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 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?
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,
nDate of web site acquisition category
(1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998)
nWeb site command-directed category (yes
?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