About the West Point Negotiation Project

Influencing without authority is part of the leader’s art and negotiation is an important component. Military leaders at all levels negotiate, even if usually not explicitly, in any situation where success requires the acquiescence, cooperation, or approval of those they cannot control.  The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated that leaders operating on the stability end of the spectrum of conflict—waging counterinsurgency, in those cases—must be able to negotiate effectively.  But negotiation is not unique to counterinsurgency.  We do it every day, whether deployed or at home station, even within our own organizations. 

WPNP Efforts Include:

  • Inspiring current and future officers to develop negotiation skills as a leader competency
  • Improving the effectiveness of negotiation education and training at West Point
  • Encouraging the application of theories from behavioral sciences and other disciplines to further develop sound negotiation methodology and pedagogy
  • Creating forums for the exchange of ideas about the practice of negotiation in the military
  • Advising the proponents of U.S. military training and doctrine on issues around negotiations
  • Developing negotiation models and tools specifically tailored for use by military leaders
  • Publishing to fill gaps in literature and educational material for military negotiation
  • Providing negotiation training to military leaders beyond West Point 
  • Providing advice and assistance to military clients engaged in complex negotiations

The WPNP is a West Point Leadership Center activity, under the direction of the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY.  The Project has no dedicated funds, faculty, or staff. Support for specific events has come from the Department, the West Point Leadership Center , and the Network Science Center. The Project was founded in 2009 with a small grant from the Army Research Institute.

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Project History


Image WPNP History

In 2006 West Point's Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership introduced a negotiation elective, Negotiation for Leaders (MG390).  The course teaches cadets to recognize the broad range of human interactions which constitute negotiations and take a systematic approach to the analysis of those situations.  Cadets learn to apply a 7-element framework based on the theory of principled negotiation, an interest-based approach developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project.  The course places special emphasis on building skill and culminates in a graded, role-playing, multi-party negotiation simulation.

The West Point Negotiation Project was founded in 2009, in response feedback from West Point graduates who had taken Negotiation for Leaders as cadets and then applied their learning as Army officers.  To increase impact on the U.S. military, the WPNP has more broadly engaged the Corps of Cadets at West Point, provided training and tools to operational units, and served as a catalyst for efforts to enhance negotiation skills across the U.S. military.  Major efforts include the WPNP cadet crogram, the West Point Negotiation Workshop, training to operational units, and projects to advise and assist military leaders engaged in real-world negotiations

Principled Negotiation 

The theory of principled negotiation was developed by Harvard Professor Roger Fisher and his colleague, Dr. William Ury. During WWII, as a young officer in the U.S. Army Air Force, Fisher served as a B-17 aircrew meteorologist and later worked in Paris on the Marshall Plan. He devoted the rest of his life to work in fields related to international conflict. In 1979, Fisher founded the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP), which exists today within the Program on Negotiation—a university consortium among Harvard, MIT, and Tufts. Fisher and Ury introduced principled negotiation to the world in 1981 with the book Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

The theory has been developed into a methodology—a systematic approach to negotiation. Principled negotiation involves clear distinction between parties’ positions and interests, careful consideration of alternatives to agreement, effective communication, collaboration to create options for mutual gain, legitimization of options through use of objective criteria, appropriate delineation of commitments, and mitigation of relationship issues early but apart from substance. For more, see the following:


Fisher, R., Ury, W., and Patton, B., Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Hughes, J., Weiss, J., Kliman, S., Chapnick, D. (2008). Negotiation Systems and Strategies. In International Contract Manual. Thomson Reuters/West, 2008.

Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School: http://www.pon.harvard.edu/