April 1, 2012  

Armed Forces Journal: April 2012

Even in these terabyte days, sometimes it’s not about finding new information, but making better use of what you have.

Lts. Deak Childress and John Taylor, members respectively of the Navy’s intelligence and explosive ordnance disposal communities, say that if the data gathered at improvised explosive device sites were properly structured and stored, it would help throw a powerful spotlight on shadowy bomb-building networks.

Too much of the information gathered by EOD and other teams is filed and forgotten, Childress and Taylor say. But if on-scene responders could tap and click their observations into a well-structured database, they would amass data that could be quickly mined for patterns, producing an invaluable adjunct to the human and signals intelligence that currently drives the hunt for bombmakers.

Robert Finn, a retired Army O-5, argues for a different kind of information preservation. In 2004, Finn did a tour at the Air Land Sea Application Center, where he and fellow action officers worked to turn hard-won lessons into multiservice recipes for tactics, techniques and procedures. The need is even more pressing today, says Finn: As battle-experienced U.S. troops come home from a decade of war, the military must work quickly to capture their experience in formal doctrine, lest it fade with memory.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure, the old saw goes, and Dr. Stephen G. Waller says that goes for the military’s humanitarian missions as well. The medical school professor and retired Air Force colonel argues that it’s time to set forth a rigorous way to appraise the success of such operations, and suggests that certain nongovernmental organizations have developed useful models.

Speaking of models, Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Ward says NASA’s “Faster, Better, Cheaper” deserves another look. The space agency’s 1990s-era acquisition initiative got a bad rap despite spectacular successes, Ward argues; a new look at its principles would help the Pentagon shift toward smaller, more manageable programs.

Elsewhere, retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor and Young J. Kim look at what’s missing from Air-Sea Battle, and Charles D. Allen of the Army War College asks: What do those still in uniform owe our veterans?

— Bradley Peniston (bradp@armedforcesjourna.com). Editor, Armed Forces Journal