Professional Military Education in 2020

The effective employment of air and space power has to do not so much with airplanes and missiles and engineering as with thinking and attitude and imagination. - Gen Merrill A. McPeak

The new military needs soldiers who use their brains, can deal with a diversity of people and cultures, who can tolerate ambiguity, take initiative, and ask questions, even to the point of questioning authority. . . . The willingness to ask and think may be more prevalent in the US armed forces than in many businesses. . . . As in the civilian economy, fewer people with intelligent technology can accomplish more than a lot of people with the brute-force tools of the past. - Alvin Toffler

Professional Military Education (PME) 2020 will become a residency program unlike any that exists today. It will be a new concept of professional military education (PME) derived from today's distance learning, multimedia, virtual reality, and telepresence concepts. This article describes why the present PME system must change and what the new system should look like. After we've discussed the new PME system, we'll examine some of the objections that have been raised in response to these proposed changes. However, before we examine the PME system and suggest changes, we need to highlight potential technologies that can be exploited for use in PME 2020.

Emerging Technologies

Overall, technology is one of two factors necessary to meet the capability requirements of PME 2020. In general, current trends in technology indicate that the technological fields of the future will be tremendously fertile and highly affordable. For instance, comparing the 64K random access memory (RAM) computers of the early 1980s with the top-of-the-line desktop computers of today, we've seen a 1,000-fold increase in computer memory. The military can roughly predict that its desktop computers in 2020 will have about 16,000 times the power of today's computers,1 a conservative estimate by many industry experts. Some experts predict the computers of the next century may have billions of times more power because of coming revolutionary replacements for the transistor. These new devices will squeeze even more power onto whatever replaces the computer chip. In other words, industry experts agree that the military will have plenty of power for whatever it may dream up. Project 2851, a new standard for digital terrain, is already facilitating automatic transformation of satellite information into 3-D virtual landscapes.2 Extensive telecommunications, virtual reality, and computer simulation for PME 2020 are assured.

But what of the costs associated with this development? Again, analysis of today's technology cost trends predicts future cost. Currently the price of computing capability is reported as declining between 30 and 68 percent per year. ABC Evening News cited a 50 percent reduction in cost every 18 months. Using this conservative rate, if the military wants to determine what capability it will be able to buy for each office or classroom for $5,000 ('94 dollars) in 2020, it should look at the capability that $655,360,0003 could buy today. Imagine the technology we could purchase in this price range for each classroom or each individual. Being able to use current technology in this price range would mean a significant difference in the office, home, and school. It will give each student's computer greater simulation capability than the latest simulators now used by the airlines or military, including surround picture and close-to-reality simulation. The technologies needed for PME 2020 will definitely be affordable.

Today's existing technologies also provide some specific examples and insight of what is possible in 2020. These potential technologies will solve the information, people, fiscal, and environmental problems of PME 2020. For example, potential technology exists today to solve the information overload problems of tomorrow. Human-computer interaction devices will also aid the war fighter in this area of information management. In addition, both virtual reality and worldwide instant access are assured.

Many current military personnel already belong to wide-area networks such as Internet and bulletin board services such as CompuServe. These connectivity providers are currently developing the next generation of network technologies. This includes automated aids used to find information and people over the networks. These automated aids are the beginnings of personally tailored automatic assistants. Edify Corporation has announced its "Information Agent," which gives users the ability to train computer networks to automatically gather and analyze data based on user demands.4 Professor Nicholas P. Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Laboratory, stated, "We will soon have personalized 'newspapers' coming over the computer networks, with not only the news, but also the ads, aimed at the individual."5 Automated assistants with even greater capabilities will ensure that each individual in 2020 receives the most current and relevant information-tailored to his or her needs and background.

Many systems are now on-line to assure instant access with other people and systems around the globe. New Jersey Bell plans on having all of New Jersey completely fiber-cabled by 2010.6 Other companies in the US and in most industrialized nations are planning on doing the same, or in some way providing the same level of connectivity.7 For those areas, however remote, that will not be interlinked with cable, space will provide the same functional connection through satellite links. Commercial enterprises will send into orbit a constellation of satellites that will enable instant contact anywhere on the globe, "a cellular system with very tall towers called satellites."8

All this information will be difficult to assimilate. Virtual reality itself is being used now as one solution to the information overload. One method of employing virtual reality as a "database navigating and mining tool" is used on Wall Street for managing stock portfolios. It uses a virtual world in which stocks and groups of stocks are represented by symbols of different color, shape, position, motion, and other characteristics. This enables a stock portfolio manager to use the computer to generate patterns and color changes that summarize at a glance the health and trends of many more stocks than could be managed as well by flipping through files or complex computer screens with tables of numbers.9 It is easy to see how this type of application could be used to summarize much of the data that threatens to overwhelm the military person.

Another emerging technology comes in the area of enhanced human-computer interactions. In 1993 these interactions already included full-body suits for gesture and other motion detection,10 computers embedded in clothing,11 and experiments in controlling computers by thought. Regarding the latter, the Alternative Control Technology Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is making significant advances in mental (hands-off) control of flight simulators. Grant McMillan, director of the lab, stated:

All control is brain-actuated control, as far as we know. All we're doing is measuring the output at a different point. . . . Twenty or thirty years from now, we might be saying, "Gee, I'd never want a pilot to control the stick with his hands when he can do it so much better by manipulating his brain activity."12

Manuel De Landa discusses many of the military's developments in hardware, software, and even "wetware" [the implant of technology directly into the body] in his book War in the Age of the Intelligent Machine.13 The military services are actively developing artificial intelligence and expert systems to help humans to digest information and act on it. For example, expert systems have been developed for analyzing radar signatures, labeling automatically generated maps, analyzing battlefield situations and air-to-air encounters (from command level down to helping an outnumbered pilot survive an engagement), planning for contingencies, diagnosing maintenance problems on aircraft, playing the role of intelligent opponent in war games, developing attack strategies for complex targets, helping to detect and counter C3 countermeasures, providing advice on allocation decisions, assisting launch and recovery on carriers, and even predicting likely locations and times of outbreaks of violence.14

By far, however, the most exciting concept on our horizon is virtual reality. By 2020, virtual reality, or whatever its follow-on is called, will be ubiquitous. Military personnel will be used to the technology and to the capability it provides, a capability that will be a natural part of their lives. Nintendo is already reaching into the home with first-person virtual reality games. Already available are virtual reality eyeglasses with built-in stereo sound systems, similar in appearance to regular sunglasses.15 Also available is software for less than $1500 to build individualized virtual reality worlds, or one may get a head start by buying prebuilt worlds for $90 to $400 each. Although these inexpensive hardware and software systems don't currently match the movie studio multimillion-dollar systems, "they're sparking creative breakthroughs . . . and they're helping to drive the development of an industry, a communication tool, and the ultimate multimedium."16

Joseph Henderson of Dartmouth Medical School, looks at virtual reality in more practical ways as he describes virtual workplaces with virtual colleagues whose "physical counterpart may exist in any of the far-flung problem-solving teams deployed anywhere in the world." These virtual coworkers will meet and work in virtual hallways, virtual conference rooms, and virtual laboratories.

One can as easily imagine a virtual high school, technical school, or university, which provides access to information and expertise that is anywhere in the world. Even difficult concepts, skills, and attitudes might be taught using vivid, three-dimensional and tactile representations of real world objects and issues. This kind of learning environment could be embedded in the work environment (even a non-virtual one) much as today's new performance support systems provide on-line training and reference on the assembly line. The worker need not leave his or her workplace to be trained; organizations need not establish and support fixed training facilities and travel costs can be reduced. Learning done in direct context with work is likely to be more efficient and effective.17

The military has already laid the foundation for the virtual reality world of the future. For example, Navy, Marine, and Army hospitals worldwide already use an interactive video, text, sound, and graphics system for training medical personnel in preventive medicine and the treatment of combat trauma in combat zones.18

Virtual realities are a multimedia environment that gives users the sense of participating in realities different from their ordinary ones. . . . Such simulations, when done well, should provide to a user a sense of having a life-experience: learning occurs at an essential level, a fundamental change in attitudes and behavior results.19

Virtual reality, or "synthetic environments," was listed in 1992 as one of the Department of Defense's (DOD) seven main technology thrusts.20 Victor Reis, DOD director of defense research and engineering, stated, "The demands of fighting on those battlefields [of the future], will be radically different from today's." He also stated that: "synthetic environments represent a technology to let us learn how to use technology better. It's that feedback loop that does it." Reis had recently testified, "Network simulation is a technology that elevates and strengthens the collective problem-solving abilities of . . . design teams, manufacturing teams, education teams, training teams, acquisition teams, or war fighting teams." Finally, he pointed out that "another benefit" of the synthetic environments is "cost reduction."21 Thus, by 2020, for cost and efficiency reasons military personnel will have virtual reality experience and expectations-expectations that will depreciate or reduce effectiveness of any military education that fails to use the learning interface to which the students are used to.

We cannot overemphasize the importance of and the many advantages of using virtual reality and other interactive technology in education. First and foremost, interactive technology takes advantage of the strengths of experiential learning. It also provides flexibility. Well-constructed, interactive technology lessons allow for tailoring lessons to the individual, the individual's learning style, schedule, and the job at hand. It s also timely. Updated information can easily be dropped into the lesson and, if using a direct mode of delivery, is instantly available without waiting to deplete last year's printing. And finally, it s very student-centered. It can be self-paced and take advantage of the student's existing knowledge-teaching in the gaps. It can also provide personalized immediate feedback for everything the student does or asks.

Why Must the Present PME System Change?

Now that we understand the technological advances which are on the horizon, it's easier to see why the present PME system must change. PME must respond to changes surrounding three current and future issues: the exploding technological and informational environment we ve discussed, evolving military personnel characteristics, and continued fiscal constraints.

Challenges of Technological Environment

Obviously, the technological environment surrounding military members will be very different than the one today.22 Even assuming no revolutionary breakthroughs, unlikely though that is, and only the maturation of existing technologies, the technology environment of 2020 will be a rich one. It will include commonplace use of artificial intelligence, intense miniaturization, expert systems, virtual and artificial realities, and automated "computer assistants." PME 2020 must harness this technology to better educate the entire military force.

Since the rate of change in technology and the rate of growth in available information increase every day, all the technological advances mean that by 2020 information needs will grow exponentially and the amount of new information will be astronomical. Without careful planning and information-handling skills, the decision makers of the future will be susceptible to "analysis paralysis."23 There are estimates that new information will double every few weeks (or days) due to quantum leaps in technology and the number of people using it. Instant access to the information super highway, the Library of Congress, and numerous other sources worldwide will create an information overload almost unimaginable today. As the American military increasingly depends on technology and information to both deter and win war, the military member must understand technology and information and use them as the force multipliers upon which the nation has come to depend.

Space, another critical element in any future vision of the US military, provides many examples of this current and coming information explosion. One system of satellites alone, set to launch in the 1998-2013 time frame, will generate more than 10 quadrillion bytes of information about the Earth, "equal to about 10 billion books (Library of Congress holds a mere 27 million)."24 The "Clementine" mission, now under way, is sending back 10,000 times the imagery of its predecessor.25 "But sending data-collecting satellites spaceward is only half the task. Storing, analyzing, and rapidly disseminating the information once it is sent back will prove equally difficult."26 "The helical scan storage technology NASA currently utilizes stores 45 terabytes [equal to 500 million pages of information] on top of a desk."27 Improvements in sensors make more information potentially useful but also make searching for it a much greater task. How will future military analysts quickly determine and locate the critical information which can mean life or death and success or failure in the combat environments of 2020? The military education system must help analysts and operational units by determining which methods and technologies will be needed. PME 2020 needs to prepare the future war fighter for these informational and technological explosions because information itself could be the next battlefield.

Personnel Attributes

Just as the informational and technological environment will differ by the year 2020, the characteristics of military members also will be significantly different than they are today. First, there will be fewer military personnel of all ranks in 2020. Accordingly, the impact on the unit of attending PME in residence will be greater because there will be fewer people to fill in for anyone going TDY or PCS to school. Second, personnel will be located at geographically scattered stations in the US and abroad, locations which may be very different from those today. Third, there will be fewer personnel of senior rank, officer and enlisted, at any one location. This means both a higher cost incurred for those who must leave the unit for education or training and also less chance of finding enough people of a given rank to constitute a face-to-face, on-location seminar. PME 2020 must be able to accommodate this smaller, geographically separated military force that may not be able to afford the opportunity to attend lengthy and costly resident PME. "In addition . . . in 2020, students will be more familiar and comfortable with technology. For example, they will have grown up with virtual reality in the home and school. Personnel will also be familiar with the blurring between work, education, and home life and with the multiple careers and diverse demands on workers of 2020."28

Fiscal Constraints Increase

A third reason the PME system must change is to respond to future fiscal constraints. Military budgets, as a percentage of real gross national product (GNP), will continue to get smaller in the future. In particular, fiscal constraints will continue to impact the number of military members who will attend or enroll in PME.29 Since there will be less money to spend on travel, we can infer that there will be fewer TDYs and PCSs to attend PME and other specialized training and less money for many kinds of equipment and infrastructure. As the military appropriation tracks downward, costs for technological capability (desktop, especially) are falling between 30 and 68 percent per year (and appear to be able to do so indefinitely). Therefore, fiscal constraints will mean increased use of technology to cover for personnel who are traveling or whose jobs have been automated or eliminated. PME 2020 has to be able to better educate more people with fewer dollars.

What Should PME 2020 Look Like?

If we should have to fight, we should be prepared to do so from the neck up instead of from the neck down. - Jimmy Doolittle

As a result of responding to these three issues-the technological explosion, changing personnel requirements, and the increased fiscal restraints-PME 2020 will need to have an entirely new look, feel, and responsibility. Let's look at areas of emphasis for the new PME system, for while the present PME system may be adequate today, it will not be adequate in the future without these significant changes.

First, PME 2020 must respond to the information and technology explosion. One of the first of these responses is that PME 2020 must teach the war fighter how to navigate the information highways. Information navigation (searching) skills will be critical for all who expect to navigate the rapidly increasing sea of information. PME 2020 problem-solving techniques will emphasize the skills required to narrow the search for critical information in the aircraft, ship, or tank. The PME system will have to be much more adaptive, enabling it to respond to this ever-increasing and changing world of information. PME 2020's theme is capsulized in the statement "Knowing the knowledge terrain will be as important for third-wave armies as knowing the geography and topology of the battlefield was in the past."

In addition, the new PME system must maximize the technological environment by keeping every military member "connected." "Virtual residency" is the linking of telecommunications and computers in PME 2020. All 2020 military personnel will be "connected" to databases through wide area networks such as Internet. By the middle of 1993, Internet alone was already interconnected with over 15,000 other networks and over 20 million primary users.30 Internet's membership is currently growing more than 20 percent per month.31 Regardless of unit location, military personnel will have access to worldwide information networks capable of two-way data, image, and simulation transmission. "What telecommunications does is to remarkably expand the quantity and quality of information resources that can be in a classroom," says Linda Roberts, a senior associate in the science, education, and transportation program at the US Congress's Office of Technology Assessment. This manifests itself in "the ability to work with other classrooms, to expand the community of learners, and to have real access to people who know something. . . ."32

The telecommunications aspect of PME 2020 will also have a positive impact on the faculty. Edward Mabry, a communication researcher at the University of Wisconsin, noted that the strength of an academic department today "depends on the extent to which each faculty member is interconnected with other professionals-worldwide-pursuing similar interests."33 Future technology will make for more of this than is allowed by current technology and fiscally constrained faculty travel opportunities.

Finally, PME 2020 needs to incorporate the new technology in order to broaden its horizons by becoming an open system that educates everyone and provides a curriculum that is continuously updated and distributed using enhanced distance learning methods known as virtual residency in PME 2020. Thus PME 2020 should be an open education and training program, a two-way gathering and sharing between students and faculty who simultaneously build an infrastructure on the expectations and experiences from personnel at all levels. To efficiently use military resources, information should be shared with other military services and with civilian institutions, especially in research and curriculum development. For example, history lessons might be developed by PME academies or civilian institutions and then shared among institutions. Current commercial CD-ROMs already include disks on almost every major war in US history as well as information on the space system and military aircraft. Military schools and other military organizations may find that their methodologies, information, and courseware have commercial value.34

These telecommunications and open system aspects of PME 2020 could then contribute to increased understanding and support for the military, giving PME 2020 the capability to reach larger audiences such as the media, Congress, and the public at large. A public better informed on military capabilities, competence, and needs will be beneficial for America, improving the chances of continued public support for the military. As Alvin Toffler observed, "Smart generals understand all too well that wars can be won on the world's television screens as well as on the battlefield. . . . Media policy, therefore, along with policies for communication and education, will together comprise the main distribution components of any overall knowledge strategy."35 But responding to all of these technological issues is just the first step for PME 2020.

Second, in responding to personnel challenges, PME will have to make several more changes. PME 2020 must tailor its education to individual needs. It will have to become a self-modifying educational system that responds to the learning modes (such as "visual" or "aural") of each student and is able to adjust its instruction as the data changes from day-to-day. Faculty are then free to concentrate on instructing at higher levels of learning and developing courses for entirely new areas of instruction instead of chasing down items such as name changes of countries, organizations, or weapon systems. This tailoring of education to individual needs can be accomplished by using the same technology in PME 2020 that can be used for on-the-job training and education (OJTE), technology that transfers specialized or general OJTE directly to the war fighter by "beaming" it into aircraft, tanks, or ships.

Additionally, to meet the future personnel challenges, PME must also take advantage of the increased technological aptitudes of its people. The pre-adult environment of 2020 military recruits will have habituated them to technology and to more readily accept technological changes; however, in 2020, war fighters raised in this technologically rich environment may or may not have all the necessary skills to use all this information. The current college generation is characterized as "victims of declining educational standards. . . . Three quarters of college professors say students are 'seriously unprepared' in basic skills."36 PME 2020 must be able to respond to the education and training needs of these individuals. A system that provides access to all resources at all levels to all students is the best method to counter any problems with basic skills.

PME 2020 will be a truly up-to-date curriculum. First, since courses will be available on demand, military members will be able to learn skills and find information when needed. Second, by establishing expiration dates on courses with time-sensitive material, PME 2020 will ensure that currency is maintained and that graduates of those courses are cued to their need for refresher courses or repetition of the original courses.

Another way the system responds to personnel challenges is to contribute to the recruiting and retention of the best-qualified personnel. A policy letter from the secretary of the Air Force cited concern with shrinking forces and budgets and noted that "the increasing frequency and duration of deployments will eventually make retention of high quality personnel more difficult."37 The virtual reality, computer simulations, and telecommunications technology associated with PME 2020 could attract those interested in state-of-the-art technology.38 Research results indicate the environment and opportunities of PME 2020 should be conducive to retaining technologically oriented individuals.39 In addition, the level of technology represented in PME 2020 and the ability for personnel to be in contact with virtual seminars and research groups and to continue instruction even while on deployment to remote regions could aid retention.

PME 2020 should also take advantage of a changing work environment. Increasing numbers of challenges such as new warfare forms, combined with the technical environment, will mean that our people will have to be "more comprehensively trained, less specialized" and will have to cycle back through school often during their careers. They will need a "broader range of skills" in order to be "more flexible."40 Virtual residency will provide the means for military members to accomplish those ends. But part of the building of the PME 2020 system should include implementing a change in the workday/workweek paradigm to include scheduling sacrosanct times (similar to the "Minuteman Education Program") for individuals to attend PME 2020 courses. Commanders must make the commitment to education and training to ensure time is set aside. PME 2020 must be as easy to schedule and attend as a staff meeting, including coordinating times for "virtual" seminars with members at geographically separated locations.

PME 2020 must also strive to continually educate and involve every military member. As Tom Peters states in his book Thriving on Chaos, we must (1) invest in human capital as much as in hardware; (2) train entry-level people and then retrain them as necessary; (3) train everyone in problem-solving techniques to contribute to quality improvement; (4) train extensively following promotion to the first managerial job, then train managers every time they advance; and (5) use training as a vehicle for instilling a strategic thrust.41 This need to have a better educated and trained force requires that all military personnel receive their education and training through a quality PME system. The PME 2020 system will continue the "seminar" experience through "on-line" seminars and virtual residency. This telecommunication aspect of PME 2020 will provide PME continuing connectivity to every military member, allowing individuals to broaden their expertise and become educated in areas outside of their primary career fields. Additionally, there is a potential for unique combinations of backgrounds and interests working within the system on the same project.

This concept of "continual" education will use the above connectivity to achieve two other key aspects of PME 2020: lifelong learning and two-way involvement. Individuals will no longer have long periods of day-to-day jobs punctuated every five to ten years with a formal school. Instead, PME 2020 will offer the richness of continually updated courses of varying length on almost any subject, including those vital to improving day-to-day operations. Additionally, the opportunities for research (from simple questions to complex issues) and contacts with others will both increase the expertise of and enrich the lives of military members. Individuals with special skills or interest would not have to stop their involvement even with retirement. Also, combining these opportunities with the open-enrollment aspect of most PME 2020 courses greatly increases the chances for cross-pollination between varied career fields and individual backgrounds. This would help the future military member to cope with frequent career and job changes, and, according to Alvin Toffler, it should improve the strategic vision of future possibilities.42

Finally, a third change for PME 2020 concerns future fiscal constraints. PME 2020 must thrive within fiscal constraints by improving results while reducing costs in money and time. PME 2020's potential accomplishments are limitless; however, dollars required to educate and train war fighters are finite. Due to fiscal constraints, there will be fewer high-priced weapon systems developed and more frequent, incremental, technological upgrades to existing systems. Often we'll have to rethink systems use and retrain users-i.e., the war fighters and their support personnel. For this situation, the virtual reality learning environment is ideal. The simulate-before-you-build principle explores the problems, benefits, and trade-offs of training people to use the new system, educating leaders in employing the systems, and experimenting with possible countermeasures and limiting factors.43

In addition, PME 2020's use of interactive technologies for delivery of instruction can reduce costs and improve results. Some studies demonstrate as much as 50 percent or more reduction in time needed to learn compared to conventional delivery.44 Digital Equipment Corporation reported saving 40 percent of training time by using multimedia instead of traditional classroom teaching. The International Business Machines (IBM) marketing education division reported time savings of 40 percent.45 Federal Express saved 60 percent of training time.46

IBM is a prime example of how the interactive technologies might reduce military costs and provide better results. IBM reported an overall savings of more than $150 million per year, with much of the savings coming from 300,000 employees not traveling to receive their instruction.47 The military could see similar dramatic savings by eliminating much, if not all, of the physical residency requirement for courses-and thus eliminate much of the TDY, moving, dislocation, per diem, and other costs of students attending resident courses lasting from several days to 10½ months. Virtual residency has the potential to train more military members, more effectively, for less.

Virtual residency, with a core curriculum and consolidated resources, is in fact the most important aspect of PME 2020. It allows PME 2020 to have a core curriculum integrating land, sea, air, space, nonlethal, and information warfare. And it allows the resources of PME 2020 institutions to consolidate where practical and to integrate the newest technological advances within the courses. Finally, virtual residency is the main means of educational distribution.


I think the main failure of culture is the failure of imagination. It's very hard to think outside the boxes- cultural box, institutional box, political box, religious box-that we are all, everyone of us, imprisoned in. - Alvin Toffler

As in all new ideas and changes from long-held beliefs and ways of doing things, there will be hurdles to overcome before we can successfully implement a new PME 2020 system. The first hurdle is resistance to change from current training methods to an interactive technology.

What are the most common reasons given for not using interactive technology or for resisting its inclusion in educational programs? According to a study48 by the Business Research Group of Newton, Massachusetts, the following were the obstacles to implementing multimedia applications:

Obstacle Percent
Cost 51
Equipment 19
Lack of expertise 13
Training 11
Lack of industry standards 8
Management resistance 7
Time 6
Inadequate applications 3
No obstacles 9
Other 4

As previously discussed, the equipment will be affordable. As the equipment becomes more user-friendly, lack of expertise and training will be less significant. Industry is currently developing the standards. Therefore, management resistance seems to be the most significant factor. Promoting the advantages and applications of this technology is the only way to overcome the mind-set. For example, a survey of national business leaders and trainers regarding what methods best improved 41 key business skills revealed that 32 of the skills were best taught using experiential exercises and/or simulations. Lecturing was judged best for one skill-listening reflectively. The remaining eight skills were judged best taught using case studies (which also could be done very easily in the virtual seminar environment). The business leaders also rated the skills in importance. The four top-rated skills-to adapt to new tasks, to make decisions, to organize, and to assess a situation quickly-were all considered best taught by simulations.49 But even with demonstrated strengths of the methodology and technology, there will still likely be resistance on at least some level.

Del Wood, IBM design specialist, stated that among the Fortune 500 companies in which he has helped implement multimedia, he has frequently encountered two types of resistance. One type resulted from intolerance of delayed gratification when the users must wait for the payback on investment until after development of lessons and schedules. The other type of resistance was the result of "a fundamental human aversion to change" caused by multimedia lessons requiring a different set of skills, orientation, and commitment.

Mr Wood pointed out that the diverse skills and resources needed for good interactive courseware require "multiple champions and visionaries to implement a change."50 This need for champions is one the military must address. By fostering a continual, though gradual, conversion of methodologies as the military education system marches toward 2020, the system will grow the champions as the interactive system grows.

The move toward this process has already begun in the military. For example, the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) began its nationwide distance education course in systems planning and management last year. Serving over 7,200 students, it should have a cost benefit of $20 million over six years.51 Also, AFIT has an ongoing professional continuing education program, making use of satellite links throughout the Air Force. This type of distance learning, in addition to being more cost-efficient, will be more effective in accomplishing joint education and training. The services are looking more and more at sharing education tasks and resources to achieve those cost benefits, especially with distance education.52 In 1992, Maj Gen Larry Day, deputy chief of staff, for technical training in what was then Air Training Command, stated,

In the next decade, more and more training will occur away from traditional training sites. . . . The concept [distance education] will save on travel and per diem costs and should be a routine training technique for all the services within a decade. . . . The effort [to share training across services] is led by a little-known group called the Interservice Training Review Organization.53

Another concern over PME 2020 is the belief that distance learning takes away from personal contact, the key value of PME. However, even without the existence of the virtual reality of 2020, current connectivity has already demonstrated that interactive communication through electronic means may lead to even greater openness and understanding than face-to-face communication. This is due to the entirely egalitarian nature of the interaction, which eliminates many of the intimidating and inhibiting factors of face-to-face communication in the same room. For example, in 1993 one of the top "head hunter" executive recruiting firms, as a cost-cutting measure, began providing videoconferencing technology for client companies to use for interviewing top-level candidates, a situation where "every nuance of face-to-face communications is crucial." The vice-president of the recruiting company was surprised at the results: "Initially we thought they would interview candidates and then fly in the final candidate, but in many cases candidates have accepted the job right over the ConferView. They were more comfortable than we thought they would be."54 Interpersonal skills apparently can be communicated over the electronic medium. Coincidentally, the above firm estimates it will save clients $135 million this year in reduced travel costs.

Second, by 2020, virtual reality will provide the stimulus of co-location. MIT already is working on computers that will read subtleties of facial expression and voice and duplicate them on computer-generated representations of individuals involved. MIT researchers are even teaching the computer to recognize the difference between a genuine and a fake smile.55

Third, the virtual classroom may be supplemented, at least at first, by a physical meeting of the participants. This meeting will likely be of a short-orientation nature. For example, designated virtual seminar mates, spanning services and nations, may meet for two weeks of orientation at the beginning (and perhaps annually) of a three-year virtual seminar course. This physical meeting should enhance and personalize the computer representations of each of the seminar members. Even today's virtual reality simulators already allow participants to quickly dismiss any lingering artificialities. Bruce Sterling reported on Army tank crews and their virtual reality experiences:

Group by group, the dead tank crews filed into the classroom and gazed upon the battlefield from a heavenly perspective. Slouching in their seats and perching their forage caps on their knees, they began to talk. They weren't talking about pixels, polygons, baud-rates, Ethernet lines, or network architectures. If they'd felt any gosh-wow respect for these high-tech aspects of their experience, those perceptions had clearly vanished early on. They were talking exclusively about fields of fire, and fall-back positions, and radio traffic and indirect artillery strikes. They weren't discussing "virtual reality" or anything akin to it. These soldiers were talking war.56

A third concern about distance learning (or for our purposes, virtual residency) is that it reduces student interaction with the faculty. In this case, however, the facts argue that increased connectivity will mean even greater interaction with faculty, with more efficient use of student and faculty time, by using on-line multiparty interactive or virtual conversations. In addition, there will be increased access to experts not on the "resident" faculty but merely available to answer questions in their particular area. This is a critical aspect of PME 2020 when one considers future reductions in the numbers of military experts and in the funds for hiring full-time civilian (including retired military) experts. Will PME schools and courses be able to afford full-time subject matter experts for each particular weapon system, culture, or strategy? The virtual residency, expert systems, and telecommunications aspects of PME 2020 guarantee these experts, or at least their knowledge, will be available on demand for the future war fighter.

Additionally, students can use virtual reality to talk with Caesar and Napoléon.57 These "virtual" leaders will be programmed with all the anecdotes, paintings, photos (if available), film, video, and books about them. MIT and other labs are working on programs to create "virtual" people that seem alive in virtual reality environments. At MIT, the research project is appropriately named ALIVE.58 Children's games are already using the beginnings of this technology to introduce students to historical figures. To reduce artificiality , computer software makers in Japan are now producing interactive computer programs in which the characters' lips are in synch with the words they speak.59

Looking Toward the Future

Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur. - Giulio Douhet

PME must begin changing now to ensure that it maintains capability and relevance to positively impact the future war fighters and guarantee their ability to contribute to national security. A successful PME 2020 system depends upon taking advantage of existing or emerging technology and operational exploitation opportunities. The military must now begin planning for PME 2020. First, an office of primary responsibility (OPR) must be appointed to oversee and implement the changes. This OPR will also be a liaison between the PME system and civilian education systems and emphasize usability and commonalities to both worlds. The military needs to immediately establish at least a temporary home for a central repository of military and civilian research and proposed solutions regarding questions raised in this paper about potential technologies. Air University (AU) could be that initial repository, and it could establish an on-line list of people and organizations now researching PME-related areas. AU could then develop this central repository and on-line capability with current technology, needing only computers, large storage devices, and on-line connectivity for incoming and outgoing information and questions. As the military builds toward PME 2020, there will be a continual need to know what the most promising upcoming potential technologies are and how best to apply them. To avoid being placed in a reactive catch-up mode, military educational institutions must take steps now to become proactive-leading the way, instead of being dragged, into the next century.

Second, working groups must be formed to recommend changes to the PME infrastructure. The first requirement for initiating infrastructure changes is continuing to research the educational and technological environment and to determine which structures will lend themselves best to rapid adaptability to technology. PME working groups made up of various career fields, having a variety of skills and interests can serve as the initial catalyst for the forming of PME 2020 to recommend what funds are required to purchase technology and develop points of contact at military and civilian institutions.60

Third, emerging technologies need to be monitored constantly for developments that might aid PME programs to teach military members how to effectively and efficiently manage the coming flood of raw data. Continual connections and computers responding to thoughts (although limited at this time)61 are only two examples of emerging, evolutionary technologies that are allowing knowledge-level information to become largely the responsibility of computers rather than the responsibility of individuals. Regarding continual human-computer connection, "nearly every major computer company is currently developing wearable hardware. . . . The Tender Loving Care PC for paramedics features a screen embedded in a pair of high-tech glasses and a hand-held sensor to measure the patient's vital signs."62 These devices may not have an immediate application for the PME system, but they nevertheless will have an impact on it.

Finally, the path to a successful PME 2020 will depend upon the quality improvement process to generate better ways to perform the education mission. In fact, some organizations have already started to shift direction to take advantage of the near-term technologies and the operational exploitation opportunities they afford. The Air War College Organizational Plan includes initiatives for a teleconferencing capability and for an interactive simulation link between the senior service schools. However, money is still needed to implement these initiatives. Also, the scope of these actions needs to be extended. The justification for the interactive, linked capability applies to personnel other than just the senior officers, and to subject matter other than just war gaming:

Given the mandated decline of precious resources and personnel, it is in the best interest of our nation to provide our officers with every opportunity to practice in peacetime the combat decision-making they must employ in time of war. As war fighting continues to become more complex, senior leaders need experience translating national level decisions into operational action. This exercise of operational art requires not only development of plans and campaigns, but more importantly the opportunity to manage and execute those plans and campaigns. Educational wargaming provides this vitally important opportunity, and because it is process oriented, it improves war fighting, combat decision-making methodology. Compared to costly field training exercises, wargaming can provide a low-cost and certainly more efficient environment wherein officers can practice in peacetime the skills they will need in combat.63


Our military forces will be much smaller in 2020, yet the world will still be a dangerous place. In addition, space joins land, sea, and air as a conflict medium as competition among nations in space increases. This environment, coupled with the information explosion, the changing characteristics of military personnel, fiscal constraints, and significant technological advances, will require a much more educated and trained force if America is to remain a military superpower in the twenty-first century.

To meet this requirement, we will have to change policies and processes. While technology developments will determine the possible ways of delivering education, educational policies and processes will determine (1) who is educated (everyone or a select few), (2) when military members are educated (at specific times for all, or at appropriate times throughout each individual s career), and (3) where military members are educated (in-residence or through virtual residency).

The primary method of ensuring PME 2020 can meet the above needs and is relevant to the war fighter is through the efficient and effective use of leading-edge technology. As Col John A. Warden III, commandant of the Air Command and Staff College, stated: "PME must be on the cutting edge of technology if it is to survive as an institution in the future." Let us not be like the University of California professor 100 years ago who, in an issue of Popular Science, retracted his 1888 statement that self-propelled flying machines were "impossible" by saying that "while possible, the engineering difficulties are enormous and possibly insurmountable." Nine years later he was proven short-sighted at Kitty Hawk.64 If we fail to take steps now to prepare for what technologies and processes must be developed for future education and training programs, we too will be viewed in future years as short-sighted.


1. This formula is as follows: 26 years ÷ 2 = 13. 213 = 16,384.

2. Bruce Sterling, "War in Virtual Hell," Wired, Premier Issue 1993, 98.

3. Eighteen months goes into 26 years slightly more than 17 times. Working backwards from 2020 yields $5,000 times 2 to the 17th power, which equals $655,360,000.

4. "Special Deliverer," CIO, 1 June 1992, 71.

5. Bob Metcalfe, "Get Ready for Personalized Newspapers," InfoWorld, 5 April 1993, 52.

6. Robin Nelson, "Swept Away by the Digital Age," Popular Science, November 1993, 107.

7. Ibid., 93.

8. Joe Flower, "Iridium," Wired, November 1993, 72.

9. Sara Hedberg, "VR Art Show at the Guggenheim," Virtual Reality, Premier Issue 1994, 73.

10. News item in Wired, April 1994, 38.

11. A. J. S. Rayl, "Dress Code: The Ultimate PCs Will Be Worn," Omni, December 1992, 20.

12. Bennett Daviss, "Brain Powered," Discover, May 1994, 60.

13. Gareth Branwyn, "The Machines Take Over: War in the Age of the Intelligent Machine," Wired, Premier Issue 1993, 84.

14. Donald A. Waterman, A Guide to Expert Systems (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1986), 289-93.

15. Advertisement by RPI Advanced Technology Group in Virtual Reality, Premier Issue 1994, 65.

16. Linda Jacobsen, "Homebrew VR," Wired, Premier Issue 1993, 84.

17. Ibid., 125.

18. Joseph V. Henderson, "Virtual Realities as Instructional Technology," Proceedings of SALT Interactive Instruction Delivery Conference, 20-22 February 1991, 121-125.

19. Ibid., 121.

20. Brian Green, "Technology on Five Fronts," Air Force Magazine 75, no.9 (September 1992): 62-66.

21. Ibid.

22. McPeak, 44.

23. Toffler, 158.

24. Garrett Culhane, "Mission to Planet Earth," Wired, December 1993, 94-97.

25. CNN, "Future Watch," 27 March 1994.

26. Culhane, 94.

27. Ibid., 96

28. Writing in Technical Horizons in Education Journal, ("Connecting with the Future Today," April 1994), Lee Droegemueller, Kansas commissioner of education, gives one view of the education world of the next century:

Visible transformations in the world of work indicate the future integration of the workplace, home, and school. Responsibilities, functions, and activities that once occurred exclusively within each domain are crossing over into other environments. . . . No longer can the school, the office, and the home be separate from one another. These three once-distinct entities are breaking apart, combining and overlapping in new ways.

The major connector of these three entities-home, school, and work-is technology. . . . Thus the direction for planning must be to build the learning community and to focus upon connectivity. This means that the communication systems, networks or infrastructure among the community partners, and how they are connected to the world, become the top priority.

To avoid a similar fate (to businesses which are overwhelmed by technology), schools must use technology for students to learn. Technologically connecting the school with the home and work will make learning relevant and useful. Learning will have no boundaries, as students can connect with others to access information, ideas and experiences from within the community, across the state and around the world (page 10).

29. Gen Merrill A. McPeak, "The Key to Modern Airpower," Air Force Magazine 76, no. 9 (September 1993): 43-46.

30. Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., "Powerful Nomadic Devices Offer Global Network Access," Signal 48, no. 7 (March 1994): 23.

31. "Science and Technology Week," CNN, 2 April 1994.

32. Jacques Leslie, "Connecting Kids," Wired, November 1993, 90.

33. Jacques Leslie, "Mail Bonding," Wired, March 1994, 46.

34. For example, the multimedia lessons Air Command and Staff College is integrating into current curriculum may have value at civilian institutions or on the commercial market as well. These or other military-created products could be sold or traded for information or services. As the military develops expertise in authoring in the virtual reality and simulation areas, there no doubt will be opportunities to sell actual or modified products to civilians or to encourage commercial vendors to develop items the military requires by providing a less risky, guaranteed, military market.

35. Toffler, 147.

36. Joseph P. Shapiro, "Just Fix It," US News & World Report, 22 February 1993, 53.

37. Policy letter from the secretary of the Air Force, September 1993, 4.

38. Currently, the military has already started new recruitment strategies in over 50 career fields. These strategies are aimed at recruiting individuals who already possess the basic skills needed for various specialties. These individuals require little if any training in the basics of their career field. The attractiveness of PME 2020 technologies will enhance this strategy. PME 2020 will not only help recruit these targeted individuals; these same technologies will help retain them.

39. In a survey referenced in CIO magazine, the importance of various factors in attracting and retaining technology-related professionals was rated by those professionals. The opportunity to work with leading-edge equipment was rated as very important by 64 percent of those surveyed, opportunity to work on important projects-62 percent, enthusiasm for the mission of the business-57 percent, and opportunities for promotion into management received only 36 percent.

40. McPeak, 44.

41. Tom Peters, Thriving on Chaos (New York: Harper Perennial, 1991), 386.

42. Alvin Toffler interview with Peter Schwartz, "Shock Wave (Anti) Warrior," Wired, November 1993, 121.

43. Sterling, 99.

44. Larry Armstrong, Dori Jones, and Alice Cuneo, "The Learning Revolution," Business Week, 28 February 1994, 80-85.

45. Del Wood, "Instructional Technology in the Business Environment," Interactive Multimedia '93 Proceedings, 25-27 August 1993, 52.

46. Caterpillar used interactive media for language training and saw 50-60 percent savings, and expects to save up to $20 million in US operations alone. Bethlehem Steel uses over 100 interactive courses, including more than 15 as part of their Total Quality Management (TQM) program, and reports 20-40 percent time savings, higher retention, and increased participation in voluntary programs. Ford Motor Credit Company estimates cost savings of 25 percent. Bell South reports one program saved $5 million and 20,000 days of instruction. They also have condensed a five-day conventional course into a seven-hour interactive course. They report an 80 percent time savings with 40 percent higher retention levels. Ibid., 56.

47. Ibid., 57.

48. "Interactive '94" Conference announcement.

49. Richard Teach, "What Do We Teach When We Use Games ?" The Simulation and Gaming Yearbook, 1993, 112-21.

50. Wood, "Instructional Technology," 51-58.

51. G. Ronald Christopher and Robert R. Bergseth, "Meeting Air Force Educational Requirements through Media," Orlando Multimedia '93 Conference Proceedings, 24-26 February 1993, 68-70.

52. Philpott, 10.

53. Ibid., 10.

54. Audrey Merwin, "Videoconferencing Goes to Work," New Media, November 1993, 64.

55. Richard Lipkin, "A Face by Any Other Name," Science News, 2 April 1994, 216.

56. Sterling, 51.

57. A recent CNN news tidbit featured a computer-generated Mark Twain for rent. This Mark Twain responds to almost any question with a witty response that takes into account all of Twain s writings and biographical notes from people who knew him. He s currently being used primarily for promotional events at shopping malls, but he definitely shows the potential for PME 2020 to introduce historical figures and experts in the classroom.

58. Lipkin, 220.

59. "Make Sense of Japanese with Your Own Sensei," Windows, May 1994, 90.

60. The working groups will formulate positions on numerous education related subjects. Questions such as (1) What are the true benefits of resident programs versus nonresident ones? (2) When will virtual residency be advanced enough to replace resident programs? and (3) What taxonomy, if any, should replace Bloom's will need to be answered when the military begins to incorporate emerging technologies into the PME system?

61. Daviss, 60.

62. A. J. S. Rayl, 20.

63. Air War College Organizational Plan, 1 June 1994, Initiatives B93AWCTE-05 and B93AWCTE-04.

64. Candace Golanski, "Looking Back," Popular Science, April 1994, 116.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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