Defense Secretary Ashton Carter might be moving toward making a new demand for top generals — ditch the PowerPoints and simply talk instead.
Before meeting on Monday with top officials in Kuwait to discuss Islamic State threats, Carter banned the use of PowerPoint presentations "to challenge his commanders' thinking," the Washington Post reported.
"The Secretary wanted today's meeting to be driven by thoughtful analysis and discussion, not fixed briefings," Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an email to Military Times.
While Kirby said it is not a general ban on PowerPoints throughout the Defense Department, this isn't the first time the slide projection method has come in for criticism.
In 2009, during Gen. Stanley McChrystal's tenure as senior commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, he viewed a PowerPoint slide that was meant to convey the American strategy there; however, it proved to be as indecipherable as streams of silly string.
"When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war," McChrystal said in the briefing, provoking plentiful laughter.
A year later, a staff officer at the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Kabul was fired for publicly shaming the PowerPoint method. Army Col. Lawrence Sellin wrote that the joint command "consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information."
"Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general's thought processes as abruptly as a computer system's blue screen of death," Sellin wrote in an op-ed that was picked up by United Press International.
Countless other officials from retired Gen. James Mattis, former Joint Forces Command chief, to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates have knocked its practice.
"I think [Carter's] right," said @Doctrine_Man, who blogs on military matters and strategy. "If he didn't [do that], someone would come in with a stack of slides and they'd get nowhere."
@Doctrine_Man told Military Times that the top brass should understand PowerPoint for what it is — a tool.
"Our problem with the tool is that people make slides before they have a clear idea of what problem they're trying to solve," @Doctrine_Man said. "If you can't communicate your ideas, it doesn't matter what tool you use."