Statement of Problem

Rationale and Research Questions





      Based on the initial study of ten Army installations and the conclusion that some type of centralization is required to ensure quality and user friendliness in military web sites, researchrs now need to ask: What is the purpose and value of communication via web sites? Have the Armed Forces been effective in Internet communication via web sites, and what concerns would exist if DoD took primary control of the web sites? To investigate these questions, we conducted an on-line survey of military Webmasters from all branches of the service. 
      Six hundred fifty-five DoD webmasters who subscribe to the DoD Webmaster On-line Forum were queried, and about three percent responded. The sample consisted of 12 responses from the Army component, three Navy, two Air Force, 0 Marines, and three DoD organizations. There is no explanation for the small response other than the fact that the survey was part of an academic project with a short time line. 
      The questionnaire used in the survey was posted to the DoD Webmasters on-line forum.  Questions were open-ended allowing webmasters to respond in detail concerning the inception date of their web site, whether the web site was command directed, the purpose of their web site, how many links the web site contained, and their feelings about possible centralization of web sites by DoD.. 
The survey
The following questions were asked:
1) When did you acquire your web site?
2) Was it directed by your command?
3) How many links does it have (can be approximate)?
4)  What do you see as its main purpose?
5) How would you feel about DoD taking control of the Armed Forces web sites, providing a master template, manpower at a central location, etc., and all your local PA office would do is provide content? 
Survey analysis
       The questions asked were conducive to establishment of descriptive categories which were designed to assist in providing a summary of the purposes and complexity of current military web sites, as well as to document the webmasters' feelings on possible DoD centralization of military web sites. The categories are as follows:
nService category (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, DoD)
nDate of web site acquisition category (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998) 
nWeb site command-directed category (yes or no)
?nurpose of the web site category (marketing, recruiting, public information, command information, training)
nNumber of Links category (1-50, 50-100, 100+, 200+, 300+)
nDoD control category (for if supporting control by DoD and against if not supporting DoD control) 
      All respondents to the survey stated that web sites were established between 1994 and 1998, but half of the respondents stated that these sites were not command directed. Most of the webmasters surveyed stated that web sites have grown very rapidly with links ranging from as few as 12 to over 1,000.  The purpose for these web sites varied with marketing being the least important, and command information the most important, followed closely by public information. Training and recruiting were also listed as purposes with most organizational web sites serving multiple purposes. Webmasters perceive the majority of information loaded on the individual sites as local in nature and overwhelmingly favor local control to maintain creativity and timeliness. Words such as disastrous, cataclysmic, and red tape were used to describe possible DoD control. One respondent saw possible DoD control as censorship and likened the possible centralization to "DoD or higher headquarters giving specific guidance on what colors or styles should be used in post/base newspapers."  It was also pointed out by several webmasters that considering the differences in the missions of the various units and installations with web sites, the concept of DoD control would not be feasible, but would be "an excellent way to create a new level of bureaucracy in Washington." 
       Webmasters expressed concern about the limitations of a master template and did not see it as compatible with all web site purposes. They raised questions about possible database restrictions and the logistical bottleneck that would ensue in posting graphics. Questions were raised about the need for local format training, assignment of accounts, and management of passwords. 
 Some webmasters did acknowledge that billions of dollars could be saved with some type of centralized web site control. It was pointed out that perhaps DoD should focus on providing a service rather than control. If DoD offered a service, one respondent stated, "an individual agency would have the option to walk away from a service if it turns outs to be ultimately unresponsive."