In the 60s, 70s and early 80s, the Army introduced hundreds of new weapons and equipment into the force. This force modernization was designed to increase Army capability and readiness. The Army turned to technology to generate greater combat power.
In doing so, however, the Army encountered two persistent problems. First, when a new system was put into the hands of soldiers, actual field performance did not always meet the standards predicted during the system's development. For example, a system designed for a 90 percent chance of a first-round hit actually achieved only 30 to 50 percent when fired by soldiers. Second, the replacement of an existing system with a technologically complex system generated requirements for more highly skilled soldiers and a higher ratio of soldiers per system for operators, maintainers and support personnel.
These systemic problems could only be solved by putting more systems in the field; recruiting more highly skilled soldiers; expanding training (as well as increasing training dollars); and increasing the size of the Army. This approach unfortunately led to additional problems. In the 1960s, Dr. John Weisz, Director of the U.S. Army Human Engineering Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, pointed out that we can no longer afford to develop equipment and merely hope that the necessary manpower can be found to operate and maintain it in a relatively short time. The cost of training and time available to conduct it on a mass basis may not permit this process under wartime conditions.
In 1980, Generals Walter T. Kerwin and George S. Blanchard surfaced their concerns about mobilization, readiness and sustainability brought on by increases in weapon complexity. They concluded that human performance assessments were often not integrated and made too late to influence the design stages of the system acquisition process. Supporting their conclusion, the General Accounting Office (GAO) published reports in 1981 and 1985 which attributed 50 percent of equipment failures to human error and stressed the need to integrate manpower, personnel and training (MPT) considerations into the system acquisition process.
The Solution: MANPRINT
In 1982, during his tenure as Army DCSPER, General Maxwell R. Thurman tasked the U.S. Army Research Institute (ARI) to look at the development process of several recently fielded weapon systems. He further directed ARI to tell him what the Army could have done differently to better integrate MPT issues. This initiative, known as the Reverse Engineering Project, showed that the integration of MPT considerations early in the design process could have made a difference. At this point, General Thurman directed that a manpower and personnel integration be initiated. The term "MANPRINT" was actually coined in 1984 by General Richard H. Thompson, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Materiel Command and was used to identify this new organization. Starting as a Special Assistant Office in 1986, it became an official Directorate in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (ODCSPER) in 1987.
In 1991, MANPRINT was expanded to include Automated Information Systems (AIS). This expansion came in response to numerous complaints that AIS were not being designed to maximize soldier- system performance.