A Human Factors Assessment of the Maneuver Command and Control (MC2) Interface at Company Level and Below

Report No. ARL-TR-3364
Authors: Bruce S. Sterling and Cheryl A. Burns
Date/Pages: November 2004; 50 pages
Abstract: Research for the November 2003 Unit of Action Developmental Experiment 1, which was conducted by the Human Research and Engineering Directorate of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, had three objectives. The first was to assess the level of functionality of the maneuver command and control (MC2) system as a C2 interface at company level and below. The second was to determine operator situational awareness (SA) and workload levels. The third objective was to examine aspects of the interface design, such as visual display, to determine if the Soldier-machine interface was satisfactory. The MC2 was subjectively rated by users at company level and below as performing poorly on many key functions necessary for C2 in an automated manner and in assisting users in performing these functions. These functions included maintain SA; access relevant information; collaboratively develop plans; develop operations orders (OPORDs) and create graphics; distribute OPORDs and graphics; rehearse the plan; maneuver forces; call for fires; control fires; notice changes in the situation in a timely manner; and respond to changes in a timely manner. This could be a result of the limited training (three days) that the personnel received but also reflects the need to improve interface design. Given the results noted here, it is no surprise that the SA of MC2 users was insufficient with a mean rating of 6 (insufficient; not aware of all the information required to perform the task) on a scale of 10 (higher numbers = higher SA) for all trials. However, even though the interface did not help users much on critical functions, workload was rated moderate with a mean of 5 (reduced spare capacity on a scale of 10 (higher numbers = higher workload) for all tasks. This was probably because some units were not ?in the fight? during most of the time in the scenario but were waiting for the situation to develop. Concerning interface design, most aspects of the visual display interface were seen as borderline, which suggests difficulties in Soldiers? seeing objects on the screen. Concerning software functionality, intuitiveness was evenly divided between borderline and poor; feedback was generally seen as poor, while usability was again divided between borderline and poor. Maps and graphics were generally rated borderline to poor with overlays rated most positively. Concerning information management, sending messages was rated mostly borderline, while maintenance was rated mostly as poor. Many aspects of the interface were only occasionally used. Only OPORDs and graphics were used consistently. However, most aspects were rated as borderline to poor in ease of use, which may account for why they were not used more frequently. Results are discussed in terms of subject matter expert and participant observations, suggesting reasons for the low ratings, and highlighting those aspects of the interface that users would like to see improved. Recommendations are made concerning changes in the MC2 that would improve SA, facilitate the development of OPORDs and rehearse the plan collaboratively, simplify calls for fire and controlling fires, and enhance interface design.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: November 1, 2004