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Scott Hopkins, a former Air Force captain, manages surveys of Air Force employees' opinions about their work and life conditions.

AF Web survey draws comments from 58 percent of personnel

After the Air Force's third servicewide survey, senior leaders for the first time are seeing their subordinates' anonymous assessments of them, sent directly by e-mail.

The annual chief of staff survey provides feedback about the climate in the service's organizations, said survey program manager Scott Hopkins at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas.

To organize the biennial survey, Hopkins worked with contractor Raosoft Inc. of Seattle. The first survey, in October 1997, relied on floppy disks and LANs. A second survey, in October 1999, used the Web to eliminate loading special software onto servers at every base.

The third survey, scheduled to start last October, had to be postponed because of Operation Enduring Freedom. From Jan. 22 to March 8, a quarter-million Air Force users responded, or 58 percent of those eligible. The 1999 survey got a 36 percent response, Hopkins said.

Although individuals are guaranteed anonymity, the survey software tracks the Air Force organizations they represent. Hopkins said Raosoft's UAdmin application managed the survey architecture and created a database of demographic information. A contact management system tied names and e-mail addresses of senior officers to the units they supervise to speed distribution of results.

As in the 1999 version, participants had to select a personal ID and password before beginning the questionnaire. Groups of questions rotated to increase the statistical validity of the results.

'Somebody might get 'Job Satisfaction' first, somebody else might get it last,' Hopkins said.

Hopkins' office again made the survey available via floppy disk or LAN to remote personnel.

'They may be in a location that just doesn't reach the Web well,' Hopkins said.

The floppy-LAN version also ran in a browser, so the whole survey had the same look and feel, Hopkins said. To lower bandwidth use, the 10 largest domestic Air Force bases installed an intranet version.

In 1999, the survey ran from a central Web server, which resulted in too much traffic, Hopkins said. This year's survey directed incoming traffic from nonintranet locations to one of four regional servers for the East and West coasts, Europe and Hawaii.

A site on the public Internet, www.csafsurvey.com, lets personnel take the questionnaire after hours or on weekends. A lookup tool checked the birth date and Social Security number of anyone who tried to take the survey over the public Web. It verified Air Force status but, to preserve anonymity, did not retain any personal data.

The analysis team will e-mail group leaders the Web links for the reports they are allowed to see, Hopkins said.

Participation-count reports went out in similar fashion, and senior officers could drill down to see the participation rates of their units. In the 1999 survey, the officers had to hand-calculate their units' participation.

For the first time, the reporting software will build a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation of an organization's results and e-mail it to the senior officer.

'We've saved thousands of hours by automating this function,' Hopkins said.

Officers can compare their units' 2002 answers against past results, against responses from other units in the same chain of command and against other units with similar missions, Hopkins said. For example, fighter squadron commanders can see how their units stack up compared with other squadrons.

Respondents were asked to rate their unit leaders, and for the first time the reporting tool will send the anonymous feedback directly to them, Hopkins said.

Raosoft built many rules into the survey software to ensure the anonymity of the survey takers. 'That is a guarantee,' Hopkins said.

The results will go out to all Air Force units after a briefing for the chief of staff, Gen. John P. Jumper.

Anteon Corp. of Fairfax, Va., built a keyword-searchable knowledge base for the survey. The knowledge base gave points of contact and answers to frequently asked questions. Unanswered questions could be sent via Web form or e-mail message to a help desk.

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