Human Supervisory Control Issues in Network Centric Warfare
Author(s)Cummings, M. L.; Mitchell, P. J.; Sheridan, T. B.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Humans and Automation Laboratory
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Network centric warfare (NCW) is a concept of operations that seeks to increase combat power by linking battlespace entities to effectively leverage information superiority. A network centric force must be supported by sophisticated automated systems, so human-computer interactions are an important aspect of overall performance. These interactions are examples of human supervisory control (HSC), in which a human operator intermittently interacts with a computer, receiving feedback from and providing commands to a controlled process or task environment, which is connected to that computer. The Department of Defense (DoD) has recognized that a lack of understanding of HSC issues relevant to NCW is a significant barrier limiting NCW’s potential benefits. This report identifies eight central HSC issues that could significantly impact operator performance in NCW: Appropriate levels of automation, information overload, adaptive automation, distributed decision-making through team coordination, complexity measures, decision biases, attention allocation, and supervisory monitoring of operators. The adoption of NCW principles is often misunderstood as requiring increased levels of automation, which makes this a particularly acute problem as NCW is implemented. For the average operator, implementation of NCW will exponentially add to the number of available information sources as well as the volume of information flow. Without measures to mediate this volume, information overload will occur much more often than in the past, as it will be far easier for operators to obtain or be given more information than they can adequately handle. One way to alleviate this problem is through adaptive automation, which has been shown in certain cases to lower workload. There will also be a corresponding increase in information complexity, quantified by complexity measures, which can cause a loss of situation awareness or an unmanageable increase in mental workload. It is therefore essential that the interfaces with which NCW operators interact help to reduce and manage this increased level of data complexity. A more fundamental issue associated with the increase in the number of available information sources, volume of information, and operational tempo under NCW are operator attention allocation strategies. NCW hinges on successful information sharing, so knowledge of the relationship between perceived and actual high priority tasks and associated time management strategies, as well as the impact of task disruptions is critical. As a result of NCW information sharing, command and control (C2) structures will change significantly. Traditional methods where commands are passed down from higher levels in a command hierarchy will, at least, be partially replaced by distributed decisionmaking and low-level team coordination. Therefore, understanding how to make effective, timepressured decisions within these organizational structures takes on greater importance in NCW. These redefined C2 structures will drive an increase in information-sharing tempo and rapid decision-making. Under these time pressures, the use of heuristics and other naturalistic decisionmaking methods may be subject to undesirable decision biases, both for individuals and groups. Lastly, how automated technology can be leveraged in order to observe and diagnose HSC issues during supervisory monitoring of operators is another significant area of concern since NCW will contain embedded HSC systems.
MIT Humans and Automation Laboratory