Sunday, May 31, 2009

Last NNMC Bicycling Post

I had a good conversation with the USUHS Senior Vice President Professor Dale Smith on Friday afternoon.  I sought his perspective on several things, the most relevant for this blog of which was the public role of a military officer.  By virtue of the fact that I've been subject to no disciplinary action it's safe to say I haven't crossed any black line.  The fact remains that in my discussion of NNMC and bicycling I've probably been too much in the gray area.

When I first came to USUHS I made a conscious decision to not discuss my critiques of USUHS issues because such issues need not be discuss in this forum.  I considered NNMC issues to be somewhat different, but now feel differently.  My feelings have changed not due to any outside pressure, but because of a fuller consideration of the boundaries of the profession God has chosen for me.  I don't particularly like these boundaries since I feel that no one else will raise the issue of cycling of NNMC, but at least my past posts have made the issue visible.  So from this point forward I will endeavor to not discuss specific NNMC issues that need not be discussed on a blog. 

This does not mean that I will refrain from critique of things military that are more distant from me within the hierarchy of the Department of Defense.  So posts such as the previous one to this, again pointing out the poor characteristics of pdfs for military publications, will still continue. 

The views expressed here are those of mine only, and are not to be
construed as those of the Department of the Navy or Department of

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

DOD Publications Need Improvement for Today's War Fighter

So upon noticing some random Department of Defense publications laying about my command the other day, I conceptualized this post.  Nearly everyone in the military has seen the random piles of DOD publications laying about.  Today, I randomly decided to look at Stars and Stripes on Wikipedia.  I'm particularly interested in the fact that most of its staff is civilian, who somehow are supposed to understand the service members perspective vice years gone by when actual soldiers wrote and ran the paper. 

I checked out the electronic version of Stars and Stripes and was dumbfounded by the fact that is electronically published in pdf format.  This is ridiculous.  I challenge anyone to download it and attempt to read it in your pdf viewer to tell me that such is a pleasant experience.  Besides being cumbersome, pdf does not take advantage of hypertext, which saves the reader time in learning his known unknowns. 

The other day I collected three random DOD publications laying about my command.  They are USU Newsletter, Volume 4, Issue 7 (known to be available online in pdf format), The AMEDD, a special Spring 2004 orientation issue of The Mercury, an authorized publication of U.S. Army Medical Command, and The Mercury Vol. 36, No. 7.  (I must give credit to the publishers of The Mercury since its online edition, although not up to modern standards, at least is not pdf based.) I'm reminded of Freedom Watch, which sat around in piles in Afghanistan.  It's most common use was toilet
reading due to its ubiquity.  Who was the audience?  As an english
language publication certainly not the handful of English literate

Of all these publications I ask, who is the intended audience and what is the intended purpose?  Has anyone even formally asked and answered these questions?

When we consider the infinite and varied OODA Loops operating in the large organization in question, the DOD, we must assume that these publications are intended to aid service members in the observe and orient phases of the loop.  What they fail to consider though is the ever tightening loop.  These publications do not support rapid decision making in today's world. 

All these media outlets would be better served by something akin to a blog.  I'm not sure a pure blog would be ideal since in some cases the commander is not looking for feedback, but perhaps a blog with comments would enable useful feedback to commanders.  A pure online publication would shrink the loop in numerable ways, the simpliest being that instead of editions, the website would be continually updated.  No need for an important story to wait for less important stories to be finished and published together.  Further, an online publication would allow the publishers to gather metrics on what levels of interest and types of use different articles have.  For example, most media websites have a most emailed articles list to give all readers an idea of what other readers find important at this very moment. 

Update: on further perusail of the Stars and Stripes website I've realized that the pdf versions are only if you want a particular regional version.  They do have a full online version, but they also have a unnecessary digital edition that is a separate website from the online version.  Does anyone think this version is better than the normal modern online version?

I propose that we take all the various command publications throughout the DOD and establish clear standards and a central website where anybody can read all the publications at once as an integrated publication. 

The views expressed here are those of mine only, and are not to be
construed as those of the Department of the Navy or Department of

Friday, May 22, 2009

Most people are familiar with Hans Ch...

Most people are familiar with Hans Christian Anderson's The Emperor's New Clothes.  I have my own derivative of it (It's good that Mr. Anderson's heirs aren't able to come after me for "idea infringement.") titled The Emperor's New Armor.  The ideas of George Soros and Victor Davis Hanson have influenced the story somewhat.  Although certain parallels can be drawn between real life and the following poor attempt at fiction, the reader should make no direct comparisons.

Once upon a time lived an emperor.  He had been very successful in battle other than in one little mountainous region just to the north east of him.  In fact, because of the emperor's success, his generals spent more time worrying that the soldiers might get fat from sitting around than they did worrying about military preparedness.  If only they had a human powered chariot with which to exercise their soldiers.  Because the emperor was so powerful and the plunder from his campaigns so great, not one of his senior advisers ever dared question him out of fear that their access to plunder would be cut off. 

One day some metal smiths from the last remaining enemy defected to the emperor.  They told him that they wanted some plunder and thus were willing to build him a suit of armor that would make him invincible against their brethren.  The emperor thought this to be a fantastic idea and commissioned the metal smiths to make him a set of this innovative armor.  He was even willing to pay for multiple specification and design changes that brought the final price over budget by an obscene amount.  "No matter" he thought, "I've got all these warehouses full of plunder."  The metal smiths appeared with the armor several months past due and dressed the emperor in the lightest, yet strongest armor ever seen.  The senior advisers all told him how great the armor would be when the emperor lead the armies in battle against the last remaining unsubjugated neighbor. 

One young lieutenant happened to be in the capital city for some training when the emperor's new armor was unveiled.  To him the armor appeared to be merely a sheet of blue splotchy silk.  He tried to get as close as he could to the emperor to tell him it was just silk, but security forces wouldn't allow him to.  When he got as close as he could, he yelled as loud as he could "but it's just a piece of poorly colored silk."  He was immediately tackled by security forces who brought him to a detention center where he was tried for insulting the emperor.  On his way to his execution he felt sad that even though he was to die for his loyalty to the emperor, the emperor would still be entering battle with silk armor.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If Bikes Are Not Counted, There Are No Bikes.

Today contractors from Gorove/Slade Associates of Chantilly counted traffic around NNMC on contract for the Department of Defense.  I spoke to two of their workers on Wisconsin Avenue and learned the following.  They were counting during three time intervals: 0630-0930, 1100-1400, and 1600-1900.  Neither counter had been instructed to count bicycles specifically although Worker One pointed out that cyclists were to be included in either pedestrians or automobiles based on whether they were riding on the sidewalk or road.  Worker Two did not count cyclists at all unless they were walking their bicycle on the sidewalk, in which case the cyclist was to be counted as a pedestrian. 

Worker Two even commented to me that I was the fifth cyclist of the day to inquire about the cyclists being counted.  I was informed that although the equipment they had been issued today, manufactured by JAMAR Technologies, was of an older style that did not allow bicycles to be specifically counted, such equipment is available.  However, it was not in use and the workers were not instructed to count bicycles in any way.

Worker Two commented that military installations are required by law to count traffic once per year.  I'm not familiar with this.  Does anyone know what the law is?

I waited on the corner of Wisconsin Ave and Jones Bridge Road to take the below photo of the counters for about twenty minutes.  In that time I counted nine bicycles including myself.  Surely, the total number of cyclists in the neighborhood are not an insignificant number.  A friend, who also spoke to them, reports that the traffic counter with whom the friend had spoken stated that tons of bikes had been seen but none counted. 

The views expressed here are those of mine only, and are not to be construed as those of the Department of the Navy or Department of Defense. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Random Talk with Captain Daniel Zinder

Today I hopped on the shuttle to go over to Walter Reed.  Shortly after departing NNMC the captain (Navy) behind me addressed me by name and started talking to me.  He was Captain Daniel Zinder, the Deputy Commander of the NNMC.  At first we spoke about what I'd done prior to coming to USUHS, but then he brought up the subject of this blog.  We spoke about blogging and responsibilities of service members. 

He spoke enthusiastically of the Department of Defense's desire that more people use transportation other than automobiles to travel to NNMC.  I understand and would point out that the SHA presents far more of an obstacle that the Navy does.  He invited me to come speak with him following which I'll post more about what the Department of Defense is doing to facilitate sustainable multi-modal transportation solutions in Montgomery County.  I point out that here was the deputy commander of a 5,000 plus service member command on the shuttle bus.  This is a great step showing that we don't all need a personnel automobile to get where we're going.  Besides one less car, his taking the shuttle enabled us to have a fruitful discussion, which shows the social and community benefit to not being isolated in a steel cage on wheels. 

This blog is entirely my own opinion and in no way reflects the opinions or positions of the US Department of Defense or Navy.