Official touts intuitive decision-making

Brig. Gen. Jerry McAbee, deputy commander of Marine Forces Pacific, says battlefield information should be tailored to user

In the Information Age, military commanders can no longer rely on checklists to make decisions on the battlefield. Instead, they should be using information tailored to their personal tastes to make intuitive decisions, said one Marine Corps leader.

Brig. Gen. Jerry McAbee, deputy commander of Marine Forces Pacific, said "the checklist approach to decision making is not what we need for the 21st century."

Military leaders need a networked knowledge system that draws information from databases worldwide. This system should present them with the best, but incomplete, set of facts on a battlefield situation, from which they can make an intuitive decision on how to act, he said. Commanders using intuition in battle is what puts "war in the realm of art rather than science."

McAbee said this Nov. 21 at AFCEA International's TechNet Asia-Pacific 2002 Conference and Exposition in Honolulu.

The system that McAbee described is still years, maybe even decades, away from becoming a reality. The first phase, he said, should be determining the right stimuli to spark an individual's intuitive reasoning, and through what senses they are best delivered.

He also said that virtual reality training and simulation systems have given the military services a glimpse of the future on this path, but that new technology is needed to complete the vision.

"Instead of trying to deliver a perfect picture of the battlefield, we need to shift from that because the battlefield is chaotic and commanders are trained early on in their careers to make decisions based on their experience, intelligence and intuition," McAbee told Federal Computer Week.

He said that all people do that differently - some prefer audio aids, while others prefer information presented visually.

"One shoe doesn't fit all," McAbee said. "We need to tailor that stimuli. I think it will be incremental and we may never [fully] develop the system, but we need to start down that road and start developing the system in some areas to assist commanders in intuitive decision making."

He told Federal Computer Week that the TechNet audience was the first to hear his knowledge system vision, which he said was inspired by retired Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who "has done more thinking on this than anyone else."

McAbee presented numerous examples dating back to the Revolutionary War where partnerships among the government, industry and research communities created technologies that played to commanders' strengths and helped the United States attain victory. He asked the conference audience to do their part to make history repeat itself.

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