Robert R. Tyler, Ph.D.
For the past thirty years I have been a user of complex weapon systems provided to the Armed Forces for service members to train with and ultimately use on the modern battlefield. Part way through my military career I became a procuring official for some of these systems and their associated training devices. Additionally, I have been actively involved in the command and control of U.S. Marine Corps forces on both real and simulated battlefields. Based on these experiences and illuminated by my scholarly pursuits in Human Factors Psychology, I intend to present my personal observations of human-automation-interaction in military settings. Accordingly, this presentation is without empirical studies or statistical analysis, and it is not controlled for my individual bias or variability.
Automation is woven into the fabric of modern existence. Our automatic alarm clock invites us to begin our day. Our automatic coffee maker hastens our awakening. Our house is warmed and cooled automatically. We drive to work in a vehicle that shifts itself, has automatic traction control and automatic anti-skid brakes. Our communications follow us effortlessly throughout the day via self answering fax machines, cellular phones, voice mail, call forwarding, e-mail, etc. Examples of daily automation are endless. In the modern world humans perform the majority of their daily activities aided by, and often times oblivious of, automation. We depend on it.
Since automation is essential to daily life, when we transport humans from their peacetime domicile and workplace to the combat environment we transport the automation as well. In fact, the American military is noted for considering advanced technology (read: automation) to be a force multiplier, a force extender, and a force enabler. The daily existence on the battlefield is every bit as automated as a state-of-the-art industrial plant. Automation effects everything on the battlefield including combat vehicles, communication, weapons systems, intelligence gathering/processing, and command and control.
Good and bad automation affects the battlefield just as it does Main Street, U.S.A. What frustrates you with your office telephone will frustrate the soldier as he communicates to his combat network. Similarly, those wonderful enhancements that automation has provided to mankind are equally effective on the battlefield. Consider the dependence on and effectiveness of a plethora of sensors, electronic landing aids, automatic range finders, and autopilots to name but a few. Clearly, those human factor issues encountered in everyday life carry over into the military environment. If performance is enhanced at home, it can be expected to enhance performance on the battlefield. The converse is just as true. If performance is impeded at home, it can be expected to exasperate the performance in combat.
From the user's perspective it is the very nature of warfare and its impact on automation that most concerns the military planner. Simply put, the purpose of warfare is to locate, close with, and destroy the opponent. By design, the battlefield is a hostile environment. It is dirty, noisy, hot, cold, wet, dry, and uncertain. But most of all it is lethal to men and machines. Therefore, it is essential that combat automation perform as expected. It must work - every time.
For automation to be reliable it needs designed protection from three things: the physical environment, enemy counter measures, and enemy intrusion of our defenses. To explain, most automation