This is what the new Web 2.0 battlefield will look like. The term Web 2.0 designates changing trends in the use of Internet technology and Web design. With users now having the capability of creating their own applications, RSS feeds, informative blogs, wikis, mashups, and video-sharing sites have been among the results. Driving these innovations have been the users themselves. The U.S. military has taken notice - cautiously.
Every service recognizes Web 2.0's promise, but security concerns have hampered its introduction. The new generation of Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines fluent in Web 2.0 applications may soon change this. Many insist that Web 2.0 can provide the military with a proven method of managing its most powerful weapon: information.
Sharing and collaboration run counter to the secret nature of our armed forces. National security and entrenched older-generational views are primary reasons for which the military has hesitated to adopt Web 2.0. But the technology remains of interest, not only for the battlefield but also for day-to-day operations and logistics.
In October 2008, the Navy officially recognized the importance of Web 2.0 in today's military, endorsing its secure use. For the military to use the technology effectively, we must thoroughly vet each innovation.
The Army has used Web 2.0 in establishing Army Knowledge Online (AKO), the service's version of a corporate intranet. With a single sign-on, AKO allows any Soldier the ability to have secure access to Army Web assets. AKO uses RSS, a format for distributing and gathering content from sources across the Web, including newspapers, magazines, and blogs (from "Web logs"). RSS automatically informs a user of the latest content from user-selected sites. Soldiers are using this technology to request secure detailed information about strategies, tactical operations, and operational environments.
Before being deployed, Soldiers can receive via RSS feeds the most current information relating to their mission. The information may pertain to the latest improvised explosive device or hostile threats that previous units have encountered in the operating area. RSS can provide information much faster than traditional classified briefs. Before RSS, the timeframe of dissemination of vital intelligence was months. Now information is updated within days.
These online journals are updated by bloggers. Numerous military members have been blogging about their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, providing information that has helped to prepare others. Blogging will not replace the in-country briefs given before deployments to hostile zones. But daily blog updates provide yet more, on-scene knowledge.
Currently on AKO, more than 400 blogs cover topics ranging from air defense artillery to college scholarships. This may seem small by comparison with the civilian world, but 400 blogs on a military intranet demonstrates a loosening of regulations and a growing acceptance of Web 2.0. In some cases, the Army even actively engages bloggers.
From the Hawaiian word for fast, a wiki is a Web site to which anyone can make changes. Before wikis, people at different sites collaborated on projects, policies, and presentations in person or via e-mail. The logistics of in-person meetings can be complicated, and e-mail threads can be cumbersome. Wikis allow everyone who has access to a page to read and change it.
The first launch of a successful classified wiki by a federal agency was a partnership between military intelligence agencies and the intelligence community, producing Intellipedia. Modeled after the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, it allows authorized members to write, edit, and discuss intelligence reports, all on a secure network.
As the CIA explains it, only those "verified as authentic users can edit the content. This has enforced a degree of collegiality amongst colleagues. Now when you see someone that makes an edit to a page you are contributing to, you can look back and see where this person works, where their interests lie, making us a community of analysts rather than a community of agencies." 1 A Computer World article adds: "Intellipedia's vibrant environment has played an important role in improving morale, unleashing creativity, and helping officers across the world feel more connected with their colleagues." 2
A great example of a mashup is the real estate industry's use of Google Earth. Combining the Multiple Listing Service with this technology has made an application in which online users can view real-time pictures of houses and sales data. The most innovative military use of a mashup is the Army's Tactical Ground Reporting Network (TiGRNET).
A software application as opposed to a network, TiGRNET allows Soldiers to download intelligence into one program. This may include photos, observations, and detailed maps of the areas gathered by Google Earth. Before leaving on patrol, they can study high-resolution satellite imagery of what routes they will be taking. Icons indicate past roadside explosions, ambushes, or locations of past weapons caches. Soldiers can click on a roadside-bomb icon to see if a photo shows where it was hidden. In 2007, four battalions tested the system in the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq. This mashup embodies the Army's basic-training slogan Every Soldier is a Sensor. 3
Before TiGRNET, intelligence officers gathered all information, then had to decide what to brief units headed into hostile territories. Now commanders can read firsthand intelligence for any particular mission. Army combat officers and their troops on the ground have flattened the information hierarchy.
Web 2.0 will assist with problem-solving across most military processes, from combat to acquisition. Information networking for the warfighter will play a major role in the age of Web 2.0. Forces can be distributed more efficiently, and the hierarchy of information will be flattened, eliminating the "senior man with the secret." Within minutes, whatever junior Soldiers observe, the senior commander will know and be better equipped to make a decision.
1. Central intelligence Ageny, "Intellipedia Marks Second Anniversary," 20 March 2008, retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/ .
2. H. Havenstein, "Computer World Networking and Internet," Computer World, 10 June 2008, http://www.computerworld.com/action/article .
3. S. Magnuson, "Army Wants to Make ' Every Soldier a Sensor,'" National Defense, May 2007.
Are We Driving the Ship Drunk?
By Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Armstrong, U.S. Navy
Are you a Sailor who brags, "My record is 72 hours!" How many times have we heard phrases such as these: "Sleep is a crutch for the weak" or "There'll be plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead"? Long watches combined with shipboard routines that require normal working hours are common in today's surface Navy. But a culture that values hours logged over sound decision-making, efficiency, and safety places not only us but our shipmates - and the nation's security - at risk.
Fatigue and its hazards to our service have recently become part of the discussion in professional circles. 1 The importance of rest is frequently covered at safety stand-downs, and fatigue is cited as a part of operational risk management. And yet the connection between these talks and actual changes in the watchbill or working hours is tenuous at best. Stories of drastic measures remain common; for example, removing the doors from junior-officer staterooms so that daytime sleep is impossible, regardless of when their last watch was. Several medical and academic studies have investigated the effects of fatigue. Their conclusions demonstrate beyond any doubt that it is past time to take this problem seriously and make changes to account for it.
Needlessly Hazardous Duty
In 1997, Australian researchers Drew Dawson and Kathryn Reid compared the effects of fatigue and alcohol in a study published in the journal Nature. Their findings, consistent with those of several other studies, show a remarkable similarity between the effects of fatigue and those of drinking.
Dawson and Reid kept one group awake for 28 hours and had another drink a prescribed amount of alcohol. At half-hour intervals, subjects were given a computerized psychomotor test designed to check their hand-eye coordination. Results were stark. After 17 to 20 waking hours, psychomotor abilities of the sleep-deprived group were the same as those of a drinker with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, the legal limit. Dawson and Reid concluded: "Relatively moderate levels of fatigue impair performance to an extent equivalent to or greater than is currently acceptable for alcohol intoxication." 2
Reaction time and psychomotor skills are key to many tasks that our watch-standers perform. However, these are not the only areas that fatigue affects. In the British Journal of Psychiatry, J. A. Horne wrote in 1993 about the effect of sleep on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the brain. The PFC controls a number of functions, including wakefulness, arousal, planning, and decision-making. Sailors with a slowed PFC are likely, Horne found, to feel indifferent and have reduced motor skills. According to his study, sleep deprivation negatively impacts the PFC, which then affects the ability to plan actions and make appropriate decisions. 3
More recently, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Miller's 2005 study at the U.S. Military Academy found that "sleep-deprived individuals often do not realize that they are operating with decreased cognitive and physical capacities." 4 This means that our Sailors, officers, and even captains could be on the bridge of a national asset with reduced eye-hand coordination, poor planning ability, and negative decision-making ability. Are we driving the ship drunk and don't even know it? What can be done?
Studies of other shift-work public servants have yielded potential solutions. In the 1980s, Harvard University professor Charles Czeisler began a study of sleep patterns and shift work of the Philadelphia Police Department. The department had an erratic schedule, with long shifts that anecdotally left officers fatigued. Czeisler convinced them to implement a new schedule with greater regularity and predictability. The results were impressive. Officers reported a 29 percent decline in sleeping on the job. More important, the department realized a nearly 40 percent reduction in on-duty police - motor vehicle accidents. Officers also reported a decline in alcohol consumption, use of sleep medication, and greater quality of life when off duty. 5
Extensive studies have documented the value of napping as a fatigue countermeasure. When Japanese nurses on a 16-hour night shift were allowed 2-hour naps, self-reported fatigue and mistakes decreased significantly. A French study of industrial workers gave those on night shifts a short nap - resulting in greater vigilance and productivity in the early morning hours. 6
Tired Navy Policy
The tradition of standing watch on a naval vessel is a long and storied one. Even on our modern ships, the boatswain's mate of the watch still sounds the bells, and we "live by the bell, die by the bell," just as our forefathers did on fast frigates two centuries ago. But naval warfare has changed in revolutionary ways since Decatur and Perry stood the watch. Today it is a 24-hour enterprise. Unlike during the Age of Sail, modern weapons and sensors continue the fight well into the night or start it in the early morning hours. The demands of 21st-century operations, our custody of national assets and personnel, and the security of the world's oceans preclude a traditional response to fatigue.
Several senior and experienced surface warriors warn against a Navy-wide policy mandating sleep management. They argue that the captain's role and authority are paramount, and that operational requirements can only be assessed in-theater. A good captain, they contend, considers the crew and their fatigue and uses the sound judgment gained throughout a career to make the right decision. But this argument for the status quo is disingenuous.
Naval aviators receive thorough training in the limits of fatigue. Squadrons are governed by written crew rest requirements in OPNAV Instruction 3710.7 (NATOPS General Flight and Operating Instructions). The implication that a squadron commanding officer is somehow inferior to a surface warrior and requires guidance in writing is not only unfair but also insulting. The crew-rest requirements in 3710.7 are prefaced with the word should, not shall. This gives the CO leeway during periods of high operational tempo or special requirements. Operational necessity dictates adherence to aviation's crew-rest rules and is easily transferable to the surface fleet.
Getting Our Rest
The Navy needs to make two significant changes to the sleep policy for the surface fleet. First, a new training plan on the hazards of fatigue should be developed for the pre-CO/XO training pipeline, department head training, and the safety officer afloat course. Officers are generally aware of the hazard, but they need education in the science and available countermeasures, not just for themselves but, more important, for their crews.
This training, developed with the Naval Operational Medicine Institute to incorporate the latest research, would include discussion of the concepts of circadian rhythm, sleep debt, sleep inertia, and performance degradation. Leaders and safety officers who better understand the science will be better prepared for the decision-making process.
Second, all commands should have a sleep policy. OPNAV 3710.7 provides the policy for naval aviation. Some squadrons institute even greater requirements. Helicopter Anti-Submarine (Light) Squadron 43 has a crew-rest policy for maintenance personnel. In the surface fleet, OPNAV Instruction 5100.19 (Navy Safety and Occupational Health Program Manual for Forces Afloat) should require that all commands have a fatigue policy. This could be fulfilled in many ways.
On some ships, the commanding officer's standing orders may require all watch-standers to have a certain amount of sleep before assuming the watch. Other commands could add language to their command safety instructions or other standard operating procedures. The content of the policy need not be dictated, giving captains the proper authority over their crews. A formal policy, nonetheless, should be thought out and put in writing.
Three Mile Island, Chernoybl, and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster were all caused partly by sleep deprivation. How many groundings, collisions, and fires have had the same causal factor? To keep our officers and crews from operating our nation's warships in a drunken state, we must proactively combat fatigue. Increased training for decision-makers and the introduction of command-specific policies are two key elements to implement. Without a serious and coordinated effort, one of your Sailors may end up dead tired or simply dead.
2. D. Dawson and K. Reid K. "Fatigue, Alcohol and Performance Impairment," Nature 288 (1997): p. 235.
3. J. A. Horne, "Human Sleep, Sleep Loss, and Behavior: Implications for the Prefrontal Cortex and Psychiatric Disorder," British Journal of Psychiatry 162 (1993): pp. 413-19.
4. D. Miller, "Sleep and Predicted Cognitive Performance of New Cadets during Cadet Basic Training at the United States Military Academy," master's thesis in Modeling, Virtual Environments, and Simulation, Naval Postgraduate School (2005), p. 2.
5. E. Eckholm, "Exploring the Forces of Sleep," New York Times, 17 July 1988.
6. Both studies cited in Miller, "Sleep and Predicted Cognitive Performance," p. 34.
Toward Better Presentations
By Commander Diane Boettcher, U.S. Navy
If you've been an action officer at a headquarters unit, you have undoubtedly been on the receiving end of directions such as these: "Give me ten slides on this by tomorrow," "Boil this down to one slide," "Each of you gets no more than five slides," and "Let's get started on the brief; anyone have last year's?" We are managing our communications by slide count, even though effective presentations have never required slides, overheads, or visual aids. Passion and a belief in the message are far more important than flashy transitions or sound effects.
President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, President John F. Kennedy's call to a manned lunar mission and Dr. Martin Luther King's legendary "I Have a Dream" speech all changed the course of our nation's history without a single visual aid. For hundreds of years, universities conferred advanced degrees on students who attended lectures delivered without slides.
But they have become de rigueur, particularly in the Department of Defense. Several problems are inherent in using these visual aids to communicate, but a few simple recommendations may help to improve the presentations.
The Purpose of Communication
During every communication, no matter how serious, strategic, comical, tactical, or trivial, we seek to influence our audience. We wish for them to feel, think, or act differently than they did before our presentation. To accomplish this, we must first ensure that we have a clear understanding of the message we wish to impart. Then the focus must be on the audience. By knowing the audience's level of knowledge, biases, purposes, and goals, we can best craft the message to achieve our objectives.
For example, when presenting to senior leadership, a pinpoint focus on the issues and purpose of the briefing is required. Background can be appropriate and helps set the stage, but should never overshadow the main message.
Bullet Points Don't Kill People . . .
Lack of effective communication can have serious ramifications, particularly in military, medical, and other high-intensity efforts. A misunderstanding of the time that an operation begins or where troops are located can result in the type of tragic friendly fire incidents that have occurred throughout history. Additionally, oversimplifying a complex matter can result in the wrong decision.
Edward Tufte, a renowned author on the visual display of information, has argued that a contributing factor to the 1 February 2003 space shuttle Columbia accident was the slides used to brief leadership on potential dangers. The return-to-flight report noted Tufte's analysis: "These presentations should never be allowed to replace, or even supplement, formal documentation. . . . In some instances, requirements are defined in presentations, approved with a cover letter, and never transferred to formal documentation. . . . It appears that many young engineers do not understand the need for, or know how to prepare, formal engineering documents such as reports, white papers, or analyses." 1
General David McKeirnan, former commander of forces in Afghanistan, was quoted in the book Fiasco as noting: "In lieu of an order, or a frag[mentary] order, or plan, you get a set of PowerPoint slides. . . . That is frustrating, because nobody wants to plan against PowerPoint slides." 2 Slides do not provide the level of detail and analysis required for proper planning. The commander's intent is easily misunderstood and sometimes simply lost.
Decisions regarding courses of action during war planning may suffer from the same lack of formal documentation. In my own experience, the decision briefing preparation too often begins with someone mounting the slides from last time rather than new ones that have been created based on current analysis. True analysis must begin with processes outlined in joint doctrine.
- Ask what your leader really wants. When someone asks for a single slide on a subject, they are looking for a concise explanation of the message. They are not expecting an entire dissertation in tiny print. Nor are they looking for four slides reduced to fit in one. What they want is clarity.
Albert Einstein said, "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Perhaps a one-page point paper fulfills the need best. Or maybe you'll need ten slides that can be presented clearly in less than one minute. A video presentation may clarify and illuminate a complex topic. Be sure you know why you are on a particular schedule and what question you are expected to answer.
- Do the hard work up front. When starting a project, don't worry about how you will present your findings. Instead, think about how you will reach and justify your findings. Start with a worksheet or a document. Outline the problem and figure out the solution. Only when you know what you want to communicate should you begin determining the best way to do it.
Then, write a document even though you're planning a presentation. By writing full sentences complete with nouns and verbs, you will force yourself to explain everything clearly before trying to do so to others. This is also your opportunity to remove ambiguities.
Slide decks have a tendency to take on a life of their own, being passed around without the benefit of your words or ability to answer questions. If you include your complete discussion in the "notes" sections of the slides, you can be assured that at least some of your information will be included as the visual aids travel without your presentation.
- Synthesize your core message. You should determine precisely what you want your audience to feel, think, or do at the conclusion of your slide show. And then place the bottom line up front (BLUF). Regardless of whom you are briefing, you can be assured that their e-mail in-boxes are full, or, at the very least, that they would like to make their tee-off time this afternoon. Too often the BLUF appears on the last slide.
Keep in mind that when you are working in a joint or coalition environment, clarity regarding acronyms and jargon is crucial. Your slides will not be enough to convey your message. The staff officers who need the information may not be in the room during the discussion, or they may lack the language skills to interpret what you're saying. A handout for your partners will allow them to review your message at their leisure.
- Use graphics judiciously. Some pictures are worth 1,000 words, and others just clog the bandwidth. A single photo of the mountains in Afghanistan can make your point about the importance of building roads or the difficulty of securing the border. Your unit logo, on the other hand, is less enlightening.
- Be passionate. Avoid taking someone else's slides and playing Presentation Karaoke. Know what yours are intended to convey and why they are designed as they are. All too often, complex slides with arrows and connecting lines are no clearer to the presenter than they are to the audience.
- Stop asking your staff for slides. If you're the leader, ask for point papers, reports, and discussions. By demanding read-ahead documents, you can take time to analyze the information and then discuss the issues and questions with the presenter. Rather than limiting the number of slides to be used, limit the amount of time presenters have to discuss the issue.
Communication is never easy. Software can assist and improve the process, but should never be seen as a goal in itself. Before building your slides, determine what you want your audience to know when you're done. Identify the question you're going to answer, or the problem you're going to solve. Then do the hard cognitive work and articulate your findings clearly. In the briefing room, time can then be spent discussing the issues and not just looking at the slides.
1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Final Report of the Return to Flight Task Group (July 2005), 190, retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/125343main_RTFTF_final_081705.pdf .
2. Thomas Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (London: Penguin, 2007), pp. 75-76.