The first thing you notice about the much improved Navy Doctrine Library System homepage is an image of Alfred Thayer Mahan, United States Navy rear admiral, geostrategist and historian, who
has been called "the most important American strategist of the 19th century” and the father of the “sea power” doctrine which is based on the concept that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide reach. T
The concept has had an enormous influence in shaping the strategic thought of navies across the world, especially in the United States. So Mahan’s image is a fitting gateway into the Navy’s library system which aims to empower the fleet and warfighter to carry out the Navy mission more effectively.
The Navy Doctrine Library System is hosted by the Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC), the Navy’s lead for developing, correlating and disseminating all Navy doctrine. Bob Wilhelm, NWDC’s publishing division manager and Roger Webster, NDLS information manager,
demonstrated the library system in late November and explained the redesign was the result of feedback from users who said that information was difficult to research and retrieve on the legacy site.
Former commander of NWDC, Rear Adm. John Kelly, championed a more user friendly system in 2005, explained Wilhelm. The idea was to create an intuitive system based on popular, personalizable sites, like Yahoo, that users are familiar with and use at home, Webster said.
Early prototypes encompassed XML and widgets and were based on the Semantic Web concept.
Current NWDC Commander, Rear Adm. Terry B. Kraft, initiated the current redesign focused on making it even easier for fleet users to locate information and save it for future reference, like the personalized bookshelves permit. Now Microsoft’s sophisticated ASP.net Web server forms the basis of the user interface with an Oracle 11g database for the back-end.
The NDLS website is well-organized and the information indexed similar to that of a library’s card catalog system. Navigation is within a few easy clicks and the user interface is clean and simple. The top navigation bar has five main tabs that include: Home, Library, Terminology, Tactical Tasks and Links with sub-tabs that delve deeper into mission areas, such as ballistic missile defense and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.
The Library tab includes folders that expand with information regarding Navy general reference
categories and doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) related to intelligence; operations; logistics; planning; command and control; fleet exercises; TACMEMOS (tactical memos); tactical bulletins; Naval Doctrine Publications (NDPS); Navy Wide OPTASKS (operational tasks); mission area bookshelves; allied, multinational and joint doctrine, the Universal Naval Task List;
Concepts of Operations (CONOPS); U.S. Coast Guard; and Commander’s Handbooks.
There is a tab that provides the 523 Navy Tactical Tasks (NTA) and the ability to link the Navy Mission Essential Task List (NMETL) with the Universal Naval Task List.
Within the Terminology tab, users can look up acronyms and cross-reference terms that may mean one thing in the U.S. Army but have a different meaning in the Navy.
A Navy terminologist reviews documents each month and works with the Joint Staff terminologist
when necessary to identify and resolve any inconsistencies. A panel of subject matter experts vets all information posted to NDLS so users can be assured that information is authoritative, accurate and timely, Webster said.
According to Wilhelm, information is not meant to just sit on a bookshelf. Users are encouraged to comment and recommend changes through the social networking function on NDLS. For example, each pub has a commenting feature, lists a Stock Number (to order a hard copy in the case of special field manuals, for instance), a Primary Review Authority (PRA) that specifies the issuing command, and an action officer’s (AO) email address. If a user makes a comment, the action officer is prompted to respond and a dialogue ensues with the commenter.
There are about 343 Navy publications and official documents and about 1,000 joint documents, Wilhelm explained. The plethora of information is easily accessed by robust search and filtering capabilities that allow users to fine-tune search features.
Users can customize their workspace by adding and sharing books with other users in the Bookshelves area. They can create bookmarks and be alerted to pub changes or any changes in any of the library categories by going to the Subscription tab and selecting the pubs and mission areas that interest them. When a change is made in the categories users select, they are alerted by email. In the What’s New tab, users can set a filter to see the new documents that have been approved or issued as a draft in the last 30 days, or, for example, the number of days since they last visited the site.
Although the NDLS has a strong search capability, there are two librarians that can assist in conducting research for information that may be hard to find. Wilhelm explained that NDLS includes legacy information and canceled and superseded doctrine and many other pubs which can be useful to users who may be conducting research on legacy equipment that may still be used in the fleet or for users who may be interested in old air or anti-submarine warfare doctrine, for example. Also, publications are frequently renamed or renumbered when they are updated, and users can benefit
from the knowledge of an experienced librarian. Webster said, “We have the two best librarians in the Navy.”
NDLS is available to any U.S. military or civilian government user with a Common Access Card. The system is available in a classified and unclassified version. The user base is about 5,000 to 6,000 unclassified and 14,000 classified users. Some documents have limited distribution and are closely held, for example, by special operations forces.
Through a Java mapping interface function, users can view spider diagrams of relevant documents on any search topic, as illustrated in Figure 1. By using this functionality, users can find documents they may not have even thought of referencing in their search for information.
There is a "Support" link in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage where users can ask for assistance or provide feedback. At this link, users can find answers to frequently asked questions about NDLS.
Fleet users access a scaled-down version of NDLS through Collaboration at Sea to overcome the limitations of limited bandwidth while operating at sea.
Improvements to NDLS are ongoing and Webster said there is a plan to provide fleet users with more capability. There are five full-time staff members to support NDLS, including two librarians and three employees that maintain the website.
Both Bob Wilhelm and Roger Webster, who incidentally has the perfect last name for someone working in a library system, are enthusiastic about the improvements to NDLS and encourage and invite CAC holders to visit the Navy Doctrine Library System and provide feedback about their experience.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Navy Warfare Development Command - https://www.nwdc.navy.mil
CAC Holder access Navy Doctrine Library System - https://ndls.nwdc.navy.mil
Sharon Anderson is the senior editor of CHIPS. She can be reached at email@example.com