Discover more from Harding Project Substack
Fractured branch publications
If an Army Aviator who wants to read about her craft, to where should she turn? At least three publications compete for her attention. Aviation Digest is the official professional bulletin of the Army Aviation Branch, while Army Aviation Magazine is the outlet for Army Aviation Association of America. Competing with both of those, the Eagle Eye is now on Volume 1, Issue 11 of the monthly newsletter of the Eagle Team at the National Training Center. Confronted with a diffuse and siloed library, the Army Aviator cannot be blamed if she throws up her hands.
Army Aviation is not alone in suffering from a fractured professional conversation. For example, the Infantry splits between Infantry, the Infantry Bugler, and newsletters like the Infantry Brigade Combat Team Warfighting Forum. To simplify the publication landscape, the Army should support the consistently published outlets that deliver quality, timely writing that is concentrated and easily accessible to the Soldiers, NCOs, and officers of each branch.
The branch, association, and newsletter trifecta
By my estimation, nine of fifteen professional bulletins compete with an association journal–and with other Army publications (see table). While these varying outlets may have slightly different scopes or audiences, and may reprint content, this publication fratricide may confuse readers and likely consumes scarce publication resources. (Please note that this analysis excludes information that might be available to association members with access to private sites.)
Table. Army Professional Bulletins and Branch Association Journals
Across the US Army, professional bulletins, association magazines, and newsletters all aim to reach similar audiences. As we’ve documented previously, the Army’s professional bulletins (on average) are producing less content, less often, and more erratically.
The Professional Bulletin. Professional bulletins are defined by Department of the Army Pamphlet 25-40 as directly supporting the preparing command’s specified mission and area of proponency. The fifteen registered professional bulletins are listed at the Army Publishing Directorate website and listed in the table. However, this list excludes publications similar to professional bulletins like Special Warfare, Chaplain Corps Journal, or Army University Press publications like the NCO Journal or the warrant officer focused Strength in Knowledge.
Association Journals. The Army’s branches frequently have associations that support their missions, and those associations frequently have journals. The Association of the United States Army is the penultimate example of this, supporting the Army and publishing ARMY. Association journals offer branches and authors a place to publish ideas outside of official channels and to inform a broader community. Unfortunately, association journals do not appear to be systematically indexed, suggesting much of their intellectual contributions may be lost over time.
Adding a wrinkle, these outlets also move back-and-forth from official to unofficial publication. For example, the United States Field Artillery Association published the Field Artillery Journal from 1911 to 1950 (when it merged with the Infantry Journal to become ARMY) and then from 1973 the Field Artillery School published Field Artillery Journal in various incarnations. At some recent point, the Field Artillery Association resumed publishing under the name Field Artillery Journal. Likewise, today’s Armor has moved back-and-forth over its 123 year history. Published by the United States Cavalry (later Armor) Association from 1888 to 1974, the US Army Armor Center has published Armor since then. However, the US Army Cavalry and Armor Association also publishes the Cavalry and Armor Journal and claims the same lineage.
Association journals take a variety of forms. Outlets like the Infantry Bugler and Army Engineer publish in a quarterly magazine form similar to professional bulletins. However, others like the Military Advocate has transitioned to a social media publication, while the Military Police Regimental Association’s The Dragoon appears to publish erratically. Associations may also publish blogs and podcasts in addition to their journals.
Army Newsletters. Beyond professional bulletins and association journals, Army units publish a variety of newsletters. Many of these newsletters appear to focus on communities of interest, especially Warfighting Forums. For example, the XVIII Corps publishes the Infantry Brigade Combat Team Warfighting Forum Monthly Newsletter. With the June 2023 issue marked as part of the 16th volume, this suggests a 16 year publication history. While the form and scope of newsletters varies significantly, they appear to publish a mix of original and reprinted content from other outlets. But to my knowledge, these newsletters are not systematically indexed, suggesting their contributions may be lost over time.
An aviation example
The Aviation branch’s journal landscape demonstrates the challenges with a fractured publishing landscape. The US Army Aviation Center of Excellence publishes Aviation Digest with a staff of two on a quarterly basis as a PDF file on their website and podcasts. Aviation Digest’s aims to facilitate:
the professional exchange of information related to all issues pertaining to Army Aviation. The articles presented here contain the opinion and experiences of the authors and should not be construed as approved Army policy or doctrine.
ARMY AVIATION has a remarkably similar mission and publishes 10 issues a year by a staff of eight. The magazine’s about us page highlights contributions from “top ranking Army leaders, and Army Aviation Branch Chief” and others, and even bills itself as the Aviation branch’s “de facto professional journal.” These journals bill themselves as remarkably similar.
Finally, Eagle Eye, published by the Aviation branch’s Eagle Team at the National Training Center, offers warfighting insights based on rotations. They compliment their issues with both podcasts and YouTube videos.
Engagement with aviation branch related content by aviation soldiers is hard to ascertain, but the fractured landscape suggests that authors, podcasts, and videographers could reach a larger audience if they pooled their resources. While AAAA may desire to retain independence for a variety of reasons, the aviation branch–and the Army–should think hard about consolidating outlets into a single venue where aviators can reliably find credible information on related to their craft.
Fuse the fractured landscape
The US Army should consolidate official organs related to branch level professional expertise. A fractured landscape dilutes attention to important material and spreads thin the limited number of authors and content creators. While unofficial publications including the Army’s association journals provide an important outlet for professional thought, consolidating the Army’s official outlets will help strengthen the profession’s expertise.
There is an argument for a diffuse publishing landscape. It is at its heart the same as any argument for a more pluralist system: a diversity of publishing outlets makes for a diversity of viewpoints, and the more viewpoints and voices the profession entertains, the better off it is, as more ideas are allowed to compete in the arena of public opinion.
However, it is possible to eliminate the redundancy without ending pluralism. The Army might adopt a simple model by which first consolidates each branch’s publications into a single official branch publication and associations consolidate theirs into a single unofficial publication. Army headquarters could then encourage units and Centers of Excellence to promote their professional publications, rather than launch independent newsletters. Finally, the Army should encourage both the unofficial and official branch publications to establish a well-edited, stewarded presence on social media, where their consumers spend their time.
Thanks for reading Harding Project Substack! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.