Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Researching military law can seem like a daunting task for researchers unfamiliar with this area of law. Fortunately, the authorities governing military law are easily discoverable. As expected, both Westlaw and Lexis have pulled together an array of resources under the topic of Military Law. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the major authority in this area and it is codified at 10 U.S.C. § 801-946. For those of you without Westlaw or Lexis access, LII provides free access to the U.S.C. Periodically, you may encounter times when you need documents that fall outside the scope of primary authorities.

I recently stumbled across another free resource that pulls together documents not easily accessible in traditional legal databases, as well as, links to sites such as LII. The Military Education Research Library Network (MERLN) is maintained by the National Defense University Library in Washington, D.C., and consists of a variety of unique electronic resources:

  • Military Policy Awareness Links (MiPALs)
  • Digital collections of full-text papers, lectures, and legislation;
  • Links to worldwide military library catalogs;
  • Links to military journals and publications; and
  • Access (password controlled) to full text ejournals and reference tools.
MERLN contains a wealth of information, especially for those interested in international conflicts. For example, browsing through the Digital Collections, I was able to locate a collection of Peace Agreements maintained by the United States Institute of Peace that contains PDFs of the actual agreements:

Under the "Issues at a Glance" tab, you can find links to background information, official U.S. responses, and the latest analysis from think tanks for current events as they unfold. Some topics, such as U.S. Grand Strategy for Afghanistan/Pakistan, contain links to PDFs of Congressional Hearings, which can aid in determining the intent behind an official response or newly enacted legislation.

I should mention a few drawbacks I noticed while navigating through the site. Due to the fact that this site is an aggregation of various electronic resources, there is no standardized searching method. This means that ease of searching and navigation varies among the resources. Additionally, the tab for the Military Policy Awareness Links (MiPALs) does not always function properly.

You may come across information that is restricted to students, staff, faculty, and alumni of the participating institutions. If you run into this issue, contact your local Interlibrary Loan librarian to try to obtain the document.

As you can imagine, I have provided only a glimpse of the unique documents available through this resource. The next time you are trying to locate an elusive military document as part of your research, why not take a look at MERLN.

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