt: How can irregular warfare activities help the United States address challenges presented by Russia and China in the context of strategic competition?

This topic is intentionally broad. We encourage authors to articulate a specific approach and provide realistic recommendations in their response. Authors may choose to reference the Summary of the Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy when formulating their arguments.

Winning Submissions

The top three essays in each category will be announced publicly. The top essay in each category will be published by the Irregular Warfare Initiative (subject to editorial review).

The author of the winning submission for each category will have the opportunity to present their ideas to Joint Staff J7 senior leaders virtually and/or potentially be featured on the Irregular Warfare Podcast.

IWI may also elect to publish other compelling submissions in line with our mission to support the community of irregular warfare professionals and to provide a forum to cultivate the incorporation of irregular warfare competencies in the context of modern national security strategy.


The contest is open to all contributors, regardless of nationality. There are two categories for judging. Judges will choose one winner from each category:

A. Any undergraduate student enrolled in an accredited university.
B. All other contributors.

Submission deadline

Essays will be accepted until 11:59 PM PDT on Friday, May 2, 2022.

Assessment Process

Submissions will be assessed based on how well and creatively they address the prompt, the merits and persuasiveness of their arguments and recommendations, and their suitability for publication by the Irregular Warfare Initiative (e.g., style, sources, and accessibility). Submissions will be reviewed and evaluated by a team from JS J7 OIWC and IWI.

Submission Guidelines

– Submission grants IWI permission to publish essay.
– Essays shall not exceed 1,500 words.
– Participants may submit only one entry to the competition.
– Participants must submit a brief bio (3-4 sentences), which does not count towards the word count.
– Essays must be original, unpublished, and not subject to publication elsewhere.
– Once submitted, no edits, corrections, or changes are allowed.
– For citations, hyperlinks are used in lieu of footnotes or endnotes. Link to source documents wherever appropriate. See examples here.
– IWI uses the Chicago Manual of Style as its house style guide. Please ensure your submission conforms to the CMOS.
– Avoid jargon and overuse of acronyms.
– Email entries as an attachment to
– Name the attachment using the following convention (OIWC_Last name_First name_CategoryA or B example: OIWC_Smith_Mary_CategoryB).
– Note in the subject line whether your entry is for category A (undergraduates only) or category B (open to all).
– Entrants give DoD a no-cost paid-up license to use their submission for government purposes.