Modern War Institute to Host Harding Project, Leaders at West Point
In 1934, the US Army raced to transform quickly enough to win the next war. Knowing successful modernization would require the full ingenuity of the service, the chief of infantry renewed the Infantry Journal by naming Major Edwin “Forrest” Harding as editor. In just four years, Harding doubled circulation and fostered critical debates over the rapidly maturing tank and combined arms. Today, the Army again finds itself in an interwar period, seeking to transform before the next war.
As a partnership between the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army, the United States Military Academy, and the Modern War Institute, the Harding Project Workshop will meet this week to chart the way forward for the Army’s journals.
This workshop will convene about 50 experts in military journals, accessible archives, and professional military education. The workshop will first establish a common understanding of military journals. Each working group will then determine a goal for their focus area, before developing implementation plans to reach their goals. The outputs of the workshop are plans that will be presented to the Chief of Staff of the Army for consideration, and then implemented by the appropriate Army organization.
Renewing the Army’s professional journals
At their best, the Army’s journals link leaders to win wars. Effective military writing provides a way for leaders to inform the force, connects units and individuals laterally so they can share lessons and best practices, allows the field an outlet to pass information up, connects soldiers today with inspiration from our past, and develops better communicators.
To realize their potential, the Army will improve the accessibility of contemporary and historical articles, reconsider journal staffing, and interrogate how the Army teaches soldiers about these outlets. Over the last four decades, the Army’s branch magazines have published less content, less often, and more erratically. Today, the Army’s journals largely publish as downloadable PDFs that are incompatible with today’s web-first and mobile world. Furthermore, the Army’s archives are also relatively inaccessible, held as downloadable PDFs across the centers of excellence with limited ability to search them. Some of these accessibility issues may connect to staffing, which has fallen over the past four decades according to a study of branch magazine mastheads. Finally, tweaks to professional military education could familiarize the Army with these important outlets. Renewal of the Army’s professional outlets requires attention to all of these factors—and perhaps others surfaced at the workshop.
To ensure thorough exploration of key issues, working groups will examine concerns ranging from archives to military education curricula to publication staffing. The thoughts that emerge from each will together become a starting point for Army policy reforms.
This workshop will chart a way forward for professional writing in the Army. Send in your thoughts or follow along later this week on your preferred social media platform with the #hardingproject tag. Following the workshop, the Harding Project will highlight key points from the workshop. We will codify the conference proceedings into a report, while also asking that select participants write up their workshop reflections for the Harding Project substack.
What else should we cover? Let us know in the comments.