Next-generation defense systems, such as night vision systems and virtual crews, are integrating human capacity with technological capabilities in unprecedented ways. Soldiers are being trained through models and simulations instead of live environments, which opens up new problems and opportunities for human factors research and development.
Second, a spate of tragic and costly aviation incidents has highlighted some incompatibilities between the way that systems are designed and the way that people perceive, think, and act.
This is the case that we must continually make: Is there a unique core competency in human factors that is supplied by the defense laboratories that needs to be supported because it cannot be out-sourced to the industrial or academic community? What do we contribute that is different and of added value to the mission and the function of the Department of Defense?
Third, the department is emphasizing the development of military technologies that can be transferred to the private sector, thereby opening up new potential customers for defense laboratories.
Finally, the military, like many businesses, is trying to do more with less. This means that the military is upgrading and modifying existing weapons systems instead of funding entirely new ones, which gives human factors experts a chance to improve the match between equipment and operators. This move to economize also translates into smaller, more mobile forces that can accomplish missions more quickly, with greater precision, and with few or no casualties. Human factors specialists can help design these new kinds of forces.
To help meet all of these challenges, Department of Defense researchers must be able to articulate a solid case for government investments in human factors. They must be able to persuade two major groups of stakeholders: first, upper management in the service branches and the Department of Defense, who request work from the laboratories, determine their funding, and give authority for their continued operation; second, users of laboratory products, including project sponsors and the broader science community. Each group is best addressed with a different approach.
What the first group, defense managers, typically want from human factors is quick response problem solving. They are less interested in the science behind a situation than in the resolution of a problem. Human factors experts must speak their language, understand the unique military context, and show key managers how they can produce results in a timely manner.
Four arguments are critical in convincing defense manage-