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The Harding Project Officially Launches
The Harding Project has partnered with Modern War Institute to advocate the renewal of professional military writing, and announced its launch on MWI's website today.
The Harding Project launched today at West Point’s Modern War Institute. Check out our public launch article there, or some key excerpts below AND a special welcome to those who are just joining us.
On the five functions of professional military writing:
Two interwar cases leading up to World War II and following the Vietnam War highlight the five important purposes of the Army’s professional journals. First, leaders can inform the force. After the Vietnam and Yom Kippur Wars, leaders like Gen. Donald Starry published “Extending the Battlefield” in Military Review, foreshadowing the publication of AirLand Battle. Second, articles can help connect communities of interest. The Infantry Journal certainly did this, publishing articles like “Tank Divisions” and “Infantry Caterpillar Club” that connected American thinkers, and even tied in German officers like Heinz Guderian, publishing his work “Armored Forces.”
Third, journals can serve as an outlet for ideas that may not find support from the local chain of command. The Infantry Journal’s use of pen names to provide an outlet for individuals like “Captain Tenderhide” who complained about woolen Army shirts or “Private Heelclicker” who skewered officers that failed to return salutes. Fourth, archived professional journals serve as a repository of earlier thinking that can be repurposed for contemporary challenges. And finally, the act of writing and editing builds written communications skills so necessary for leadership in our multi-domain environment. Unfortunately, today’s professional writing landscape needs renewal before these five functions can be fully realized.
On why to renew the Army’s professional military publications:
The Army’s professional military publications need renewal. From 1982 to 2020, four branch magazines published fewer issues and fewer pages, more erratically, each year. The Army’s professional outlets also publish in outdated formats. While outlets like Military Review have modernized, professional publications largely publish as downloadable PDFs that are incompatible with today’s web-first and mobile world. These downloadable PDFs also make the Army’s archives relatively inaccessible. Those searching for historical documents must rely on topic guides or scrub complete back issues to find information of interest. The decline in content and inaccessibility may be related to the distance between the field and the press. Over the same time period, military editorial staff declined to zero officers working at branch magazines with just one at Military Review.
The U.S. Army finds itself in an interwar moment of great consequence, but not for the first time. In similar periods, be they the 1930s and 1980s, Army leaders such as Major Edwin Harding seized the moment to reinvest in military professional writing. That reinvestment ensured that there was a professional venue for essential debates about doctrine and technology needed to ready for the next war. It is time for the U.S. Army to make such a reinvestment, and the Harding Project represents the beginning of it.
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