Innovation and Risk Essay Contest: Striking the Right Balance

Sponsored by Engility



















Primary Question: In a time of shifting strategies, agile adversaries and rapid advances in technologies, how can the U.S. and its allies maintain strategic and operational advantages and advance military superiority, balancing the promise of new technologies with the constraints of current budget limitations? 

Suggested Questions to Address:

  • What are the different types of game changers?
  • What makes technologies game changers? What kinds of ideas or people can be game changers?How should we develop leaders and managers to foster innovation?
  • What are new sources for advanced technologies and game changers? Could the Department of the Navy or the Coast Guard use an organization like In-Q-Tel?
  • Which technologies promise to be true game changers and how can they be employed?
  • What are the operational advantages/disadvantages of various technologies? What are their operational advantages/disadvantages?
  • What is the role of technology offsets (take technology from the commercial industry into defense; making it easier to do business with industry)?
  • What is an ideal vehicle for finding and testing the balance between advanced technologies?
  • What acquisition processes must change to allow for more innovation?
  • How can risks be prioritized and categorized differently to encourage innovation?
  • How can the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard exploit the recent Secretary of Defense directive on leveraging advanced technologies?
  • How does advanced, breakthrough technology advancement call for different test and evaluation procedures?
  • What is the role of experimentation in evaluating the improved use of both existing and new technologies?
  • Which ultimately has more impact, a single “breakthrough” innovation or a series of small incremental innovations?
  • What changes are needed in the decision-making process including in the steps, timing and support mechanisms?

Prior Publication: We will assume that your essay has not been previously published (online or in print) or being considered for publication elsewhere, unless otherwise notified by you.  All previously published essays are ineligible.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Email essay by 30 September 2015 to: [email protected]
  • Include Innovation & Risk Essay Contest Submission on subject line of email
  • Include word count on title page of essay but do not include your name on title page or within the essay
  • Provide separate attachment to include biography and complete contact information—i.e., work, home, and cell phone numbers; and home mailing address

Selection Process: The Proceedings staff members will evaluate every essay and screen the top essays to a special Essay Selection Committee of at least six members who will include two members of the Naval Institute’s Editorial Board and four subject experts. All essays will be judged in the blind—i.e., the Proceedings staff members and judges will not know the authors of the essays.

Announcement of the Winners: The winners will be announced in the November Proceedings. The first prize essay will be published in the December issue. All prize winners will receive one-year memberships in the U.S. Naval Institute.

About Naval Institute Essay Contests

Essay contests have been central to the work of the Naval Institute for more than 130 years. They directly fulfill the Institute's educational mission by encouraging writing on issues of concern to the Sea Services. They provide thought-provoking articles that spur ongoing discussion of these same issues, not only in Naval Institute media, print and digital, but also in other leading defense and national security forums.

Winner published in December 2015 Proceedings.
First Prize: $5,000 Second Prize: $2,500 Third Prize: $1,500
The winners will be recognized at a future Naval Institute event.
Open to any contributor—active duty military, reservists, veterans, government civilian personnel, civilians.
3,000 words maximum (excludes footnotes/endnotes/sources).

Past Contests

2015 Innovation & Risk Essay Contest sponsored by Engility

Captain Terry Pierce, U.S. Navy (Retired)


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From the Press

23 February - Seminar

Sat, 2019-02-23

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3 March - Lecture

Sun, 2019-03-03

Stephen A. Bourque

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