Best Defense

When good military websites go bad: A sad example from the Navy history center

The Navy’s historical center has a new site, and I think it sucks.


The other day I was checking the link on an old Navy photograph I had, a World War II image I liked. But it didn’t work.

Turns out that the Navy’s historical center has a new site. That site cost you and me many million dollars. And I think it sucks. It is a site built for the owner, not the user. One of the first things it gives you is its policies. Do you care? Do I? Nope! Then, when you delve in, it shoves subjects at you, instead of letting you pick.

Try this simple experiment: You are a kind, old, tired guy, sitting in a Comfort Inn in Silver City, New Mexico, as I was at the time. All I wanted to do was browse World War II Navy images. Go ahead and try that.

I want my money back. I mean, I worked for that.

But I imagine the bosses are pleased. Of course, they didn’t pay for it. Nothing like power without accountability.

I don’t want to be a Negative Norbert, so, for what it’s worth, the Air Force historical photo site still works. I also like the Army’s straightforward if limited approach. (Though I’ve always wondered about Gulf War gallery #8.) Now if the Army could only get its act together on being transparent about personnel moves at and above the 0-6 level.

The National Archives do a good job. But they need to do more.

As long as I am reviewing websites, I hate Military Timess site. It jumps around on me, seems too busy, with no sense of priority or editors’ judgment. I prefer that of Stars & Stripes — more ordered presentation of kinds of news, doesn’t just slap it all up there.

Also I found Military Review easy to read when you clicked on PDFs. I find it impossible to read with the way it displays now.

U.S. Navy

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at

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