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Making the right decisions at critical turning points can be the difference between victory and defeat. The Navy asked RAND if it could identify “forks in the road” — future decision points that may require a significant change in direction for the service. After defining the attributes of such forks in the road, the authors use an interview process and an opportunity-risk analysis to identify nine forks that the Navy should consider first. These nine diverse potential forks, everything from modularity to laser weapons, were followed by descriptions of two high-risk forks-unmanned vehicles and space-based capabilities that nonetheless could yield such high payoffs that they should be considered. The authors conclude with an appendix that traces the chronology of two historical forks.

The research described in this briefing was sponsored by the United States Navy and was conducted by the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center.

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