DoD Buzz

Can the Army make itself understood?


Every once in awhile, the military services go through a phase in which they want to clarify what they mean, and make it easier to understand their arcane terms and acronyms and abbreviations. As you can read here, the Army is in one right now, and its vocabulary doctrine mavens are trying to pare down the number of proprietary terms and abbreviations that are accepted by officialdom:

Carlos Soto, a terminologist with the Fort Leavenworth, Kan.-based Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate Joint Multinational Doctrine Division, said the philosophy of his group is simple: Because Soldiers were taught English before joining the Army, why try to teach them a new language?

“There is no reason for the U.S. Army to create a word if the English language suffices,” he said.

One of the chief culprits is the liberal use of acronyms to shorten or simplify military terms. Only they’re not always shorter and far too often they don’t simplify anything. “Acronyms are fun to create, but you sit there during a briefing, and after the 20th acronym [that] you don’t understand, the briefing becomes useless,” said Dave Turek, chief of the Joint and Multinational Doctrine Division Combined Arms Doctrine and co-author of FM 1-02.

It continues:
When a group of joint communications staffers suggested the abbreviation NCO for net-centric operations, it was quickly rebuffed, because NCO is commonly understood to mean noncommissioned officer.

“It is important that we reduce the use of acronyms to facilitate understanding of doctrine,” Soto said. “Acronyms do facilitate remembering terms and phrases, but don’t benefit when used sporadically in a document, or [when] excessively creating acronyms for the sake of creating them.”

Also under review by Soto’s department are long phrases littered with redundancy. Some recent examples of proposed additions to the Army dictionary that Soto deemed unnecessary include “Designated Area for Recovery,” “Individual Soldier Guidance” and “Personnel Recovery Focal Groups.” Soto said he recommended these terms not be added to Army manuals, “because it combines two terms that each have clear definitions, and when combined, you can derive a definition without further adding to an already large Army dictionary.”

Some phrases are changed in an effort to shorten or simplify them, such as “military operations on urban terrain,” or MOUT, which was condensed into a more concise “urban operations.” “Logical lines of operations,” was simplified to “lines of effort.”

Some changes simply slice through the jargon, such as, “kinetic” and “non-kinetic” being replaced with “lethal” and “non-lethal.”

Another recent change: The Army did away with “warfighter” and replaced it with the generic “soldier.” Even though “warfighter” is found in some dictionaries, it’s not in Webster’s Dictionary, which is what Soto’s team of wordsmiths relies on. But Staff Sgt. Rafael Galera, an instructor at the 1st Army Training Academy at Camp Shelby, Miss., is one who thinks “warfighter” should remain part of Army language.

“That’s what every soldier is and what we have enlisted for, to fight the nation’s wars and to preserve democracy,” Galera said.

Incredible! An institution that lives and dies by its own proprietary language wants to make soldiers and their bosses sound like human beings! Imagine being able to say, "Hold on, sarge, I wanna wash my hands before chow," instead of saying, "Request you momentarily discontinue your locomotion, sarge, as I have identified an urgent requirement for germ mitigation and cleanliness assurance operations (GMCAO, spoken "jim-cow") as part of our optimized tooth-to-tail QA process supporting the Army Revictualization and Rehydration Readiness Enterprise (ARRRE, spoken "arr-eee)."

We saw another example of this a few months ago when then-Secretary Gates announced he was banishing the term "psychological operations," in favor of the new, doctrine-approved Military Information Support Operations. After all, "MISO" sounds like a nice soup, as opposed to the drugs and brainwashing of "psy ops," right? But does anyone actually say it? Good question.

This brings us to the fundamental problem: Sometimes, the services and their commanders don't want to be understood. They're just people -- when they're at home, or hanging out off duty, they know how to express themselves as clearly as anyone. But when they're dealing with bureaucratic rivals, or reporters, or up on the Hill, that's when you hear words such as "facilitate," or "optimize," or

"TFPs are used to combine the requirements of the CMP with any known unique ship-specific maintenance requirements to determine the required maintenance for each ship. TFPs for DDG 51 and LSD 41/49 Classes were completed in time to inform the FY12 budget request; TFPs for CG’s and LHDs will be completed to inform future budgets. The FY12 budget also includes new requirements for Surface Ship Material Condition Assessments, Fleet Technical Support, and additional oversight of contractor work based on increases in maintenance requirements identified by SURFMEPP in revising the CMPs."
No matter how clear the Army wants to make its new official vocabulary, the buzzwords, acronyms and abbreviations won't stay away for long. And what do you think about eliminating the term "warfighter?" Show Full Article

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