Chapter 7—
Integrating Transformation Programs

Paul K. Davis

This chapter describes an approach to transforming the Armed Forces that attempts to bridge the gap between high-level expressions of policy and the management of transformation through programs and other initiatives. I do not discuss specific activities because those are reviewed elsewhere in this volume. Instead, the focus is on principles for transformation that take into account the progress already made, the new Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), and the events of September 11.1 The principles are based on historical transformations in military affairs and the business world and draw from my own earlier work. The structure of the chapter is as follows. First, I describe a two-era framework for discussing transformation. I then review lessons from past transformations, suggest principles, and ask related questions about current challenges. Next, I suggest a strategy for managing transformation that is motivated by these principles. The suggestions may prove useful in assessing and integrating transformation plans as they develop.

A Model and Terminology for Thinking about Transformation

It is helpful to distinguish between two roughly defined eras when discussing transformation. As shown in figure 7 -1, Era A is the near- to mid-term and Era B is the longer term. Somewhat arbitrarily, the figure suggests a 30-year transition from about 1995 (just before concerns about “asymmetric strategies” began to emerge) to 2025. As indicated by shading, the seriousness of various “new dangers” will continue to increase throughout the 30 years. They are already with us, but they will grow substantially. Preparing for them will require more than incremental modernization; it will indeed require transformation.2

Distinguishing between the two eras is useful because they require different instruments of control, as indicated in table 7 -1. By and large, an Era A (near- to mid-term) transformation can be guided by a relatively well defined concept of where one is going, why, and how. It can be “managed,” with clear assignment of responsibilities, authorities, and timelines. In contrast, tight management for Era B transformation would be counterproductive. What is needed is more diffuse and tentative, with exploratory experiments, rather than rigorous tests of the sort found in development programs.

Table 7 -1 also makes the point that mainstream organizations within the services should play primary roles in Era A, whereas we might expect the same organizations to short-change or be actively hostile to many of the activities being explored for Era B. This is organizationally natural.

Although the Era A/Era B distinction is useful, it is only an approximation. For one thing, there is no end point. Figure 7 -1 might apply equally well in the future if we merely slide the time scale to the right. Further, Eras A and B are connected in that success in Era B depends on laying the groundwork in Era A.

Because the term transformation makes no distinctions between eras, table 7 -1 also introduces some additional terms. Era A transformation can reasonably be regarded as pragmatic reengineering, which can be defined as the fundamental rethinking and redesign of an organization’s building block units and processes to achieve dramatic improvements in the ability to accomplish the organization’s missions, including new ones. A distinguishing feature is that it is accomplished through relatively “managed” processes undertaken with a relatively strong sense of what is needed and how to get there, and on a relatively fast time scale. This definition does not require reengineering to be massively disruptive.

Pragmatic reengineering highlights the concept of building blocks (modular design) because a major goal is that future forces will be flexible, adaptive, and robust in the world in which they must operate. This implies a building-block approach to operations. Success then depends on the suitability of the building blocks and the organization’s prowess in quickly assembling and controlling their integrated application to missions.

Usual discussions of reengineering tend to emphasize studies, detailed design, and testing. Indeed, reengineering often has a system engineering aspect. However, it may also occur in a very different way: more as the result of experimentation and iteration than of precise design. This is significant because organizations should be conscious of alternatives. Figure 7 -2 characterizes the spectrum of possibilities schematically (along the x-axis). The two curves illustrate alternative approaches of mixed character.



Many reengineering efforts have been the result of determined individuals and teams who decide to “just do it” (emphasis on the left side of figure 7 -2), which includes recognizing fundamental problems, identifying principles, having general notions of how to proceed, and proceeding without niceties such as studies. Sometimes such an approach is effective, in part because it harnesses the enthusiasm of problemsolving operators and in part because, as a matter of course, errors are discovered and changes of direction made without much agonizing. This avoids the pitfalls of studies, which can take on a life of their own and drag the process of change out interminably, resulting in too little, too late. U.S. business schools encourage the aggressive just-do-it approach, which is often said to be part of what the world sees as American pragmatism. By and large, this is also the approach of impatient and effective military leaders. Often, such just-do-it folks welcome new technology but see engineering as mere technician work to be done by industry.

Unfortunately, the just-do-it approach can sometimes be disastrous. If the needed reengineering involves large, complex systems that are to operate quickly together, the approach should have a strong system-engineering flavor. When major banks, for example, have muddled system engineering, their transitions to electronic operations have failed, and they have lost billions. One might expect the same need for high-quality system engineering when attempting to develop a capability for joint military operations comparable to Desert Storm or Panama in effectiveness that could be brought to bear within days, rather than months. Further, one would expect system engineering to be crucial in development of systems of systems.3 In such cases, it is crucial to have top-notch system architects at the core of decisionmaking. Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s nuclear submarine program comes to mind.

The two curves in figure 7 -2 represent two broadly different approaches, but neither is extreme. As indicated by the shaded region, it is usually wise to include thinking and serious initial design even in just-do-it work and rapid prototyping; “rapid” need not mean “mindless.” Similarly, even work characterized by meticulous studies and design should plan for mature prototyping (prototypes expected to be almost right) and iteration. The result in either case can be called spiral development, but the first involves a more explorational spiraling, whereas the second starts with a mature design and then refines it iteratively.4

Fortunately, the United States is good at both approaches. We may be known for American pragmatism, but we also boast the world’s finest capabilities for designing and implementing large and complex systems. The question for the Department of Defense (DOD) is which style should apply to specific aspects of transformation.

Having defined a framework for discussing transformation, let me turn to lessons about past transformations. These tend to corroborate and add to suggestions for transformation that have been made over the last several years.5 They are drawn from a set of unpublished RAND papers developed as background in recent projects for U.S. Joint Forces Command (U.S. JFCOM) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.6

Learning from Business Experience

In a recent manuscript, Paul Bracken reviews lessons learned in the last decade about the connections between information technology and reengineering in the business world.7 Instead of repeating the claims made a decade ago in the heyday of reengineering and transformation, which was then associated with radical restructuring, Bracken begins by noting that many efforts undertaken according to those faddish concepts have failed. He then discusses current business-theory understanding of how to view reengineering and how to accomplish it through deft exploitation of information technology (IT). Bracken’s analysis supports the view that DOD should see the reengineering component of transformation more as a vigorous and interactive evolution than as an epochal revolution. Bracken’s discussion in no way encourages incrementalism, but the most effective strategy for bringing about major changes appears to be one in which technology and operational concepts associated with information technology are disseminated and nurtured, and in which challenges are established to which organizations respond in ways that they themselves discover, rather than having solutions imposed from a central office at the top. This lesson should ring true to military officers who believe in distributed problemsolving.8

Bracken also provides a framework within which to recognize that, in addressing challenges of information and uncertainty, organizations attempting to apply IT solutions have alternatives of which they may be unaware.9 One approach seeks to reduce the requirement for information by providing enough resources so that the organization has slack with which to deal with uncertainty or by creation of self-contained tasks that require little information from outside the unit conducting the task. The other approach focuses on improving the organization’s ability to process ever-increasing quantities of information. It may emphasize vertical integration, horizontal integration, or a combination of the two. Organizations need to be conscious of the choices and tradeoffs, lest they chase expensive fads.

One example of this problem is the common tendency in discussions of command and control to focus unduly on technology issues, such as bandwidth, rather than development of the “commander concepts” that are often critical in wars.10

Learning from Military Experience

Brett Steele has offered a fresh look at some of the military reengineerings attempted during the interwar period, drawing on experiences in Italy, France, Germany, Britain, the Soviet Union, Japan, and the United States.11 Even familiar episodes, such as the development of German blitzkrieg, offer new insights when viewed through the lens of reengineering. Steele describes cases in which nations adopted new technology but did not really reengineer; nations adopted new technology and reengineered, but bet on the wrong vision; and nations reengineered successfully. Some of his examples represented attempts at planned transformation using within-reach technology, whereas others reveal a mix of the carefully planned approach and the experiment-driven emergent-discovery approach.12

A point that emerges from Steele’s review was that the French, who are typically characterized as developing a simple-minded Maginot Line, had in fact studied the lessons from World War I intensively and approached their military planning with diligence and prowess. They accomplished a reengineering, but they got things wrong. The Maginot Line was fine, so far as it went, but the French concluded that the offense would, in the future, be accomplished “deliberately,” with firepower amassed for incremental advances. There was no concept of fast large-scale maneuver, which had seemed to them discredited by World War I. As for defense, they recognized that they had an exposed flank that the Maginot Line could not cover, but they were dilatory in developing maneuver forces to provide that coverage. More generally, the French focus on the Maginot Line exhausted much of the available attention, energy, and funding.

The British, during the interwar period, were world leaders in studying and experimenting with tank warfare. Their work was enormously influential. However, much of this came to naught for Britain itself because traditional army thinking prevailed and limited the work’s impact. Indeed, the top leaders of the British military establishment actively suppressed dissent once they had tilted toward the view that tanks were merely support for infantry. Despite their groundbreaking experiments, the British were ill-prepared for the kind of armored warfare that World War II entailed.

The United States was also woefully unprepared for World War II in many respects; along with most nations, it misunderstood the role of armored units. However, it learned, adapted, and could point to many developments by the end of the war. The Department of the Navy, for example, had not planned to have aircraft carrier battlegroups emerge supreme, but it had laid the groundwork, and it was wise enough—after Pearl Harbor—to recognize that the carriers that had been seen officially as support forces were now the appropriate core. The Marine Corps also had something of which to be proud. It had developed and honed the concepts and capabilities for amphibious landing operations long before they were needed.

¦onventional wisdom holds that the Germans got things right, notably blitzkrieg and the use of tanks. Ironically, one can argue that the Germans got things precisely wrong; they focused all of their planning around what were intended to be rapid and decisive operations but did not prepare for what eventually transpired—a long, hard war of attrition won by dint of numbers, industrial production, and broad, deliberate offensives. Germany’s loss, then, was not merely a matter of bad luck and overextension, but of profound strategic error. In contrast, the Soviet Union—despite suffering an initial catastrophe—was prepared conceptually and doctrinally to mobilize for and fight a long war. It mobilized and supported a huge army, which it then employed with great strategic and operational-level skill to doom Hitler’s ambitions. The success of Soviet reengineering was made possible by the work of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, before Stalin executed him in one of his many paranoid rages.

One lesson to draw from these and other examples should probably be one of humility: serious nations working diligently and in ways that they regarded as scientific made profound mistakes during the interwar period. Is the United States so much smarter today? Or will we focus our transformation efforts on a vision of war that satisfies American predilections but proves wrong?

Other lessons from successful military transformations have been drawn by Richard Hundley, who focuses on processes that I associate with longer-term (Era B) work.13 For this longer term, everything is even more uncertain than over the near term. Indeed, some of the integrated technologies that will be important in 20 years do not yet exist, much less the concepts for how to use them militarily. The premium, then, is on discovery-oriented research and development influenced by military professionals. Drawing on the experience of the Navy during the 1920s and 1930s, Hundley suggests an approach to joint transformation that would partner U.S. JFCOM with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and centers of expertise. Such a partnership could serve as a halfway house in which technology developments are drawn upon by military innovators who have new operational concepts but need experiments and prototypes. This would not be about big-event demonstration-type experimentation, but rather a period of continuous discovery and of trying ideas out. Rough analogues might be the famous Skunk Works that produced the U -2, SR -71 Blackbird, and stealth aircraft.14 However, some of the most important future developments are likely to involve not platforms but instead networked command and control and systems of systems.

Principles for Transformation

From these historical lessons and the earlier work cited above, it is possible to sketch a theory of how transformation should be pursued—or, at least, to identify 10 important principles in 5 groups relating to technology, strategy, military art and science, the political front, and a strategy for management.

Keeping Up with Technology

1. Exploit fully the fruits of technological development. With weak enemies, this is a matter of opportunity; with more capable competition, it is a necessity.

2. When attempting to exploit information technology, pay close attention to the variety of strategies available. Some strategies involve reducing dependence on information, while some focus on improving information flow by emphasizing vertical integration, horizontal integration, or both.

Strategic Foresight

3. Strategic anticipation is crucial. One needs a broadly correct vision of the future of warfare; even better is to have a multifaceted vision that does not bet unduly on a particular type of war.

Military Art and Science

4. Get the new theory right. It is important to understand the issues, systems, and phenomena correctly—not only in special cases but also more generally.15 Consistent with that, the issues must be pursued deeply with a combination of rigorous experimentation and theory and with continuing debate rather than rigid adherence to particular concepts.16

The Political Front

5. Obtain sustained economic and political support. The latter is at least as important as the former.

Strategy for Management

6. Pursue organizational and operational concepts that are consistent with deeply rooted cultural characteristics, or else take extraordinary efforts to overcome them. An example of the first was the mission-order emphasis within the German officer corps; an example of the second was the U.S. Navy creation of a special branch to develop nuclear submarines and associated doctrine.

7. Organize requirements around outputs (that is, capability to accomplish important military operations), rather than inputs or open-ended functions, such as “strengthening logistics” or “improving communications.” As part of this, plan forces for flexibility, adaptiveness, and robustness; this requires new capabilities-based frameworks for analysis and metrics.17

8. When all is said and done, get the new building blocks right. Ultimately, an organization’s building blocks are what dictate flexibility.

9. Guide even some aspects of long-term development with concrete military challenges and an operational context. This principle is discussed in detail below.

10. Despite efforts to get things right, plan and lay the groundwork for later adaptations. Even the best-laid programs and best-conceived capabilities will turn out to be not quite what is needed. Changes will be necessary. This occurred, for example, in the early days of what came to be carrier aviation and amphibious operations.

Many organizations have reengineered themselves successfully without meeting all of these criteria, but near-twins have failed through what might reasonably be seen as the roll of the dice. If DOD is more risk-averse than the world of business entrepreneurs, it might do well to consider these 10 principles as necessary conditions.

Applying the Principles in the Current Era

The 10 principles suggest issues and questions for today, some of which are summarized in table 7 -2. For brevity, I comment here on just some of the principles, starting with principle 3.



Strategic Anticipation (Principle 3)

The U.S. military has chosen a concept-driven approach to transformation.18 Doing so has many advantages. This choice has a potential shortcoming, however: attention and enthusiasm may be so focused
on one or a few concepts that the foundation is not laid for eventual needed capabilities. The issues here relate both to concepts of future war and concepts of operations in those future wars. Reinforcing the point is the fact that we can see multiple trends. Consider that:

  • Some adversaries in major theater wars will be able to use even second- or third-rate versions of modern technology effectively against current U.S. operations; examples include mines that are difficult to detect and precision-area weapons that would preclude prolonged massing within enemy range.
  • Other “modern wars” will be characterized by the special dangers and omnipresent constraints encountered in Kosovo.19
  • Some terrorist operations will involve enemies willing to commit suicide and to cause massive civilian casualties.
  • China is inexorably rising as a major regional power and will have at least some interests that conflict with those of the United States, most notably regarding Taiwan, but also broader issues of regional influence.
  • The U.S. homeland is now a target rather than a sanctuary.

This is not a complete list. Other entries, for example, might express concerns about drug wars and other causes of instability in the Western hemisphere, or about space becoming a theater of conflict.

It follows that many types of military operations will be important in the future, but the capabilities to accomplish them may not come along naturally if the military is overfocusing on a particular notion of war or particular operational concepts. Capabilities that might not come along without DOD intervention include those for the types of rapidly planned and executed dispersed, parallel, and quintessentially joint operations discussed in the Joint Vision documents.20 They also include prompt antiterrorist operations going beyond precision strikes and special operations forces. The prospect of inserting sizable ground forces deep into other countries without a good logistical base is always sobering, but that might happen in pursuing terrorists or in a war with Iraq. Even more unnatural but important to consider in the face of historical experience are capabilities such as those for fighting our way back onto the Arabian Peninsula or Korea after an initial debacle. Such possibilities have seldom been highlighted in the service or U.S. JFCOM experiment programs, nor even in strategy studies with a futures component.21 Fortunately, the philosophy of capabilities-based planning, which is emphasized in QDR 2001, is consistent with broadening the scope of work.22 I return to this in the last section.

Military Art and Science (Principle 4)

Although there are many examples of fine military programs seeking to understand definitively one or another subject, there is no broad and systematic DOD effort to develop a definitive understanding of future warfare phenomenology as called for in principle 4, much less to develop the relevant theory and represent it intelligibly in models.23 This has not always been so severe a problem.24

The causes of difficulty here are multiple. First, it is easier and arguably more natural to do experiments that are “merely illustrative” than to do something more comprehensive. Second, the U.S. military culture tends not to value definitive knowledge as much as it might. Indeed, “theory” often has the connotation of “unreal.” Further, military models and simulations—which are a major de facto knowledge base—typically have the character of bottom-up procedural computer programs. They are not known for reflecting sound theories, clarifying issues, or facilitating adaptiveness in planning. Yet another cause appears to be a shortage at high levels of training in “system thinking,” including the system engineering discussed earlier.25 Finally, the experiment programs that are commissioned tend (some would say inexorably) to become “can’t-fail” demonstration programs.

Strategy for Management (Principles 6 -10)

Principle 6 calls for either a match between initiatives and organizational culture or else extraordinary measures to overcome resistance. When the Navy created nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, doing so required creating a new culture. This would probably not have happened without DOD insistence, but—once given the assignment—the Navy proceeded with imagination and determination under the legendary Admiral Rickover. Many other examples can be found. The principle has special significance today when the Secretary of Defense wants to pursue capabilities-based planning but is saddled with organizations and processes that have evolved in ways antithetical to that style. Serious cultural changes are necessary.

I make relatively detailed recommendations about principle 7 (organize requirements around outputs) and principle 8 (get the building blocks right) in the next section, but the main issue is how to create an analytical architecture that assures good options are generated and that a rational process of analysis and comparison assists choice under massive uncertainty and economic constraints. If this sounds like capabilities-based planning, it is.

Principle 9 deals with the long-term component of transformation. Here the first question one might ask is, “What is broken?” Many observers believe that the DOD research and development (R&D) process has come to have several problems. First, the constant pressure to reduce costs has diminished the number of new ideas that are taken far enough to really taste and feel the possibilities. This sometimes requires at least prototypes, rather than rough conceptual studies. Second, it is notoriously difficult to move ideas from the early phases of research into development and notoriously difficult to move even very promising concepts through the entire acquisition system. One reason cited over the years is the lack of sufficient operator involvement. After all, it is the warfighters who ultimately head their military services and determine what developments go forward. Unless their imaginations have been captured, potentially good ideas can wither on the vine. Some examples of systems that have taken too long to acquire are laser-guided weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles, and aerial surveillance platforms with moving-target radar capability.

Planning for strategic adaptation (principle 10) sounds like a cliché, but it can be made concrete if DOD adjusts its planning framework and processes to make such matters explicit. The planning process often appears to embrace the myth that decisions are good forever. Much is made, for example, about a decision to buy a certain number of new aircraft, even though history tells us that the ultimate buy will likely be smaller or larger, depending on how the world develops. Making explicit the potential for such adaptations might improve the quality of programs by avoiding inappropriate optimizations based on faulty assumptions. More important strategically is the value of creating hedges against possible international developments. Most such developments, even those that appear at the time as shocks, can be anticipated. Their probability cannot usefully be estimated, but their nature can be.26

Moving from Principles to Recommendations

Given this background, how might we move from principles to action? I next describe an approach that is intended to connect DOD planning efforts with the concepts and constructs of operations planning. As noted earlier, the focus should be on outputs. The ultimate outputs of capabilities-based planning are the capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct important military operations: campaigns and their components as directed by a commander in chief (CINC) or Joint Task Force commander. Ultimately, it does not count for much that the United States has superb military space systems if it cannot use its projection forces effectively. Nor will it count for much that the United States has invested massively in information technology if the projection ýorces cannot conduct the important missions assigned to them. This is the difference between an input view and an output view. By focusing on output in the form of ability to conduct key operations (for example, to intervene to stop ethnic cleansing and preclude invasion), we automatically see issues as system problems. Functional capabilities, such as those for logistics and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, all appear as subordinate requirements because the mission cannot be accomplished without them.

Operational Challenges

A key element of the approach is to identify an appropriate set of operational challenges for DOD to use as a focus. These operational challenges should:27

  • correspond to military missions at the operational level of warfare, which is where national objectives and broad military strategy must be translated into war plans.
  • be limited to particularly important future operations, the capability for which will not arise without DOD intervention.28
  • as a set, cover all of the most important challenges of this type. As a corollary, they should neither be, nor be perceived to be, tilted toward a particular service.
  • encompass and highlight the goals for and pillars of transformation identified in the most recent QDR.
  • be such that developing the requisite capabilities will inevitably cause the innovative use of technology, new concepts of operation, and new organizational forms that are “in the right direction” for the transformation desired. Consistent with this, they should encompass and highlight the specific operational goals identified in QDR 2001.

The last item may seem strange. It assumes that a high-level concept of the “right direction” precedes the problemsolving to develop specific capabilities. This is in fact precisely what I mean. There are times in history when top leaders of an organization know what direction is appropriate—based on a combination of trends and possibilities—even though not everyone is yet convinced. Leadership then includes shoving the organization in the right direction. Of course, if the leaders are wrong, that will be a problem. Nonetheless, this is often an essential element of strategic leadership. To put the matters differently, the operational challenges should be chosen so as to force change along particular vectors.

A final consideration is that the operational challenges should be manifestly appropriate, rather than faddish. Americans are notoriously fickle, and each new administration seeks opportunities to change names and concepts and thus to put its stamp on things. However, DOD needs objectives with legs—objectives in which officers, officials, scientists, and engineers can invest precious years of their professional careers. Whims have no place. A related matter is that creating the wrong subjects and categories can cause management problems for many years; it pays to start with a good framework.

With this background, I offer in table 7 -3 a set of proposed operational challenges against which to measure transformation proposals. It addresses only projection-force issues.29



For each such challenge, it is possible to decompose the problem (figure 7 -3 gives a top-level view of the first operational challenge); identify critical components; assign responsibilities, authorities, and resources; and monitor progress. These components, then, connect the operational challenge to specific programs and other initiatives. Further, metrics for followup work develop naturally from such an operational analysis.



Generating Options

One role of the Secretary of Defense is to establish requirements (figure 7 -4), including operational challenges. It is the role of the military departments and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop solutions, although sometimes the Secretary must weigh in personally. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has indicated his intention to ask for options from which he will choose. Consistent with that, it should be part of transformation strategy for the Secretary to insist that the military departments develop alternative programs and related initiatives that address the operational challenges effectively. One reason for doing so is to increase the likelihood that the Secretary will be presented with options that represent a range of views within the services about how to proceed. A traditional role of the Office of the Secretary of Defense has been to champion ideas generated by officers who are unable to convince their service leaders.30 By demanding alternatives, the Secretary may bring further good ideas to the surface.



The Secretary should also insist that the costs of the various optional programs be calculated realistically. The idea of life-cycle costing goes back 40 years or more, but the discipline to enforce it has often been absent. If the programs presented are amply budgeted, the economic imperative
for transformation will be visible, and the arguments for reengineering (substituting capital for labor) will be stronger.31 Thus, an element of transformation strategy should be to insist on candor in costing.

Support Issues

One important and subtle component of this issue involves support forces and infrastructure. The true capability of the total force cannot be understood without understanding that elements of the forces are independently usable without gutting other elements of the force structure. Brigade-sized units are sometimes appropriate for small-scale contingencies, but a deploying brigade must take with it more than its “fair share” of division and corps support structure because of optimizations made long ago during the Cold War. If the Army now wants to move to a more brigade-focused posture, it will not have the capability suggested by the number of brigades unless it pays the bill to provide the extra support structure that would make the brigades independent. The Air Force has analogous issues.

Revising DOD Analytical Architecture

Given a set of operational challenges—and many other considerations, such as maintaining worldwide presence and being prepared for near-term wars against rogues or terrorist supporters—the Department of Defense must evaluate alternative plans for force posture. Unfortunately, the DOD approach to analysis has for some years been antithetical to capabilities-based planning. Defense needs a new architecture for defining and conducting analysis.32 Among the elements of that architecture should be the paradigm of mission-system analysis (MSA), sketched in figure 7 -5.



The first principle of MSA is to organize thinking around output as discussed above. Doing so means organizing around mission capabilities. Although one can refer to aircraft, ships, and tanks as “capabilities,” the capabilities of most interest in defense planning are the capabilities to accomplish key missions (that is, to conduct successful operations such as to defeat an armored invasion, achieve control of the seas in a region, defend against a missile attack on the United States, or capture a terrorist enclave, perhaps where weapons of mass destruction are hidden in mountain caves). Having platforms, weapons, and infrastructure is not enough. Of most importance is whether the missions could be confidently accomplished in a wide range of operational circumstances. This is a system problem.

Mission-system analysis has much in common with other methods, such as strategies to tasks, the idea of mission capability packages,33 or the approach described in chapter 6 of the present volume. However, even though the underlying philosophy is similar, the MSA character appears rather different in practice. Mission-system analysis construes the system broadly; it emphasizes exploratory analysis under massive uncertainty;34 and it can handle soft issues such as effects-based operations, analysis of which requires qualitative modeling (including cognitive modeling).35

Overall, the purpose of mission-system analysis is to achieve flexible, adaptive, and robust capabilities for the missions at issue. This means no-excuse, real-world capabilities, not just paper capabilities. Suppose that we want to develop requirements and capabilities for a particular mission (left side of figure 7 -5). We consider a variety of capability-set options (top). For each option, we assess strengths and weaknesses across a wide range of operating conditions or scenario space, where “scenario” includes not only the political-military setting but also all of the key assumptions, such as warning times; force sizes; coalitions; enemy strategies (such as short warning or antiaccess strategies); and effectiveness. This concept of exploratory analysis across a scenario space enables planning for adaptiveness, flexibility, and robustness.36

Revising the analytical architecture also means addressing models. Unfortunately, models and simulation have distinct limitations when assessing some of the most important operations being considered for future warfare. These limitations will not go away with mere tweaks to current models or with the emergence of the Joint Warfare System.37 What is needed is a modern family of models and games, with varied resolution and perspective. Part of this would be a capability for a rigorous version of war gaming that would provide the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with analytically structured assessments of capability by professional officers who “think joint” and act in behalf of future CINCs when war gaming. This capability could, for example, reside in the Joint Staff, Joint Forces Command, or some combination of one of these and federally funded research and development centers, which would provide structuring, continuity, and followup. Such war gaming is not new, but much more could be accomplished analytically to structure gaming and to refine and extrapolate its results.

Monitoring Progress and Sustaining Pressure

It is one thing to do special transformation studies and to get ideas into the program; it is another to assure their sustained nourishment. Institutionalizing mission-system analysis and related metrics could be a big help. Another mechanism would be to establish yearly Secretary of Defense contingency games as a device for estimating the real-world capabilities that would exist as a result of planned near- and mid-term actions. These would combine features of the “Dynamic Commitment” games introduced in the Joint Staff in 1996, the sorts of force-employment gaming described above, and followup experimentation and analysis to assess the validity of planning assumptions. There would be multiple test cases, which would not be known to gamers beforehand and which would be designed to test flexibility, operational adaptiveness, and robustness. They might, for example, start with the assumption of a successful enemy strike on forward-deployed or allied forces, bases, or information systems.

Explicitly Reviewing Suitability of the New Building Blocks

Since building blocks are so fundamental, DOD should dwell less on numbers of current major formations, such as carrier battlegroups and the like, worrying about whether to cut back their number to save money or increase their number because of worldwide commitments. Instead, it should focus on asking whether the future major formations arising from modernization and transformation are the right building blocks.38 Assessing this will not be trivial in a networked world or when the full implications for support structure and infrastructure are considered.

Addressing the Longer-Term Components of Force Transformation

Given the problems cited in the previous sections regarding longer-term transformation, several approaches suggest themselves:39

  • Encourage diversity of concept exploration in R&D; dissuade continuing efforts by cost-cutters to stamp out as “redundant” what may actually be healthy and valuable competition of approaches.
  • For some concepts, establish rapid-exploration laboratories bringing together operators, technologists, and analysts to pursue mission-oriented concepts through rapid prototyping, spiral exploration, and enrichment of the knowledge base. This could be accomplished by partnering relationships between JFCOM and the services, federally funded research and development centers or national laboratories, and industry.40
  • Continue DOD efforts begun over the last decade, such as advanced concept development programs, to move certain promising concepts quickly from the world of R&D into the actual force, rather than bogging down in the normal acquisition system.

Rethink Experimentation

There are chronic problems in the way that the American military pursues experimentation. A manifestation of the problem is the focus on “experiments.” Although being against experiments would be heretical (and contrary to my beliefs), it seems that what is needed is to substitute the concept of studying the “Military Art and Science” of future warfare, rather than “conducting experiments.” Obviously, conducting experiments should be a crucial component, but by embedding experiments in the larger endeavor, it might prove easier to generate efforts that more typically get short shrift. These include, for example, theorizing and studying.41 It also includes research-level prototyping, small-scale controlled experiments to tighten knowledge of phenomenology, and larger-scale exercises and experiments. With this in mind, a proposal that is much less modest than it might at first seem is for the Secretary of Defense to establish a number of programs to study definitively the military art and science of selected warfare areas.

Taken as a whole, these recommendations would go far in applying the lessons of past experience and research. They should also be consistent with the new QDR and may be practical measures for moving from QDR-level expressions of policy to actionable measures related to warfighting capability.


 1.  Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2001). [BACK]

 2. Transformation can be interpreted in many ways, as discussed by Richard L. Kugler and Hans Binnendijk in the present volume, as well as by Paul K. Davis, “Transforming U.S. Forces,” in Frank Carlucci, Robert Hunter, and Zalmay Khalilzad, eds., Taking Charge: A Bipartisan Report to the President Elect on Foreign Policy and National Security (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001). For a discussion of the difficulties in moving promptly toward revolutionary transformation, see Michael O’Hanlon, “Modernizing and Transforming U.S. Forces: Alternative Paths to the Force of Tomorrow,” in Michèle Flournoy, ed., QDR 2001: Strategy-Driven Choices for America’s Security (Washington, DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Press, 2001). [BACK]
 3. Air attacks on infrastructure targets can sometimes prompt a temporary rise in support for enemy leaders as people “rally round the flag,” but air attacks that are sustained, intense, accurate, and one-sided can be devastatingly effective in reducing enemy morale. See Stephen T. Hosmer, Psychological Effects of U.S. Air Operations in Four Wars, 1946-1991, MR-576-AF (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1996). [BACK]

4. These levels of effectiveness apply to interdiction of armored units that are moving but not in contact with other ground forces. When friendly and enemy ground forces are in close proximity, concerns about fratricide constrain weapons, tactics, and rules of engagement in ways that can reduce the effectiveness of air attacks. [BACK]

5. To have 90 percent confidence of dropping a bridge span took, in 1944, 240 tons of bombs (B-17 with unguided bombs); in 1965, 200 tons (F4-D with unguided bombs); in 1972, 12.5 tons (F4-D with precision guided munitions [PGMs]); and in 1990, just 4 tons of PGMs (F-117). See Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of American Airpower (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000),160; and C.R. Anderegg, Sierra Hotel: Flying Air Force Fighters in the Decade after Vietnam (Washington, DC: U.S. Air Force, 2001),122-124. [BACK]

6. For example, an estimated 40 percent of the Iraqi soldiers in the Kuwait theater of operations deserted prior to the coalition’s ground attack in late February 1991. Many of those who remained offered only token resistance once the ground invasion began, as evinced by the surrender of more than 85,000 additional Iraqi officers and enlisted men during the 100-hour ground operation. Less than 20 percent of Iraqi tanks and 10 percent of their armored personnel carriers showed evidence of attempts to resist during the ground attack. See Hosmer, 152-170. [BACK]

7. For an analysis of the factors bearing on the outcome of Operation Allied Force, see Stephen T. Hosmer, Why Milosevic Decided to Settle When He Did, MR-1351-AF (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001). See also Benjamin S. Lambeth, NATO’s Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, forthcoming). [BACK]

8. Centered on a set of instrumental ranges outside of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Red Flag exposes aircrews to a realistic simulated combat environment. Units are required to conduct air defense, sweep, defense suppression, interdiction, strategic attack, and other combat missions in the presence of air-to-air and surface-to-air defenses much like those they would encounter in a conflict involving a capable regional adversary. All missions are “scored” and critiqued daily. [BACK]

9. See America’s Air Force, Vision 2020, U.S. Air Force (undated), available at <>. [BACK]

10. Beyond addressing the ballistic missile threat, the airborne laser will provide an operational testbed for other potential applications of directed energy, perhaps to include defense against surface-to-air missiles, air-to-air missiles, and other aircraft. It might even prove useful in the antisatellite role. [BACK]

11. Combat-coded aircraft are those in operational fighter or bomber units. These do not include aircraft in training units or in long-term maintenance status. [BACK]

12. The terms long range and short range are, of course, relative. With help from the large USAF fleet of aerial refueling aircraft, fighter aircraft can operate routinely from bases 1,000 miles or more from their targets, as was demonstrated by the F-117 in Operation Desert Storm and the F-15E in Operation Allied Force. [BACK]

13. See John Stillion and David T. Orletsky, Airbase Vulnerability to Conventional Cruise-Missile and Ballistic-Missile Attacks (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1999). [BACK]

14. This project is called the low-cost autonomous attack system. [BACK]

15. Some Predator UAVs have been modified to carry and deliver Hellfire guided missiles. The Predator/Hellfire combination has been reportedly used successfully in Afghanistan. [BACK]

16. For example, it has been estimated that a constellation of SAR/MTI satellites capable of reliably tracking individual vehicles would have to consist of between 40 and 100 satellites, at $300 million to $500 million per satellite (including launch costs). [BACK]

17. For an assessment of the implications of ongoing deployments for USAF operations tempo and individual personnel, and the effects of potential force structure reductions on both, see David E. Thaler and Daniel M. Norton, Air Force Operations Overseas in Peacetime: Optempo and Force Structure Implications, DB-237-AF (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1998). [BACK]

18. As one example, see U.S. Joint Forces Command, Rapid Decisive Operations (Norfolk, VA: U.S. JFCOM, 2001). [BACK]

19. Wesley K. Clark, Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo and the Future of Conflict (New York: Public Affairs, 2001). [BACK]

20. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2010 (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 1996), and Joint Vision 2020 (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2000). The issue of rapid employment is discussed in James McCarthy, Executive Summary to Transforming Military Operational Capabilities, accessed online at <>; and in Eugene Gritton, Paul K. Davis, Randall Steeb, and John Matsumura, Ground Forces for Rapidly Employable Joint Task Forces (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001). [BACK]

21. Michèle Flournoy, ed., QDR 2001: Strategy-Driven Choices for America’s Security (Washington, DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Press, 2001). [BACK]

22. Davis, Analytic Architecture. The term capabilities-based planning refers to planning for a diversity of conflicts in a diversity of circumstances, rather than focusing on a particular threat scenario. [BACK]

23. See also National Research Council, Naval Studies Board, Modeling and Simulation, vol. 9, Technology for the United States Navy and Marine Corps: 2000 -2035 (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998). [BACK]

24. In the 1950s and 1960s, DOD and the Air Force comprehensively studied atmospheric and space phenomena related to rockets, missiles, and satellites. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Navy supported deep research to understand phenomena related to submarine observability. In earlier years, the Navy mastered the phenomena involved in operating nuclear-powered SSBNs and SSNs. In more recent times, one might think of the research base underlying stealth technology (Air Force) or the considerable Army research on how to increase the capability of light ground forces. See, for example, John Matsumura et al., Lightning Over Water: Sharpening U.S. Light Forces for Rapid Reaction Missions (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001). The Marine Corps has done extensive work exploring the feasibility of different operational concepts in desert and urban settings. [BACK]

25. This issue was a matter of considerable concern in a recent study conducted for the Chief of Naval Operations. The study recommended increased emphasis on operational analysis, system engineering, and rigorously systematic experimentation in connection with network-centric operations. See National Research Council, Naval Studies Board, Committee on Network-Centric Naval Forces, Network-Centric Naval Operations: A Transition Strategy for Enhancing Operational Capabilities (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000). [BACK]

26. See Paul K. Davis, “Protecting the Great Transition,” in Davis, New Challenges in Defense Analysis. [BACK]

27. Davis et al., Transforming the Force. [BACK]

28. It would be foolish to “waste” Secretary of Defense guidance by directing the Air Force and Navy to develop capabilities to assure the ability to achieve air and maritime superiority in war. [BACK]

29. Most of the QDR operational goals for transformation relate well to these. Accomplishing the operational challenges requires being able to protect relevant bases, to deal with antiaccess strategies, and so on. Thus, the goals appear in a context that provides motivation. [BACK]

30. Such championing by the Office of the Secretary of Defense played a major role in procurement of both the A -10 and F -16. [BACK]

31. The effects will vary with service and may be less than some individuals hope for. See chapter 5 in the present volume by William D. O’Neil. [BACK]

32. Davis, Analytic Architecture. [BACK]

33. See David S. Alberts, John J. Garstka, and Frederick P. Stein, Network Centric Warfare: Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority (Washington, DC: C4ISR Cooperative Research Program, 2000). [BACK]

34. Exploratory analysis is a recently developed approach that examines capabilities for a broad operating space, rather than studying only a few point scenarios in detail. Thus, it considers simultaneous variations in warning time, real-world weapon effectiveness, real-world allied effectiveness, enemy strategy, and many other factors. The theoretical and technological base for such work has been described elsewhere. See, for example, Paul K. Davis, “Exploratory Analysis Enabled by Multiresolution, Multiperspective Modeling,” Proceedings of the 2000 Winter Simulation Conference, available from RAND as RP -925. A recent application is described in Paul K. Davis, Jimmie McEver, and Barry Wilson, Measuring Interdiction Capabilities in the Presence of Anti-Access Strategies, MR -1471 -AF (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2002). [BACK]

35. For definition and discussion, see Paul K. Davis, Effects-Based Operations (EBO): A Grand Challenge for the Analytic Community (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2002). [BACK]

36. See, for example, Davis et al., Measuring Interdiction. [BACK]

37. The Joint Warfare System (JWARS) is a large and controversial campaign-level model of military operations developed to support operational planning and execution, force assessment studies, system trade analyses, and concept and doctrine development. It will not be appropriate for exploratory analysis of the sort emphasized here but may permit selective analysis with a great deal of joint richness. [BACK]

38. This has been one of the author’s themes from some years (see Davis, New Challenges in Defense Planning). It is much more fundamental than the greatly overdone and ill-defined issue of whether U.S. forces should be sized for two simultaneous major theater wars. [BACK]

39. A positive step recently taken was the DOD appointment of a special Director for Transformation, Arthur K. Cebrowski, who championed transformation in the Navy. [BACK]

40. Hundley, “A Proposal to Strengthen.” [BACK]

41. Lest this seem like scholarly poppycock, consider the value that theorizing and studying had to Soviet military developments or that it has had in the United States in special domains, such as nonacoustic antisubmarine warfare or strategic command and control. [BACK]



Table of Contents  |  Chapter Eight