Quality of Life Pros Discuss Technology Issues in Seattle
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
SEATTLE, Feb. 28, 2000, Feb. 28, 2000 Technology can be a blessing or a challenge, but it's definitely changing the way DoD is doing business in the quality-of-life arena. And good or bad, the Internet is the key.
That's the message delivered to attendees at the first DoD Quality of Life Technology Symposium after three days of lectures, seminars and exhibits here Feb. 23-25.
The symposium was designed to help military quality-of-life professionals focus on exploiting technology to improve the quality of life of the collective military family. The nearly 400 attendees from throughout DoD were offered break-out sessions on nearly 40 topics.
Seminars on commercial World Wide Web sites that target the military audience and serve a useful purpose, such as Sgt. Mom's and Monster.com, featured prominently.
Other seminars focused on successful programs at individual installations and advice on implementing such programs elsewhere. For example, representatives from the Army's Fort Gordon, Ga., shared information on their highly regarded relocation Web site, which is run by the post's Army Community Service Center. Another Fort Gordon rep spoke about the award-winning PTA Live Online program, which is run at the post by volunteers. Navy representatives presented information on the service's successful New Parent Support Program.
The symposium's keynote speaker, Bruce Tulgan, told the group they mustn't lose sight of their real purpose for attending. "This is a technology symposium, but it's really a meeting about people," he said. "Technology merely enables the delivery of quality of life services to people. It's about making the lives of people better while they're doing the very important work of serving our country."
Tulgan is a private consultant specializing in issues related to managing "Generation X" employees, those born between 1963 and 1977.
Victor Vasquez, deputy assistant defense secretary for personnel support, families and education, told the group they shouldn't focus on technology as a way to cut positions or streamline business practices.
"Our real mission is to focus on how we can provide better- quality service to our customers -- service members and their families," he said. "We need to provide the kind of service that allows them to connect and make good decisions based on solid, real-time information."
"All people have high expectations that they can communicate with each other in real time," said county executive Ron Simms of King County, Wash. "Living up to those expectations becomes a challenge for all governments.
"We have an entire generation of people that expects to be able to communicate in real time -- whether it's access to medical information, access to loved ones or being able to identify what kinds of services a community has -- it's access to all those things that people expect now," he said.
Technology also gives more people access to quality of life services. "Geographic boundaries don't mean much anymore," Simms said. "There isn't any distance that we can't leap over in order to accomplish what we need to."
The guest speaker, Army Maj. Gen. Roger Brautigan, deputy commanding general and chief of staff of nearby Fort Lewis, Wash., said DoD should use technology to "expand and improve access to the great programs that already exist."
"The unprecedented access to information and instant communications the Internet provides holds the promise of improving the day-to-day quality of life of individuals regardless of where they live or work," he said.
The general said he's convinced DoD has "not yet scratched the surface of the potential of this great medium." He cited a recent survey that showed 136 million Americans and Canadians are currently online.
"Eventually, we will touch every member of the Department of Defense family via technology," he said.