The Intellectual Foundations of Systems Analysis

by Jack Stockfisch


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This paper was delivered at the Center for Naval Analyses' 1987 Sea Power Forum, December 2-3, 1987, in Washington, D.C. The author traces the origin of systems analysis to the invention of operational analysis by the British during World War II, the American imitation of British effort during the war, and Winston Churchill's use of a small staff that carried out what subsequently came to be called cost-effectiveness analysis. A serious enemy threat and a real war, and a political leader like Churchill who distrusted the "bureaucracy," were the catalysts for these developments. The predominant empirical quality of the wartime operational research is also noted and briefly compared with the plethora of model-building that constitutes most of contemporary operations research.

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