GI Special 7H18: The Possibilites Seem Endless

Published on, by Thomas F. Barton, 22 August 2009.

… Join the Army, where you can edit all that you can edit.

In July, in a sharp break from tradition, the Army began encouraging its personnel — from the privates to the generals — to go online and collaboratively rewrite seven of the field manuals that give instructions on all aspects of Army life.

The program uses the same software behind the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and could potentially lead to hundreds of Army guides being “wikified.”  

“For a couple hundred years, the Army has been writing doctrine in a particular way, and for a couple months, we have been doing it online in this wiki,” said Col. Charles J. Burnett, the director of the Army’s Battle Command Knowledge System.

“The only ones who could write doctrine were the select few.

“Now, imagine the challenge in accepting that anybody can go on the wiki and make a change — that is a big challenge, culturally.”

Not surprisingly, top-down, centralized institutions have resisted such tools, fearing the loss of control that comes with empowering anyone along the chain of command to contribute.

Yet the Army seems willing to accept some loss of control.

Under the three-month pilot program, the current version of each guide can be edited by anyone around the world who has been issued the ID card that allows access to the Army Internet system.

About 200 other highly practical field manuals that will be renamed Army Tactics, Techniques and Procedures, or A.T.T.P., will be candidates for wikification … (full text).

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