Strategic Plan


Phase I. The Military History Initiative

Although the ultimate objective is to create formally a free-standing Military History Foundation, In the short run, this is too much of a leap. It is better to build to that point in a series of steps.

A. The first step is to educate military historians in the basics of development, probably through a symposium held concurrently with the next annual meeting of the Society for Military History on April 19-22, 2006, at the Francis Scott Key Conference Center, Frederick, Maryland. The financial need in this instance would be modest: about $1,000 to host a reception to accompany the event.

B. The next step is to organize a seminar for non-military historians aimed at teaching them how to incorporate military history into their courses. This would be a worthwhile service in and of itself—I have spoken to a number of historians who avoid teaching the relevant military dimensions of their subject not from antipathy toward military history but rather from a feeling of ignorance. It would also serve to disabuse academics of their stereotypes concerning military history and would showcase our program to academics in departments across the country. And it would create the opportunity for a major donor(s) to endow the program in whole or in part, thereby laying the groundwork for a subsequent “transformative gift” on a much larger scale.

A good model for the seminar is the three-week Summer Seminar held each year at West Point. Academics apply for a place in the program; their expenses are covered and they receive a stipend of $1,500 (we could undoubtedly get by with a bit less). A cadre of instructors handles the bulk of the coursework; a battery of distinguished military historians gives guest lectures on an almost daily basis. Interestingly, they do so in return for coverage of their expenses and a $150 honorarium; the main draw is simply to opportunity to support the program.

C. I have been involved with the West Point seminar on three occasions and it is really quite impressively organized and executed. For our purposes it has two drawbacks, however. First, it is geared to military historians and selects mainly military historians as participants. Second, it focuses mainly on strategic and operational subjects. The seminar I have in mind would be directed toward non-military historians and would address the subject matter with much greater breadth. While it would introduce participants to strategic and operational matters, it would deal principally with “war and society” issues and show them how to integrate military history into the course they normally teach. To run such a seminar would require a substantial outside grant, probably on the order of $50,000 to pay the costs of four instructors and the education of fifteen attendees.

A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a Summer Seminar or Institute would underwrite much of the cost of the initial seminar/institute. (The next deadline for applications is March 1, 2007.) In addition to its intrinsic value, such a seminar could serve as something to showcase to potential donors. One possibility, for instance, would be for a donor to create a named scholarship that would pay the stipend and expenses of a single attendee. (To fully endow one scholarship would cost about $50,000.) Benefactors would have the opportunity to attend seminar sessions, meet the beneficiaries, and see firsthand the impact of their contribution. This would lay the groundwork for them to make larger, transformative gifts at a later stage.

C. The prerequisite to obtaining that amount of funding, however, would be to have a cadre of instructors and a suitable curriculum in place. To facilitate this would require a two-day planning conference for military historians willing to serve as instructors and to craft a suitable curriculum. I think interested military historians would be willing to donate their time and pay their own way, but there is a strong possibility of channeling their expense money through a nonprofit organization, so that in effect they would be making a charitable contribution that happened to coincide with the expense of attending the conference. I have seen this model used by charitable organizations that send volunteers to developing countries. Thus participants would be able to write off the expense on their taxes. Furthermore, use of an existing nonprofit organization would enable others with an interest in the program to make tax-deductible donations as well.

D. Concurrent with organizing the seminar, it would be useful to create a speaker’s bureau of senior military historians with the ability to draw a substantial audience, particularly persons of significant financial means. As with the Distinguished Lectureship Program created by the Organization of American Historians, honoraria would go to support the military history initiative, but the main purpose would be to make potential donors aware of the opportunities to support academic military history. Another draw would be to organize battlefield tours, particularly of prominent Civil War battlefields such as Gettysburg and Antietam. The model here would be the staff rides organized by the U.S. Army War College and the historical tours organized by for-profit organizations such as HistoryAmerica Tours.

E. Because colleges and universities already have development offices and well-organized alumni networks, it would be useful to have military historians contact their development offices to help identify potential donors likely to be interested in supporting military history. This would provide ready access to a reservoir of potential donors.

F. The identification and cultivation of a substantial pool of potential donors would lay the groundwork for the creation of junior faculty positions in military history supported by outside funding. This follows the model of how my own position was created: the Smith Richardson Foundation furnished money for salary and benefits for four years, after which the department assumed full financial responsibility.

Phase II. The Military History Foundation

A. At this juncture, the time would be ripe to organize The Military History Foundation as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. This is a fairly complicated process, requiring (among other things) the establishment of a board of director and the emplacement of measures necessary to ensure compliance with the relevant laws. It is probable that one or more attorneys would be willing to make an "in kind" contribution by supervising the legal process on a pro bono basis.

B. The foundation would expand the programs created in the Military History Initiative phase in accordance with the Foundation's Mission Statement.

C. The ultimate objective would be to expand the presence of military history in colleges and universities. The first step would be to disabuse non-military historians of misconceptions about the field, so that scholars with a research specialization in military history are not disadvantaged when applying for positions in, for example, American, European, or World History. The second would be expanding the number of military history positions--the most pressing need being those at the junior level.

It must be underscored that whatever the success we may enjoy in securing the support of outside donors, the real success of the Military History Initiative and Military History Foundation rests upon the willingness of military historians -- faculty, graduate students, and interested lay persons -- to invest in the project, if not with financial support then with "in kind" support such as grant-writing, consultation with their university development offices, participation in public lectures and historical tours aimed at attracting donors, and functioning as ambassadors for the field. Without that commitment, no amount of planning can result in any lasting achievement.