The Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point is a national resource at the United States Military Academy that studies recent and ongoing conflicts to prepare present and future leaders to win in a complex world. Leveraging the intellectual capital unique to West Point, MWI faculty use a research, educate, and integrate model to remain academically grounded, operationally connected to the force, and fully engaged with cadets and the military program curriculum. As such, MWI directly enhances the quality of cadet military education and training through scholarship, multi-disciplinary contemporary battlefield assessments, symposia, curriculum update and relevancy, academy outreach, and strategic communications.

A Pressing Need:

While unmatched as a conventional force, the US Army has often struggled to adapt when confronted with a non-traditional enemy or a change in the nature of a conflict. When we consider the trends of globalization and the emergence of threats such as terrorism, hybrid warfare, and others, it becomes clear that West Point needs a long-term and forward-thinking platform to rigorously study modern war and warfare, move the boundaries of current military and academic knowledge, and continually update all components of the military curriculum to reflect the dynamic and uncertain nature of the current operational environment. Constant change in warfare requires persistent study. West Point is the seed of the intellectual capabilities that will arm the leaders of the future to win in a complex world. In December 2014, the West Point superintendent approved the MWI concept as a margin of excellence program critical to achieving the military program vision of being the preeminent landpower military program.


The results of MWI’s rigorous study of war and warfare will create the intellectual capital required to educate, train, and inspire USMA graduates in the foundational military competencies necessary to win in a complex world. It will also greatly contribute to the body of knowledge for the study of war and warfare in the Army profession.


Scholarship — The core capability of the MWI is scholarship. The institute leverages the unique intellectual capital resident in the Corps of Cadets and the staff and faculty of West Point to develop and conduct rigorous research on modern warfare and military problems relevant to cadets and the Army. Cadets value and actively seek venues for the study of contemporary war and warfare. For example, the Defense and Strategic Studies program is consistently one of the Academy’s most selected humanities majors. As a broader and more enduring initiative within the Department of Military Instruction, MWI has has the potential to systematically improve the military program for all cadets and provide invaluable scholarship to the Army. Publications will become the centerpiece of the institute’s world-class reputation and they will contribute greatly to the body of knowledge within the study of war and warfare.

Contemporary Battlefield Assessments — One specific form of research that MWI enables is multi-disciplinary contemporary battlefield assessments through which cadets and faculty conduct field research on recent conflicts around the world. The institute matches cadets with faculty from within the institute and across the Academy to conduct research that informs the military program, enhances each cadet’s West Point experience, and provides meaningful findings back to the force. Previous assessments have included field research in Bosnia and Sri Lanka.

Curriculum update and relevancy — MWI serves as an integrating body, ensuring the knowledge gained through the institute’s research directly contributes to Military Science and Defense and Strategic Studies courses so that cadets continue to receive world-class military instruction. It also ensures military education and training techniques remain relevant. The knowledge gained from the institute’s research can feed directly into Military Science courses and Cadet Summer Training as vignettes, tactical decision exercises, and field training exercise scenarios.

Symposia — MWI also provides the Department of Military Instruction with a unique convening power, expanding the military program’s access to distinguished visitors and symposia more common in larger academic departments. MWI has hosted events featuring senior military, policy, and academic leaders, which directly contribute to the cadet experience at West Point, and organizes and hosts two major academic conferences each year.

Outreach — MWI significantly enhances Academy outreach, making the Department of Military Instruction the hub for an active network of stakeholders interested in the study of warfare such as sister officer commissioning sources, peer academic institutions, think tanks, the institutional Army, combatant commands, and international and multinational forces and institutions.

Strategic communication — MWI provides a consistent and enduring strategic communications capability including a large-scale and targeted online presence so that both internal and external audiences understand the roles, functions, and magnitude of the USMA military program’s world class capabilities.