Session 2: Using Online Government Sources
Online Government Sources
In this session we focus on using online sources, including some US government-issued reports, to research US military programs. Our focus will be international programs, and specifically military training and arms sales.
Reading / Listening assignments:
- Evaluating Web Pages
- Recorded webinar: Researching Official Sources
- Introduction to US military aid programs
Databases to start perusing:
Your assignment is: Choose a country, and review the official reports on Foreign Military Training and arms sales for at least one year (the same year for both training and arms sales). From this reading, generate (a) three observations - what you notice, something that stood out to you, patterns, surprises, etc. and (b) three questions - based on what you wish to investigate further, something that is unclear. These questions could be focused on simple things, like the meanings of acronyms, but also try to generate questions that will take you deeper, or will frame further research.
Online Government Sources - deciphering acronyms
Some people find curious acronyms in reviewing the State Department’s Foreign Military Training reports: “Non-SA, UC and JCET”. As Bruce Gudmundsson points out in his essay from The Pentagon Labyrinth in the first session’s assigned reading, the proliferation of acronyms in the Pentagon is part of the tribalization of language and culture that takes place there.
So how do we find out what an acronym means? How would you go about it?
Here is what I came up with:
Method A: straightforward web search Try taking this exact set of letters and Googling it. When I just did that, in the 4th result, without even having to open the page, I see what “Non SA” and JCET stand for.
Method B: advanced web search Google this set of letters within a specific web site, such as the State Department’s site. You can do this by going to the Google search page, typing in the text you seek, followed by site:[domain-name], where the domain name is the portion of the URL that is specific to one overall web site. For example, in the Google search field, type: Non SA UC JCET site:state.gov (The same search can also be conducted from Google’s “Advanced Search” page, which you can link to from the ordinary Google search page.) When I just did this, I found links to various foreign military training reports, but no explanation. Which leads me to…
Method C: Look for a glossary or guide within the document set you are reviewing. In the Foreign Military Training reports, there is a list of courses you can search.
Method D: Ask someone who might know. This could be staff from an NGO who follows arms sales, whom you could identify from web searches or by asking others who to contact. For example, in that first straightforward google search, the first page that identified “JCET” and “non-SA” was justf.org, which upon investigation you will find is managed by folks at Washington Office on Latin America and Latin America Working Group, whom you could call to ask this question. You may want to conserve such questions, and use your own time on other methods first, so you can make most of experts’ time.
Can you think of other methods?