The participants in this study are webmasters, civilian and military, in DoD military organizations. Webmasters were selected using a convenient sample technique. Webmasters from the continental United States (CONUS) and outside the continental United States (OCONUS) as well as both active and reserve component were eligible to be selected.
    A total of 85 web sites from across each component of the DoD (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) were selected to participate. Twenty-five web sites each were selected from the Army, Navy and Air Force. Because of its size in relation to the other armed services, only 10 Marine Corps web sites were selected. Individual webmaster addresses were obtained from actual web pages.
    Of the 85 webmasters targeted to participate in the pilot survey, 33 responded (response rate = 38.8%). Nearly three-quarters of respondents were male (73%) with almost 70 percent (69.7%) reporting at least two years of college experience. A large majority (69.7%) did not volunteer to be a webmaster. More than 60 percent (60.7%) indicated they worked alone as webmaster and are self-taught in their duties.


     The research team visited the service component home pages and then used the available hyperlinks to other military organizations and headquarters from which to draw their sample. All links were considered for inclusion in the study.
    To answer the research questions, the research team’s intent was to obtain a clear description of web page webmasters, the actual duties required of a webmaster, the level of training webmasters currently have, and the type of training webmasters view as necessary to fulfill their duties.
    A pilot survey (Appendix A) developed by the research team consisting of 16 basic questions addressed general demographic information (gender, age, education, career field, experience) and specific responsibilities of the webmaster. Respondents were questioned about the types of duties they performed and number of hours required each week the webmaster served in that capacity.
    A closed-ended question was asked to determine whether the webmaster feels a need for formalized training to fulfill the duties would be beneficial. The open-ended question approach was used in the pilot study in an attempt to ascertain solely whether there was a perceived need for formalized training.
    Webmasters listed on the website were sent the survey via e-mail with instructions to complete the survey and respond similarly. Based on the results from the pilot survey, a more in-depth and expanded survey was developed by the research team to address the actual type of training webmasters see as most useful. The survey in its final form (Appendix B) will be targeted to a wider, more random sample of webmasters throughout the DoD.


    The pilot study generated a 38.8 percent response rate (33 of 85 surveys returned) from the population sample. The return rate by service was U.S. Army (24%), U.S. Navy (48%), U.S. Air Force (44%), and U.S. Marine Corps (40%).
    The typical DoD webmaster is an enlisted male approximately 30 years old with at least two years of college education and just over 12 years of government service. A majority of webmasters are self-taught (60.7%) and have been webmasters for only 1.6 years. A large majority (69.7%) was directed to be the webmaster for their organization. The remainder (30.3%) reported they had volunteered or actively sought out the position of webmaster. Despite DoD and service component guidance delegating webmaster responsibilities to staff Public Affairs personnel, only half (51%) reported being in the PA career field of their respective service. The majority of the remainder (49%) reported serving in the computer specialist or communications career field.
    The sample was asked to report which policy guidance they were familiar with and used while performing their webmaster duties. Overall, 97 percent reported using the DoD guidance.  Approximately 79 percent report using service specific guidance.  Over half the respondents report using higher headquarters directives (60.6%) and unit level guidance (54.5%). Clearly, policy guidance for webmasters diminishes at the lowest levels of use.
    The sample was asked if webmaster duties were a team effort in their organizations or whether they worked alone. A majority of the webmasters (60.7%) works alone. Those working in a group usually shared webmaster responsibilities with either one or two other people.
    In response to a question regarding web page maintenance, a majority (60.7 %) reported updating their web page on a weekly basis. Thirty-six percent of those responding to the pilot survey reported making daily updates to their web page. A small minority (3.3%) updated on a monthly basis.
    The final two questions of the pilot study addressed webmaster training and the value of a web page to the organization. An overwhelming majority (93.9%) of webmasters favored some type of formalized military training for web page design, operation, and maintenance.  Although the training question was closed-ended by survey design, five (15%) of the respondents added a comment that there is a need for technology training in web page design.
    The resounding response from the webmasters was that web pages were a valuable product that provided timely, up-to-date information about the military to web site visitors. Respondents commented that web pages had the potential to assist in recruiting and maintaining a positive public image within the local community. General information contained on web pages was deemed useful for the general public as well. Several webmasters reported a decrease in processing paperwork and providing general information over the phone because of the public access to requested information.


    The pilot survey provided researchers with a demographic profile of the individuals currently performing webmaster duties within the DoD and each of the service components (see Table 1).

Table 1.
(N=33) DoD USA 
Gender (M/F) 25/8 3/3 10/2 9/2 3/1
Average Age 30 45 33 30 30
Status (O/E/C) 5/18/10 0/0/6 3/6/3 0/10/1 2/2/0
PA Career Field (Y/N) 17/16 3/3 636 5/6 3/1
Government Service (Yrs) 12.67 19.3 12.91 10.05 9.25
Volunteer (Y/N) 10/23 1/5 6/6 1/10 2/2
Web Experience (Yrs) 1.61 1.5 1.41 2.03 1.25
Web Page Hours 14.3 10.5 11.29 19 16.13
    The survey answered each of the three research questions contained in this study. The first research question was “Are Public Affairs Offices currently performing webmaster duties?” Despite DoD policy guidance delegating webmaster responsibilities to the Public Affairs staff agency, only 51 percent of the respondents are in the Public Affairs career field.  Those who are not Public Affairs professionals are from a variety of fields.  The most common career fields other than Public Affairs are Computer Specialist and Communications.
    As with most innovations, the development and use of web pages has initially been driven by technology.  Analysis of the survey data offers evidence to support a shift from technology to function.  CI, PI, and CR are central elements of Public Affairs that are grounded in information dissemination.  The responsibility for releasing information rests with the installation/command level PAO.  Web pages are an important means for the DoD to disseminate information to its various publics.  As such, and in accordance with the DoD policy governing web page administration, the trend must continue to shift from a technology driven approach to a Public Affairs functional approach to web page administration.  Public Affairs is the staff agency trained and charged with security review and release of information.
    The second research question was “How are webmasters selected and trained?” A large majority of respondents (69.7%) were directed to be the webmaster for their organization. The remainder reported they had volunteered or actively sought out the position of webmaster. A majority of webmasters reported being self-taught (60.7%). The remaining responding webmasters (39.3%) either received training on a contracted basis funded by their organization or attended a school for web page training.
A limitation of the pilot survey is that this question does not address function, but rather technology and the ability to use the computer programs to create a web page.  The responses do, however, successfully identify the lack of uniform training.  Technology, as is supported by the high rate of self-taught webmasters, can be dealt with in a variety of ways.  However, a haphazard approach nets haphazard results with incongruent design, content, and more importantly, review and release procedures.  This is an extremely pertinent factor combined with the pilot survey result that 69.7 percent of the respondents were appointed rather than actively seeking the position.  The lack of formalized training means that web masters must actively seek out what they deem important.  This approach relies on trial and error and gain supports learning the technology aspect, but falls short of addressing message development, security and policy review, and release of information.
    The third research question was “Is there a need to institute formal webmaster training?” The overwhelming majority (93.9%) of webmasters favored some type of formalized military training for web page design, operation, and maintenance.
    Clearly there is a high demand for some form of formal web page training. Just as the DoD trains military journalists, photographers, and broadcasters, so too should webmasters receive some type of technical training. The program of instruction should focus on design, content technical considerations, and security review of information. Placing this training within the Public Affairs community’s Defense Information School is a logical choice.
    In addition to the intended purpose of the research, the research procedures and results obtained from conducting the study uncovered several surprising observations.  Despite the satisfactory response rate, the research team encountered several problems in the collection of data from the population selected. The research team initially intended to use the Government Information Locator Service (GILS) from which to draw its sample. GILS is the central web site registration system for the DoD.  In the planning stages of this research, the team found that not all DoD web sites are registered on GILS, a violation of the DoD policy. This required the research team to abandon a random sampling technique for a less-valid convenient sample technique.
    Of the 85 web pages selected to participate in the pilot study, many either did not have a webmaster listed (another DoD policy guidance violation) or the webmaster address was no longer valid. In several cases, the designated hyperlink made available on some web pages did not activate for a non-DoD address. This restricts public comments and questions from being submitted (still another DoD policy guidance violation).
    In the end, the research team had to individually contact the webmaster through e-mail channels instead of the preferred web page hyperlink. The hyperlink address is yet another DoD policy directive for the purpose of receiving questions and comments from those visiting web sites on the World Wide Web. The difficulty in gaining access to the webmaster prevented a more complete response from the 85 webmasters selected to participate.
    The study and responses validated at least one policy directive stated in the DoD and service component guidelines. Responsibility for establishing, operating, and maintaining a web page clearly belongs in the Public Affairs arena. Respondents overwhelmingly commented that web pages serve to enhance the CI, PI, and CR functions.
    Webmasters described visitors to their web sites as members of the installation or command, service members transferring to a new assignment, families, retirees, the general public, and the media. This description matches the very audiences Public Affairs professionals address on a daily basis verifying that web page responsibility is a PA function.


    The use of web sites to disseminate information is an innovation that is still being diffused throughout the DoD. As this pilot study demonstrates, there are numerous variations in webmaster selection, experience and qualifications. Webmasters often must train themselves due to the lack of an available formal training program.
    The World Wide Web is a powerful, dynamic conduit of communication that the Public Affairs community should look to exploit. It has the capability to instantaneously reach audiences from a local to global perspective. Trained webmasters with Public Affairs skills permits us to better harness this powerful communication channel.
     The pilot study identified several key aspects of web page use that is inconsistent with current DoD and service component policies. The observations uncovered by the research team demonstrate a need to further explore these conditions. A second, more extensive survey that targets a broader sample of the webmaster population must be conducted.

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