TADMUS Program Background

Recent changes in U.S. Naval priorities stress the requirement for navy ships to operate in the littoral regions of the world, that is, in the coastline regions. Operating in the congested and confined water and airspace close to land presents additional challenges to the tactical decision maker. Littoral operations involve scenarios characterized by rapidly unfolding events which fit multiple possible hypotheses with respect to contact identification, intent, available responses and their consequences. For example, the close proximity of U.S. Navy forces and potential adversary forces makes interpreting the actions of an inbound aircraft who does not respond to radio warnings much more difficult. Should the aircraft's behavior be interpreted as an attack profile, or does the pilot merely intend to harass, or does the aircraft in question not carry the equipment necessary to receive verbal warnings, leaving the pilot unable to receive radio warnings directed toward him and unaware of his precarious position? In extreme cases there is no clear cut right or wrong answer about a decision. Rapidly unfolding events result in severe time pressure and severe (often catastrophic) consequences for errors. While current real-time battle management systems are well-suited to the demands of all-out conflicts, they may not be optimized for littoral situations where human intervention in decision-making is even more important (Office of Naval Technology [ONT], 1992). (Since 70 percent of the world's population lives within 200 miles of the sea, most future contingencies are likely to involve littoral warfare (Mundy, 1994).)

Two unfortunate and highly publicized events focused attention on the difficult types of decisions confronting naval commanders and provided the impetus for this research. In the case of the U.S.S. Stark, the commander made the decision to not engage an inbound aircraft which was believed to not be a threat to his ship, and 27 U.S. naval personnel lost their lives as a result. In the case of the U.S.S. Vincennes, the commander made the decision to engage the inbound aircraft believing it was a threat to his ship-which turned out to be a commercial airliner-and all personnel aboard the airliner were killed as a result. In recognition of the complex and difficult decisions required in these types of situations the Tactical Decision Making Under Stress (TADMUS) program was initiated to conduct research in the areas of human factors and training technology. The objective is to develop and apply principles that can help avoid these types of situations in the future.

The Tactical Decision Making Under Stress (TADMUS) program is being conducted to apply recent developments in decision theory and human-system interaction technology to the design of a decision support system for enhancing tactical decision making under the highly complex conditions involved in antiair warfare scenarios in littoral environments. Our goal is to present decision support information in a format that minimizes any mismatches between the cognitive characteristics of the human decision maker and the design and response characteristics of the decision support system. Decision makers are presented with decision support tools which parallel the cognitive strategies they already employ, thus reducing the number of decision-making errors. Hence, prototype display development has been based on decision-making models postulated by naturalistic decision-making theory. Incorporating current human-system interaction design principles is expected to reduce cognitive processing demands and thereby mitigate decision errors caused by cogni-tive overload, which have been documented through research and experimentation.