Primer: The Army's Journals
Say you’re a first sergeant interested in contributing to the Army’s professional journals, but don’t know where to start. What publications are out there, and which are professional? This primer can help.
For more than 100 years, the Army has maintained a system of professional journals to inform and connect leaders engaged across all levels of war and in different specialties. The Army’s journals distinguish themselves from other outlets by offering military-focused commentary and have continuously renewed themselves to meet the needs of the day.
The Army’s Journals
The Army’s professional journals can be broadly defined by their focus on tactical, operational, or strategic issues, and by their audience (see Figure for “a view”). Each outlet fills a particular niche, helping the Army think harder about everything from combat engineering to warfighting doctrine to strategic landpower.
Parameters aims to be a “refereed forum for contemporary strategy and Landpower issues.” The Army War College founded Parameters in 1971 following debate about whether the Army needed a strategic-level journal beyond Military Review and an irregular pilot journal titled US Army War College Commentary. Parameters publishes on a quarterly basis in both print and online, and produces related podcasts.
Military Review is the professional journal of the United States Army. Published by the Army University Press at Fort Leavenworth, Military Review focuses on operational-level issues. Military Review has evolved over the last century from the Instructor’s Summary of Military Articles since publication began in 1922. Military Review publishes every other month in print and online, while also publishing “Online Exclusive” articles on a rolling basis or as response pieces. Army University Press also publishes the NCO Journal and Warrant Officer Journal focused on those communities.
At the tactical-level, the Army’s professional bulletins speak to branch or proponent issues. Department of the Army Pamphlet 25-40 defined them as directly supporting the preparing command’s specified mission and area of proponency. Currently, the Army has 15 professional bulletins ranging from Infantry to Army History to Army Sustainment.
Some of the Army’s professional bulletins have moved back-and-forth from unofficial publication by branch associations to official publication. As an example of this sometimes-convoluted history, Armor started as the Cavalry Journal of the United States Cavalry Association in 1888, changing names after World War II. In 1973, the US Army Armor Center absorbed and, subsequently continued, publishing Armor following a change in rules about uniformed editors working for associations. Whatever their history, the Army’s branch-focused professional bulletins host discourse related to branch issues.
Outside the professional bulletins, many Army institutions also publish journals. Examples of non-professional bulletin journal include Special Warfare, the Chaplain Corps Journal and The Medical Journal. Because these journals are not formally listed as professional bulletins, tracking them down is difficult. Fortunately, Army University Press maintains a list with some of them.
Outside the Army’s professional and academic journals, but within the Army, are a new cohort of web-first outlets. These outlets cover a wide range of topics, but with less depth than the branch-focused journals. The Modern War Institute out of West Point and the War Room out of the Army War College focus on professional topics in a web-first, mobile-friendly format with rolling publication, podcasts, and effective social media engagement.
All of these Army publications benefit from full-time staffs and institutional support. While staffing may have fallen over the last 40 years, small, largely civilian editorial teams solicit, screen, edit, and publish the Army’s professional journals today.
Army headquarters and units also publish a variety of newsletters. These newsletters often focus on specific communities of interest. For example, the XVIII Corps publishes the Infantry Brigade Combat Team Warfighting Forum Monthly Newsletter. Based on the June 2023 issue, this newsletter has been published for roughly the last 16 years. Additionally, the Army’s combat training centers often publish lessons learned products. As an example, the National Training Center’s aviation trainers publish the Eagle Eye newsletter based on insights from recent rotations with accompanying YouTube videos and podcasts.
The form and scope of these newsletters vary widely. Despite their important contributions, newsletters have two primary drawbacks. First, the costs of producing, publishing, and disseminating are borne by the unit without dedicated professional support. Second, newsletters are not systematically archived, suggesting their content may be lost if emphasis shifts. Generally, institutionally aligned Army journals should offer advantages with dedicated staff, established distribution mechanisms, and automated archiving.
This focus on the Army’s professional journals excludes un-official publications. While some like the Association of the United States Army’s ARMY have historically had a close relationship with the Army, ARMY’s content is copywritten and some content is held behind a paywall or requires a subscription. Likewise, the branch association journals often have close relationships with branch leadership, but these journals are also copywritten and typically closed to non-members. Both may offer important professional discourse within branch communities and connection with retired members still engaged with their branch, but their exclusive nature limits their impact on the Army.
Also excluded are unofficial, web-based outlets like War on the Rocks, From the Green Notebook, Task and Purpose, and Small Wars Journal. These types of outlets offer national security or military articles and podcasts that are generally free for anyone to access, often supported by advertisements or membership programs, and may be influential. Servicemembers acting in their personal capacities or former servicemembers often edit for these outlets. Despite the typical close connections of these outlets to the military, and while they are not Army professional journals, they are still, often, partners in professional discourse.
Partners in discourse
Official and unofficial outlets foster professional discourse together—and help show the Army the way. Articles at War on the Rocks may reference Military Review articles that reference posts at the Modern War Institute. This is healthy; each outlet has a unique audience and focus.
Outlets like Small Wars Journal (started in 2005), From the Green Notebook (started in 2013) and War on the Rocks (also in 2013) showed the national security community the power of web-first, mobile-friendly outlets with social media support. Based on their example, the Army may consider creating a new platform, more like the Australian “The Cove” that offers a lower barrier to entry for new writers and rapid sharing.
Given the variety of official and unofficial outlets, everyone in the Army can find a place to contribute.