In the wake of the Vietnam War, two important American institutions–the military and the media–needed to find ways to rebuild trust and to better inform the public about national security issues. The Defense Writers Group (DWG) was launched in 1978 by two defense correspondents: Vern Orr of U.S. News & World Report and Kenneth Bacon of the Wall Street Journal, seeking access to senior officials and insights into the complexities of U.S. military, defense, and intelligence affairs.
The Defense Writers Group has been a respected Washington institution for 40 years. It has hosted scores of top military, defense and other national security officials, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the armed services and other related committees.
Transcripts of the sessions have sometimes been used by journalists and historians for insights into a particular official’s thinking, after that person moves to higher office. For example, on Feb. 19, 2016, the DWG heard from then Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Deputy Commanding General of Futures, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine. The following year, reporters went back to the transcript for quotes, after McMaster became, for a time, President Trump’s national security advisor.
The DWG event series and related off-the-record gatherings were directed by Harry Disch for 26 years (1991-2017), first within the Scientist’s Institute for Public Information and later under an umbrella organization called the Center for Media and Security. Robert Dudney of US News and later Air Force Magazine, moderated many of those sessions.
In September, 2017 the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs assumed responsibility for the programs, under its Project for Media and National Security, led by David Ensor. The Project is within the GW School of Media and Public Affairs and works to deepen media coverage of defense, cyber and other intelligence matters by bringing newsmakers and journalists into face-to-face conversations in a variety of settings, including the DWG. Sessions are moderated by Ensor or another member of the Defense Writers Group.