Defense Decisionmaking

Prudent Versus Excessive Conservatism

by John S. Hammond

Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback38 pages $20.00 $16.00 20% Web Discount

An investigation of the role of uncertainty in certain approaches to defense decisionmaking, of which the so-called offense-conservative and similar modes of analysis are examples. The decisions suggested by such analyses tend to recommend the allocation of more resources for meeting some threats than prudence warrants, at the expense of adequate preparation for others. The common denominator in these analyses is that they attempt to achieve conservative results by using conservative estimates for the uncertain parameters in their models. This report recommends an alternative mode of analysis — that experts furnishing their judgments to the analyst should supply subjective probability distributions of uncertain parameters rather than conservative estimates. These probabilities of effectiveness are an explicit measure of the risk inherent in a course of action and would be the basis of deciding whether the amount of conservatism achieved is prudent. Nine objections to the recommended alternative mode of analysis are discussed.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.