October 17, 2014
Situation awareness (SA) forms the critical foundation for decision making in military, emergency management, medical, space and a wide variety of other complex, demanding environments. After over 25 years of R&D focused on improving situation awareness, we have a strong foundation of understanding on how the human brain successfully operates in even chaotic, conflicting and complex domains to achieve the situation understanding needed for timely decision making. Metrics have been developed and validated, a solid body of research has established guidelines for creating effective information systems to support situation awareness, and novel training approaches have been developed for building personnel who can achieve higher levels of situation awareness much earlier in their experience curves.
Many challenges still exist for successfully transferring this research foundation into practice, however. In the information age, the ability to rapidly integrate across diverse platforms and inputs is paramount, but in too many cases our organizational and technological systems have not kept pace to deliver this needed commodity. In the days of limited budgets for defense spending, high levels of SA provide the force multiplier that can help compensate for limited resources and will be critical for successful operations. While significant progress has been made on sensors, communications, and networks, too often the final step of organizing, integrating and prioritizing information for its users has been neglected.
I will focus on laying out a development course for tackling this challenge with a vision for creating 6th Generation C4ISR that supports proactive, integrated decision making. Breaking through the information glut to create effective SA will require more than sensors, new hardware or the latest algorithm. It requires systems of systems engineering approaches that fundamentally addresses what situation awareness really means for each operational role and creates agile, user-centered information prioritization, routing and integration approaches that drive future architectures. Approaches for driving successful system developments to meet this vision will be discussed, as well as key challenges for the future in developing computational situation models to complement and interact with human team mates, the fundamental need to address information security, and new challenges in information operations that must be addressed.
Dr. Mica R. Endsley is Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. She serves as the chief scientific adviser to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. In this role she identifies and analyzes technical issues and brings them to attention of Air Force leaders, and interacts with other Air Staff principals, operational commanders, combatant commands, acquisition, and science and technology communities to address cross-organizational technical issues and solutions. She also interacts with other services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense on issues affecting the Air Force in-house technical enterprise. She serves on the Steering Committee and Senior Review Group of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, or SAB. She is the principal science and technology representative of the Air Force to the civilian scientific and engineering community and to the public at large.
Dr. Endsley served on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board as panel chair on Defense against remotely piloted vehicles and chaired an S&T review of the Human Effectiveness Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory. She also served as a member of studies on human-system integration, system of systems engineering, and mission management for RPAs. Dr. Endsley's research focuses on the design, development and evaluation of systems to support human situation awareness and decision-making in aviation, air traffic control, space, cyber, military command and control, medical, and power systems operations. She is the author of over 180 scientific articles and reports on situation awareness in individuals and teams, human-automation integration, information dominance, human-system integration, human error and training for situation awareness. She has edited or co-authored 3 books, including Designing for Situation Awareness.