Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Contractors Full Employment Act

I had to sit in a couple of interminable meetings where government contractors tried to sell me on the idea that they had a better way of transferring ideas from Marines who are fighting the war to the schools where young Marines are being trained. These contractors know full well that a perfectly fine method of doing just this already exists and IS BEING USED. The problem, from the contrator's point of view, is that they are not getting paid for it. So, these retired Colonels have repackaged the process, slapped a new name on it "T-LIDS" and now have their hands out, waiting for their former subordinates to put some money in them. I wrote this in response:

1. Situation. Currently, there is no effective way for Marines in the operational forces to communicate their observations of new behaviors Marines in the Fleet are or should be performing. While Marine Corps Lessons Learned Database (MCLLD) is the logical repository for such information, MCLLD has serious limitations. On the other hand, TECOM is rolling out the TECOM Integrated Management System (TIMS), a browser-based program that has numerous capabilities and limitless potential, including the ability to allow the operating forces to rapidly communicate with the occupational field (OCCFLD) sponsor, the OCCFLD Task Analyst, the Centers of Excellence, and the MOS-producing schools.

2. Discussion. There is currently no readily accessible way for the occupational field interested in the observations contained in the database to “mine” the data. The tool ostensibly proffered by MCLLD for the purpose in immediate data retrieval, a bulletin board with email notification to self-selected interested parties, is undisciplined and diffuse. Many of the postings on the MCLLD are rambling accounts describing in general terms what worked in a particular situation and what did not. Other postings appear to be written by contractors with an agenda to support one system and denigrate another.

Further, the volume and lack of organization in the data contained in MCLLD makes the database susceptible to mischief. Anyone with a point of view can mine the data and assert that there is support for their proposal or system. Since there are no controls on who can write to the database that can then be mined by anyone, there is real temptation for individuals or organizations to both write to the database then use the data as validation for their own position.

Most troublingly, the MCLLD allows interested parties to supplant, or, at best, to work in parallel with, the TECOM SAT process by denying the need for Front End Analyses (FEA). The argument by those with this view is that all the data a Subject Matter Expert (SME) would need to draft new standards or to improve training can be found in the MCLLD. However, FEAs are scientific surveys conducted by trained and impartial specialists. The FEA is the TECOM approved means of polling the operating forces to determine what new behaviors are being performed or are necessary to mission accomplishment. Using the MCLLD in tandem or in parallel with the FEA represents wasteful duplication and would tend to confuse and mislead the operating forces as to the most expeditious way to influence training.

TECOM already has means to give the operating forces an even more nimble and responsive way to effect changes in standards and behaviors. With TIMS, anyone in the operating forces, from anywhere in the world, with access to a web browser and a TIMS login can view existing standards and write new standards. In the current round of T&R Manual review, Marines from all over the world are collaborating online. While this collaboration represents a promising start, much more can be accomplished.

3. Recommendations. Online review and collaboration of T&R events should be made more robust in the following ways:

a. Allow TIMS events to be viewable by anyone accessing the internet from .mil domain.

b. Include a bulletin board organized by T&R event number so that during the review period anyone may comment on individual events.

c. Give the Task Analyst honchoing the T&R manual permissions to end discussion on threads within the bulletin board when the debate has reached a consensus.

d.Stand up a “Version #+1” for each approved T&R manual in TIMS and allow anyone from a .mil domain to write to that version using the TIMS T&R event template.

e. Notify key individuals (OCCFLD Sponsor, OCCFLD Task Analyst, OCCFLD Centers of Excellence, the MOS Producing School and TIMS Coordinator) via email any time an event is updated to facilitate immediate review, approval and new curriculum development.

f. Give GTB Head “By Direction” authority to approve new T&R events, the training of which will not result in the expenditure of additional resources or manpower.