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The U.S. Department of Defense is currently shifting funding from future investment programs to cover urgent war needs, accepting some increase in future risk in order to reduce risk in the near term, and this tension between current and future operational priorities is likely to worsen. To effectively manage risk across possible missions and between today and tomorrow, senior Air Force leaders must make difficult decisions. This monograph seeks to provide the Air Force with a framework to structure their deliberations, connect them to supporting staff and expert inputs, and communicate their decisions to a broader audience. It describes a risk-management process that would help senior Air Force leaders to (1) focus planning on the most salient threats, (2) gain greater clarity on the risks associated with alternative courses of action across multiple futures, (3) maintain a sense of the persistent uncertainties associated with any policy choice, and (4) effectively communicate their judgments about risk to key audiences.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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