Janice Laurence. Handbook on Communicating and Disseminating Behavioral Science. Editor: Melissa K Welch-Ross & Lauren G Fasig. 2007. Sage Publication.
The Demand for Understanding Human Behavior
The Department of Defense is our nation’s largest employer. Defense personnel serve in thousands of locations, at home and abroad, on land and at sea. They engage in or support missions that include warfare, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, evacuation, and homeland defense. Enlisted members and officers of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force are organized into teams and hierarchical units, not just in the modern infantry and lethal combat specialties but also in hundreds of diverse, technologically sophisticated support and service occupations. Recruiting, training, socializing, assigning, employing, deploying, motivating, rewarding, maintaining, managing, integrating, retaining, and transitioning the Defense workforce relies to no small extent on behavioral science.
Behavioral science is crucial to preparing members of the military workforce for both traditional and irregular warfare. It can support the military in adapting to the evolving challenges of our global, information-age operating environment. What types of people, with what abilities and characteristics, make good soldiers, sailors, Marines, or airmen? What motivates people to enlist, perform their duties, and continue to serve in the military? What training and organizational practices contribute to military effectiveness? Indeed, the military provides fertile ground for behavioral science research and application.
The behavioral and social sciences, with their emphasis on systematically examining the complexity and intricacies of human behavior, are well suited to tackle the domain of national security (cf. Brandon, 2002). Psychology offered the science of intelligence testing and clinical assessment during World Wars I and II (Society for Military Psychology, 2005a, 2005b). But since those early days, and because of its usefulness in planning for an all-volunteer force (AVF) in 1973, economics has become the lead social science in military policy. Without the power of the draft to legally direct people into military service, economists introduced rational compensation policy to entice people into making this career choice. Human behavior often defies the principles of economics, however, and so relying on economics alone is not sufficient for understanding and motivating enlistment. What economists see as irrationality may instead be “lawful” if one considers rewards and incentives other than money as responsible for shaping and maintaining behavior. Thus, the perspectives of economists as well as psychologists, sociologists, cultural anthropologists, political scientists, public administrators, and health scientists are often sought to provide the rich, multidisciplinary approaches needed to deal with the complex situations and organizations of the U.S. military. The following section highlights just a few behavioral science contributions.
Personnel Assessment. Psychologists played an important role in World Wars I and II, particularly in advancing the science of aptitude testing and measurement of human performance. Over the years, psychologists have continued their work in areas such as personnel selection, classification, and training. The psychometric advances made in the military setting have also been applied to the wider society (Schratz & Ree, 1989; Wigdor & Green, 1991). Advances in cognitive ability testing and personality assessments and screens have been used to select people for critical positions in such fields as intelligence and special operations. For example, behavioral science has given the military reliable and valid cognitive and noncognitive (e.g., temperament) predictors of job performance as well as job performance criteria (Wise, 1992).
Attitude measurement—the forte of social psychologists—has been invaluable to military recruitment and retention (Laurence, 2006). Attitude measurement in the military also began in World War II. The trailblazing human resource research was published in the four-volume classic, The American Soldier.
This is recognition, both by scientists and the military, of the fact not only that social and psychological problems are crucial in modern war,… but also that they are now amenable to scientific study. (Stouffer, Suchman, DeVinney, Star, & Williams, 1949, p. 3)
Yet another example of behavioral science’s influence comes from the military’s strong clinical and health research program. The scientific study of combat stress has led to proactive and effective assessment and treatment following exposure to danger and other traumatic experiences (Lewis, 2006). The study of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has enabled identifying risk factors and is now leading to the identification of resilience factors (Maguen, Suvak, & Litz, 2006), which will promote better screening and intervention.
Training, Socialization, and Development. From “boot” camp (basic training), to technical training, to operational assignments, the application of behavioral science helps to shape individuals into effective forces. The military has long relied on psychologists for skills training content, techniques, systems, and strategies (Salas, Priest, Wilson, & Burke, 2006). In addition to team and unit interactions, the interactions between humans and technology are studied by human factors scientists. Sophisticated weapon systems, platforms, and equipment offer critical advantage only if they can be mastered. Although armed with state-of-the-art individual combat weapons (e.g., the M16A2 rifle), armor such as Bradley fighting vehicles, attack helicopters, and fighter planes and ships that carry “smart” missiles, human physiological functioning, information processing, cognition, decision making, and so forth remain key ingredients to victory. Even robots and unmanned aerial vehicles need human input and maintenance.
Beyond technical skills, adjustment, comportment, and contextual performance are critical to the military. Behind the indoctrination, socialization, enculturation, and plain old military order and discipline are sound scientific principles. Cohesion, commitment, and morale are fundamental to military readiness and effectiveness. Furthermore, understanding the importance of military culture and traditions as well as adapting to technological change is the purview of behavioral and social scientists. Beginning with Janowitz (1960, 1974), sociologists, psychologists, and cultural anthropologists have come to study, define, and describe the important social systems of the military establishment using methods, perspectives, constructs, and theories of the behavioral and social sciences.
Organizing the vast bureaucracy of the military is also no simple or inconsequential task. The rank structure and hierarchy are not just curiosities or a unique pay band system but are vital to the effective exercise of authority (Janowitz, 1974). Uniforms with their stars, clusters, bars, chevrons, and stripes along with other regalia efficiently signal roles, responsibilities, and relationships. Immersion in military life and lexicon promotes a “warrior” identity and ethos that is effective in garrison and vital on the battlefield. Psychologists have contributed to the content, curricula, and pedagogy of military training and development. Such contributions reach beyond identifying the best techniques for imparting knowledge and skills; they include instilling and reinforcing values, comportment, and teamwork. For example, psychologists and sociologists no doubt “had the ear” of the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, which inspired the decision to adopt the symbolic black beret for all soldiers beginning in 2001. Previously, the black beret was reserved for “real warriors” only—the Rangers. With the black beret donned by all soldiers, the Army began reinforcing the notion of the common warrior ethos.
Many things go into military effectiveness, but certainly, unit or primary group cohesion is critical. The power of this latent behavioral construct is exemplified in a fundamental part of war—soldiers tend not to fight against an enemy so much as fight for each other. With the help of psychology, strategies for enhancing cohesion or social solidarity helped transcend racial and gender differences. Despite initial friction, racial integration beginning in 1948, the increasing numbers of women in service, and the removal of assignment barriers for women all have not diminished cohesion and military effectiveness. Of course, the military remains an organization steeped in tradition and reluctant to change its culture. To be sure, equal opportunity must still be monitored, and sexual harassment remains a concern. Furthermore, the stubborn problem of discrimination appears in military policy regarding sexual orientation. Gay men and lesbians are still not welcomed—at least openly—to serve in the armed forces, purportedly because their presence would have negative implications for unit cohesion and privacy (Herek & Belkin, 2006). And so, psychologists, sociologists, and cultural anthropologists continue to promote understanding and offer direction regarding how best to promote diversity.
Leadership, Management, and Quality of Life. Leadership is a complex and elusive construct, but being critical to the military’s mission, it continues to be examined by many, including behavioral scientists. In the preface to their edited volume, Military Leadership, Taylor and Rosenbach (2005) gave behavioral science top billing for having one of the most informative perspectives on leadership.
Learning about leadership involves understanding the dynamic relationship between the leader and followers; recognizing the differing contexts and situations of the leadership landscape; and understanding the importance of the behavioral sciences, biography, the classics, economics, history, logic, and related disciplines that provide the perspective so important to leadership effectiveness. (p. 3)
Though theories of leadership continue to be deliberated and tested, most agree that the leader plays a central role in shaping organizational culture (Goleman, 2005; Sashkin & Rosenbach, 2005). So, along with military leader biographies and lore, officer education offers a sprinkling of leadership psychology, mainly from the areas of learning theory, personality, and social influence. Psychologists can be found on the faculties of each service academy. The Army (United States Military Academy) and Air Force (United States Air Force Academy) each has a department of Behavioral Science and Leadership, whereas the Navy (United States Naval Academy) houses its psychology faculty in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law. Psychologists continue to reinforce venerable and unfolding leadership and management principles and lessons throughout officer and noncommissioned officer development. Using information from behavioral science, leadership competencies and development continue to be discussed, debated, and revised within and across the Services.
As previously mentioned, without conscription as a workforce mobilization and channeling tool, the military relies heavily on economics—military pay, benefits, and bonuses—to manage and maintain personnel (Williams, 2004). In the parlance of behavioral psychology, money is contingently scheduled to reinforce job performance. Although it is a powerful reward, money is by no means sufficient for motivating behavior. Intrinsic motivation and intangible rewards are also influential (Stanley-Mitchell, 2004). Job satisfaction, camaraderie, medals and honors, and programs and policies designed to improve quality of life (QOL) for service personnel and their family members all relate to job performance. A number of behavioral and social science disciplines, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, and political science, contribute along with medicine sciences to the military’s active program of QOL research and applications (Schwerin, 2006).
Et Cetera. Clearly, the military puts behavioral science to good use. An exhaustive list of contributions is beyond the scope of this chapter. Although examples in such areas as risk analysis, decision making, situation awareness, performance under stress, and others were omitted, they are worthy topics to the military nonetheless.
Research and Dissemination Funding Levels and Process
As with the overall federal budget, the Department of Defense has the largest share (54%) of the federal government’s research and development (R&D) budget (Koizumi, 2006). Although R&D is budgeted at $74 billion, the allocation for science and technology (S&T) represents only 15% of this sum or $11.2 billion. Further accounting shows $1.4 billion budgeted for basic science and $4.6 billion for applied research (these figures include medical research). Thus, the bulk of Defense R&D spending goes toward advanced technology development, mostly for testing and evaluating weapons systems. Although less than 10% of DoD’s R&D budget goes to basic and applied research, the amount is still worthwhile (Silver, Sharpe, Kelly, Kobor, & Wurtz, 2006). Of course, stiff competition for the $6 billion comes from such disciplines as physics, astronomy, atmospheric and earth sciences, biology, mathematical science, and computing research (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 2006).
Inside the military, a modest contingent of uniformed behavioral scientists is flanked by Defense civilians, and together they conduct and manage the basic and applied research that addresses military concerns. These research champions fund, manage, and defend both intramural and extramural human-centered behavioral science. Most work in key military agencies, which are the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences; Army Research Laboratory—Human Research and Engineering Directorate; Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; Navy Personnel Research, Studies and Technology; Office of Naval Research; Air Force Office of Scientific Research; the Air Force Research Laboratory; and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In addition, behavioral scientists can be found on the faculties of the military’s undergraduate and graduate academic institutions. The above government bodies are joined by legions of research centers, institutes, and consulting firms dedicated in whole or in part to conducting research and analyses under federal government sponsorship—with Defense leading the charge. There are also clusters of researchers who do not conduct or manage research but instead aid policy makers in and around the Pentagon and Service/Defense headquarters and commands and so help communicate and disseminate behavioral research to inform policy.
Just as certain qualities and qualifications are required to serve in the military, not all behavioral scientists are prepared to offer their professional services to the military. Sadly, civilian colleges and universities are but bit players. Their poor representation is not because intellectual capital is lacking in academe. It is attributable, in part, to academic scientists’ inexperience with the military R&D process and to their apprehension about doing business with Defense. These topics are discussed in the next section.
To make funds available for behavioral and social science, government research managers must undertake a complex process to compete for and win a share of the R&D budget by convincing leaders and policy makers of the soundness and value of their research programs. Unlike many large-scale private entities that fund research in the behavioral and social sciences, Defense does not operate mainly as a venture capitalist investing in potentially promising behavioral science research. Rather, Defense defines and scopes its problem and solicits targeted research that is responsive to the problem at hand. Contracts, therefore, are the primary mechanism used to generate new research instead of grants because they give the military more control over the research process and final product.
The government announces its contract activities through “FedBizOpps” published on the Web. Registered prospective bidders may then order the “Request for Proposal” (RFP) and prepare a formal response. This response typically requires preparing a sizable document describing the proposed technical, staffing, and management approach to the “Statement of Work” (SOW). An RFP also requires that bidders describe corporate or organizational experience and qualifications. In addition, a detailed cost proposal must be submitted. After bidding is closed, review and evaluation of proposals according to evaluation criteria as listed in the RFP begin. Proposals are usually evaluated by a committee of government employees with the requisite technical and content expertise in a process that can take many months. To expedite research, “umbrella” contracts may be awarded with broadly related individual studies and analyses contracted to the successful bidder(s) through a streamlined process. Shortcuts are also possible by contracting with federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs). FFRDCs are independent, nonprofit organizations funded by the government to achieve long-term objectives in accordance with government needs and FFRDC-stated missions.
Aside from reviewing proposals for scientific merit and applied value, the military has a process for evaluating and vetting scientific research to be disseminated in military settings. First, the Services and DoD assess the research for human subject implications, and if not exempt, the research must be submitted to an institutional review board (IRB) to consider ethics concerns and to otherwise protect human subjects. Once launched, the logistics of conducting research in the military setting must be tackled, and then an arduous process for implementation follows. In the realm of personnel testing, for example, formal advisory committees are assembled to vet the instruments and procedures before an operational test and evaluation of a procedure is even contemplated. For vetted policy changes derived from research—for example, new research-based procedures for promoting officers— Congress must also approve a “demonstration” project to assess procedural fairness and the impact of the project on military structures and readiness.
Relevant research ideas and expertise, even if accompanied by federal contracting savvy, are not enough to compete successfully for Defense R&D funds. Without a proven track record in military research, chances are slim that the proposed investigators and organizations will be awarded a contract. At minimum, researchers must demonstrate understanding of the military’s past, present, and future human-centered issues and concerns. Preparing successful research and dissemination proposals requires quite an investment in learning the lingo, structure, functions, and contexts. The military is a complex instrument of national power, and like any profession, the military has its jargon, which is extensive and varies by Service. But beyond the acronyms and unfamiliar lexicon, the structure and systems of the military present a hurdle for many behavioral scientists who seek to design and communicate meaningful research for the military.
As a basic example, the military has four Services, each with Active Duty and Reserve components. Enlisted personnel and commissioned officers (along with a small cadre of warrant officers) are assigned to military occupational specialties (MOS) in the Army and Marine Corps, ratings in the Navy, and Air Force specialty codes (AFSC) in the Air Force. Also, depending on Service, they are organized into branches, communities, or wings with common functions. In addition to function, units are delineated by size. The Army’s nomenclature in terms of increasing size is squad, platoon, company, battalion, brigade, division, corps, and army. (In this context, army does not refer to the U.S. Army but to the First, Third, Fifth, and Eighth Army, which have different responsibilities and regional expertise.) There are two leadership tracks for each of the three military departments, the military chief of staff (a “four-star” general or admiral) and a civilian at the helm in each of the three secretariats. Each of the Services has major commands (MACOMS) with assigned units and facilities. Conducting combined operations falls to the Unified Commands, five of which are Combatant Commands (COCOMS) with geographic responsibility, and four have worldwide, functional responsibility.
Along with such structural complexities come procedural ones. For example, many civilian scientists are familiar with the formal rank structures for enlisted members and officers. But they may not be aware that just doing a good job and earning high efficiency or fitness ratings does not guarantee career progression. Promotion also depends on time in service, history of assignments, achieving progressive levels of command responsibility, slots available in different functional areas, and numeric personnel allowances by grade, as set by Congress. Career progression is mandatory; a so-called “up-or-out” policy requires moving through the ranks in order to continue serving. What’s more, the job structures, performance evaluation systems, and personnel policies and practices vary by Service.
Behavioral scientists must know and appreciate the significance of all such cultural, structural, and procedural nuances lest they lead to confounded or contaminated research designs and analyses and wreak havoc with efforts to communicate with military decision makers.
Finally, because politics greatly affects what gets funded in the military, strategic plans for producing and disseminating science may be compromised by limited tenure among both the civilian and military top leadership. That is, the secretary of defense along with his or her deputy, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, and deputy undersecretaries are politically appointed. Thus, their agendas are tied to the life cycle of the presidential administration. Senior military leaders rotate more often, approximately every 2 years. As a result, much vigilance is needed to protect long-term research and dissemination efforts that are essential to achieving a particular goal, and often such sustained efforts will not be possible in the face of agenda changes. Moreover, with the military’s emphasis on command and control, its reverence for tradition, and congressional oversight requirements, moving research into operation is slow and risk averse.
In this political context, behavioral and social scientists both inside and outside the military must be tenacious in helping to make sure that useful science gets produced and used. Despite favorable ratings by the credentialed researchers who assemble to evaluate the technical quality of proposed, in-progress, and completed research studies, no one guarantees the projects will be launched or “go” anywhere other than on a shelf or in a file drawer. And budget crises always exert pressure to pull the plug on “less critical” lines of inquiry. A job of research directors and managers who work inside the military is to champion promising research and convince policy makers of the value of continued funding.
Countering Misunderstandings and Tensions between Behavioral Scientists and the Military
Academic Apprehension about the Military
Despite the time and effort required, there are contingents of military psychologists and sociologists who have embraced the profession of arms. In fact, they have formed formal organizations such as the Society for Military Psychology and the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society with their journals, Military Psychology and Armed Forces & Society, respectively. The first is an eclectic group of psychologists (such as clinical, experimental, industrial/organizational, and social), whereas the second comprises a broader, interdisciplinary group of behavioral scientists (from such fields as sociology, political science, psychology, and public administration).
Outside of these groups, scientists and scholars in the behavioral and social sciences tend to distance themselves from the military and even can be quite antagonistic. Aside from lacking familiarity, reaction to the Vietnam War created a wide rift between the military and academicians (Janowitz, 1974). Laying the blame for the war at the boots of the military rather than in the hands of politicians, many university-based social scientists turned their backs on the problems of Defense on moral grounds. For example, the Human Resources Research Office, with its staff of psychologists, separated from The George Washington University in response to student protests against Army ties (Ramsberger, 2001). Although the military psychology division of the American Psychological Association (APA) was a charter member, until 2005, APA would not accept employment advertisements from DoD because of the law precluding homosexuals from serving openly in the military. Recently, military psychologists have been falsely accused and unfairly castigated for their purported association with coercive interrogation and other abuses of detainees in connection with the Global War on Terror (GWOT). And although cultural knowledge is vital to countering the non-Western adversaries and irregular warfare that the United States confronts today, such understanding is lacking because of anthropology’s retreat from the military as well (McFate, 2005).
Other tensions are less emotionally charged. Anecdotal reports suggest that behavioral science faculty refrain from putting their imprimatur on DoD and consulting firm jobs because they reason that under Defense sponsorship, they forfeit academic freedom and integrity. On a positive note, however, more recent anecdotes suggest that interactions between military college professors and researchers have led their civilian academic colleagues to report more positive attitudes toward working with the military (Morten G. Ender and Michael D. Matthews, personal communication, June 30, 2006). Supporting the military’s understanding of human behavior is not tantamount to advocating war. Behavioral science need not loathe entering into partnerships with Defense.
Military Trepidations about Behavioral Science
The lack of understanding between behavioral science and the military is mutual. Military leaders and Defense policy makers do not always appreciate behavioral science and have been known to malign its methods and findings. For example, cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point refer to cultural anthropology as the study of “nuts and huts” (McFate, 2005). Why does the military hold this negative image?
Recommendations from the hard sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry) and engineering often seem more concrete and definitive to decision makers in the military than the “squishy” topics, inexact theories, and methodological limitations of the behavioral sciences. Typically, behavioral scientists concern themselves with latent constructs such as aptitudes, attitudes, personality, leadership, cohesion, commitment, learning, job performance, and so forth. The behavioral indicators used to measure them, such as test scores and survey item composites, can seem quite removed from the everyday concerns of the military. Moreover, instead of being able to give the military answers to a specific question after conducting one study, research must accumulate over time to test theories about the causes and other influences on the constructs of interest. Military decision makers also tend to be unfamiliar with the array of quantitative and qualitative methods available and do not understand which methods are appropriate depending on the question (Creswell, 2003). Overall, the military is more comfortable with the engineering approach with its direct problem-solving orientation and more familiar calculations, exact measurements, and precise models.
The traditional tool of the behavioral sciences, the carefully controlled randomized experiment, also does not usually yield data that are immediately useful to the military (Campbell & Stanley, 1963). External or ecological validity is a must for the military. Randomized experiments are rare and considered impractical. For example, in studying the impact of deployment on cohesion and commitment, it is not possible to select individuals or units at random for a tour of duty in Iraq. Quasi-experiments with statistical control typically are more appropriate.
Using behavioral science in the military requires stepping outside of our comfortable, controlled conditions and beyond our typical subject pools and conducting and applying research that goes beyond college sophomores and paper people. Experiments must become more ecologically valid, and multiple methods, including qualitative approaches, must be used alongside experimental designs to make realistic and actionable contribution to the military. Currently, however, both scientists and the military often question the rigor, meaning, and usefulness of information from methods such as structured interviews, surveys, focus groups, ethnographies, and the analysis of archival data.
Even if behavioral scientists come to understand military missions, culture, and structure and produce more relevant research, there is still much work to do in conveying the message and the value of the behavioral research in meeting the military’s needs. Military leaders and policy makers usually want solid recommendations for action based on empirical evidence and an appreciation for the military’s exigencies. Yet, behavioral scientists often hesitate, despite having useful guidance to give military operators in the form of theories, concepts, and data from both basic and applied science. They might instead learn to market their ideas and be bolder in their recommendations for action.
Like the economists who wield greater influence, scientists could not only learn to speak with confidence, but in terms of dollars. That is, science that enables the military to buy more bullets and beans outweighs science for the sake of “it’s nice to know” or even because “it’s the right thing to do.” Of course, bottom-line research is not at odds with “it’s nice to know” or “it’s the right thing to do” motivations. Though the military is not a social welfare agency, for example, it was a trailblazer with regard to racial integration because of the rapidly growing need for personnel. Likewise, recruiting demands may bring greater opportunities for women, and concerns about retention may quickly advance quality-of-life and military family initiatives. Still, even when meeting such obvious needs, scientists have an edge whenever they can calculate costs and benefits to the military when recommending a particular course of action.
In communicating, we must also avoid our own jargon. Bombarding DoD sponsors with intricate talk of grounded theory, content coding, regression coefficients, and chi-squares is counterproductive. This entreaty is not to suggest that we hide our methods and measures or engage in shotgun empiricism devoid of theory. Instead, we must document our research in detailed technical reports with supporting theory, tables, and graphs showing coding schemes, measures, and statistics along with recommendations for action. Whereas this report would be welcomed by the military’s “in-house” researchers and by technical advisers to policy makers, a corresponding “top-line” executive summary is also recommended. In addition to a clear and concise top-line report, the military is looking for the implications for the “bottom line.” That is, the military wants to know about output or effects and costs.
Though no single template exists across DoD for useful summaries and technical reports, perusing the Web sites of key government agencies (such as the Army Research Institute [ARI]; Navy Personnel Research, Studies, and Technology [NPRST]; and Air Force Research Laboratory [AFRL], as mentioned above) and reputable consulting firms can lead to exemplary reports. For example, a recent technical report by Personnel Decisions Research Institutes (PDRI) documents the validation of performance factors implemented as part of the National Security Personnel System (NSPS)—the new performance management system for civilian personnel (O’Leary, Muller-Hanson, LaPolice, & Pulakos, 2005). The RAND Corporation, one of the above-mentioned FFRDCs, makes its research summaries and technical reports available on its Web site (see http://www.rand.org; for one of the many social science related reports, see Harrell, Thie, Schirmer, & Brancato, 2004). These firms, and a host of others, are adept at communicating behavioral science to the military.
Tensions and misunderstandings between the military and behavioral science are not likely to be eradicated, but they can be eased. If the military is looking for perfect prediction and control from the behavioral and social sciences, it will be disappointed. We will never be able to predict human behavior with absolute certainty—it’s too splendidly complex. But we can strive to be practical and do more to persuade decision makers about why they should apply behavioral science—even without 100% reliability and validity. Ultimately, however, to be valued, studies of psychological processes and behavioral science applications must be developed, tested, and evaluated in military contexts using outcomes of importance to the military and not only to academic science.
Future Directions and Challenges
Behavioral science and the military are not strange bedfellows. Their relationship has been mutually beneficial, and strengthening it further would help to solve emerging military problems. Though the military is an institution steeped in tradition, it must now evolve to meet today’s demands. The military must tackle the complexity of terrorism and irregular warfare, in a real and virtual global, cyberspace world (Cebrowski, 2004). Behavioral science advances can be brought to bear on old and new challenges.
Given the Department of Defense’s increasingly complex and global responsibilities, it is becoming necessary to conduct more and more joint operations across Services, service components (Active Duty and Reserves), federal agencies, and national boundaries (Department of Defense, 2006b). Defense civilian employees and contractors will also continue lending their support. In short, the Services cannot go it alone; interdependence is becoming the norm. Although the Joint-Service concept is not new, present organizational structures and processes do not appear to promote operating jointly. Deficiencies include establishing shared goals and thinking of the “joint” groups as teams. And although the strengths of military culture arguably outweigh its weaknesses, aspects of military culture will surely complicate attempts to transform the organization. Recommendations from the behavioral and social sciences for or against particular actions or approaches should be brought to bear in overcoming resistance and adapting individual Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force cultures for Joint Service, multinational coalition, and interagency operations. Relevant psychological constructs that will need attention in this military context include teams (Beersma et al., 2003; Cannon-Bowers & Salas, 1997), networks (Provin & Milward, 2001), cooperation (Tjosvold, 1995), and trust (Lewicki & Bunker, 1996).
Changes to reward structures will be among the management issues to consider. For example, collective rewards are used to support cooperation and individual rewards to promote competition. Yet, the military may need to implement rewards consistent with behavioral science showing that individual responsibility can be retained and even enhanced with collective rewards if the rewarded behaviors are highly visible and if the team holds its members accountable. Rewards at the organizational level may also need restructuring as each Service vies for control of financial, material, and human resources and activities. Finding ways to forge cooperation rather than competition among the Services and to motive true Joint operations is within the purview of behavioral science.
As the technology and conditions of war evolve, so too should we refresh our understanding of the psychological underpinnings of military performance and the conditions that affect quality of life for those who serve. The study of information processing, cognitive limitations, expectations, and perception will continue to aid navigation through the “fog of war.” Through efforts to measure the constructs of culture, personality, and social and emotional intelligence, behavioral scientists may enhance cultural awareness and hence international interactions. Sociology, social psychology, and related behavioral and social science subspecialties can be instrumental in understanding, preventing, or mitigating acts of misconduct by military forces brought on by the stress of war. We should, for example, extend our social, psychological, and physiological studies of aggression, impulsivity, obedience, conformity, and resilience to military settings and, in particular, to combat situations.
Though the military could benefit from a closer relationship with behavioral science, several barriers need to be addressed. As this chapter explained, strong ideas for scientific research and dissemination do not guarantee interested behavioral scientists access to military funding. Even if one reads up on the military, without an individual and corporate history of Defense contract research, it’s hard to become a recognized contributor. A suggested course of action is to become familiar with the military and those organizations that conduct research and analyses for the military. Read the relevant journals, attend professional meetings (e.g., APA’s Division 19—The Society for Military Psychology; the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces & Society), and “surf” the Web. Find out who is doing whatDefense research. As with contract opportunities, awards are also listed in FedBizOpps. With a niche or unique expertise, it may be possible and prudent to network and subsequently partner with established military researchers. A quid pro quo may be necessary, such as welcoming military researchers to partner with other sponsors outside their typical sphere of influence. For example, those in academe might include military researchers to partner in National Science Foundation grant proposals or on research contracts sponsored by other federal agencies such as the Department of Education.
To promote mutual understanding and interaction between the military and behavioral and social science, academicians might consider inviting those with military research experience to colloquia and perhaps sabbaticals at institutions with faculty studying social and psychological processes of interest to the military. Furthermore, “seeding” military research agencies and contract research firms with graduating students may also hold promise. These former students can apply their talents toward noble missions and transmit their growing experience back to their alma maters and mentors.
Though Defense can and does use behavioral science, its missions and operating tempo typically do not lend themselves to wading through the literature in search of general principles that hold promise of transfer to the military. Certainly, good science disseminated via peer-reviewed journals is invaluable to the behavioral scientists employed by DoD and the contractors who assist them in tackling the military’s issues and concerns. But for those outside the world of military research who are looking to export their science to Defense decision makers, dissemination must be more direct and deliberate. Behavioral science research also must be conducted, validated, and documented in the military context. Only then can the behavioral scientists on the inside bring the science to the attention of policy makers.
The military is a worthy and fascinating arena for developing and testing behavioral science theories. Behavioral science, in turn, can make worthy contributions to the military. Communicating and disseminating behavioral research requires significant investment in this institution dedicated to “duty, honor, country.” The investment is worth the effort. Indeed, with its sizable personnel count and budget—not to mention its sober missions—Uncle Sam needs behavioral science.