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National Defense University Publications Share Knowledge

By Spc. Chuck Wagner, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2003 – It's no secret that a successful military strategy requires information from the field and powerful thinking in the board room. It may not be well known that some of the brightest minds in America's defense share their knowledge with the public.

The NDU Press in Fort McNair's National Defense University publishes the insights and ideas of writers in the national security community as part of the university's outreach program.

For their audience of service members, academics and defense decision makers, NDU Press publications are a chance to learn from the experts and the experienced. The press publishes 10 to 12 books, monographs and reports each year, and puts out the full-color, glossy-paged Joint Force Quarterly, as well as several dozen current affairs newsletters.

"We support professional military education, and we support defense and foreign policy," said Robert Silano, publications director and Joint Force Quarterly editor. "Everything is unclassified, nothing is copyrighted, it's public domain, and it's all for educational purposes."

NDU Press has a split personality, Silano said. It is a publisher of books related to policy, strategy and national security, and through JFQ, it also addresses operations-level topics that aim to "promote understanding of the integrated employment of land, sea, air, space and special operations forces" according to the magazine's mission statement.

"A good deal of the books are written by people here at the university," said Silano. "Most are generated by our own research efforts."

The press puts out several dozen Strategic Forum newsletters each year that allow contributors to issue briefs on timely topics. NDU Press can't publish all submissions, and chooses selections based mostly on topic, budget limits and workload, Silano said.

The press commissions many projects from faculty members and resident fellows, said Silano, but has printed unsolicited submissions. Author John A. Wickham delivered the book "Korea on the Brink" as a manuscript ready for editing. NDU released the book in 1999.

Silano enlists works from various subject-matter experts for some publications. The press's most recent book, "The People's Liberation Army and China in Transition," compiles the work of 18 writers knowledgeable on the subject.

On average, the press publishes 5,000 copies of each book, and offers them free to universities, "think tanks" or other groups that request copies for educational purposes. Digital files of the books are available on the university's Web site. Most NDU Press publications also are sold through the Government Printing Office.

About 35,000 free JFQ magazines are distributed quarterly. The Army, Air Force and Marines have "pull down" distribution, which responds to requests for the magazine. The Navy automatically "pushes down" issues to various distribution points, but also responds to requests. Readers can subscribe, read online or download JFQ.

JFQ is targeted to officers between staff and war colleges, explained Silano, "basically active duty O-4s and 0-5s." In 1992, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell established and edited the magazine. Powell intended for the publication to educate officers serving with or about to join their first joint assignment, Silano said, yet the magazine appeals to all ranks and services because of its real-world input from the field or fleet.

Because JFQ focuses on operations, military personnel send in nearly 60 percent of its submissions.

"I am always actively looking for military contributors," said Silano. "We'd like to have more, but military contributors are obviously busy doing what we'd like them to write about. Our civilian contributors usually have more time to write."

Eight staff members work in the press's offices; four are involved in editing. The office shoots high with each publication's standards, Silano said.

"We are not looking for puff pieces. We want serious, informative articles," he said.

Silano said he publishes about a quarter of all submissions to JFQ. He does not want to discourage potential contributors, he added, but likes contributors to know what he's looking to print. The National Defense University Web site explains how to submit to the press's various products. Each JFQ magazine also provides details on submitting.

(Spc. Chuck Wagner is a staff writer for the Pentagram, Military District of Washington.)

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