ABSTRACT One approach to reducing the operators required to man future Navy surface combatants is the use of task-managed systems. These systems process incoming information and provide recommended courses of action to operators. This paper discusses the results of an experiment to investigate the feasibility of applying task management techniques to support manning reduction in the context of air defense warfare. Situational awareness (SA) and usability evaluations were conducted with a prototype design and realistic warfighting scenario. The task management application, the methods used for the determination of SA, and the investigation results are discussed, as well as results from the usability evaluation. Overall, operators may have had some difficulties in gaining higherlevel SA when using the task manager. Based on operator feedback, one of the most promising features for simplified task management support was a Gantt chart display that provided operators with a general timeline of recommended tasks as well as a history of actions taken. Keywords: task management; automation; situational awareness; usability


The United States Navy has placed a strong emphasis on the goals of manning reduction and the development of tools to support the fewer warfighters in performing increasingly complex tasks. Previously reported findings within this program of research have demonstrated that a human-centered design approach to the development of a prototype air defense warfare interface could support a 50% manning reduction with marked improvements in performance indicating better operator SA (Freeman, Campbell, & Hildebrand, 2000 and Pharmer, Campbell, & Hildebrand, 2001). Another approach to meeting manning reduction goals is the addition of a task management system, which processes incoming information and provides recommended courses of action to operators. This research was conducted to evaluate the usability and performance impacts of a prototype automated task management system that focused on air warfare. The concept tested was designed and prototyped based on lessons learned and usability test results from previous research (Osga, Van Orden, Campbell, Kellmeyer, & Lulue, 2002). The testing approach, experimental plan, tactical scenario, and control data set were based on previous experimentation (Freeman, Campbell, & Hildebrand, 2000 and Pharmer, Campbell, & Hildebrand, 2001). Two issues are consistently identified in the literature as potential pitfalls to developing these types of decision support tools. First, given that decision support tools remove the operator to some degree from the nuts and bolts of the decision making process, there is a real danger that these operators may lose some SA. Second, careful attention must be paid to the usability of these systems to ensure high levels of operator performance without undue workload, memory, and SA burdens.