In Defense of Defense Analysis

commentary

Sep 2, 2016

Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara visits Fort Bragg, North Carolina in October 1961

Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara visits Fort Bragg, North Carolina in October 1961

Photo by Cecil W. Stoughton/JFK Presidential Library

This commentary originally appeared on War on the Rocks on September 2, 2016.

As analysts who believe that economics and quantitative analysis ought to occupy a central role in defense planning, we would like to respond to Matthew Fay's recent War on the Rocks article, “Rationalizing McNamara's Legacy.”

Fay criticizes Robert McNamara's economic approach to managing the Department of Defense as running “afoul of political reality.” In fact, McNamara's approach was necessary to sustain peacetime defense spending and its tools served McNamara's political purposes.

The author also goes too far in suggesting that there are no useful ways to measure peacetime military efficiency and that McNamara's economic tools “ironically” left defense decision-making “less efficient” than McNamara found it. There are many ways to measure military efficiency and little ground on which to claim McNamara's tools left the military less efficient....

The remainder of this commentary is available on warontherocks.com.


John Speed Meyers is an assistant policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and a doctoral fellow at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Jonathan Wong is an assistant policy analyst at RAND and recently earned a doctorate in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He served as a Marine Corps infantryman from 2001 to 2011.