Oct 19, 2023
The Department of the Air Force's Senior Leadership is increasingly concerned that the readiness assessment system does not adequately measure the capability of the force to meet future mission requirements. At the same time, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) is evolving its training infrastructure in response to potential threats. This research found that advances in the technological capabilities of training infrastructure can help fill gaps in current readiness assessments to provide senior leaders with better insight into the readiness of the force for future contingencies.
To understand how investments in training infrastructure could fill gaps in readiness assessment, we conducted an extensive review of the relevant literature, policy, USAF documents (e.g., Defense Readiness Reporting System squadron reports), and training system technical documents. We also conducted 13 discussions with four USAF senior leaders and nine technical or subject-matter experts on readiness from various major commands. Ultimately, our analysis yielded recommended options for the future design of training infrastructure that take into account the benefits to readiness assessment.
The U.S. Department of Defense needs to consider the ability of disparate military units to integrate and conduct the full spectrum of operations against any adversary. The Air Force senior leaders we interviewed think about readiness along narrower dimensions: resource readiness and capability readiness (see Figure 1).
Recommendation: Further differentiate capability readiness and align new dimensions with supporting inputs from appropriate functions at headquarters and major commands. The Air Force should define SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) elements of the broader definition of readiness and align these elements with inputs that can be provided by appropriate functional organizations across the service (e.g., inputs from Intelligence [A2] on adversary capabilities, Logistics [A4] for issues of sustaining capabilities in extended scenarios).
Legacy metrics focus on an individual service member's ability to conduct individual missions rather than on an integrated approach. Both Air Force training requirements and how training is achieved need to capture more-meaningful readiness metrics.
Recommendation: Consider a process mechanism to draw readiness reporting information from more-appropriate sources when unit commanders lack information. Planners should use the best available information from different functions to inform readiness reporting. Then, improvements to the state of capability knowledge enabled by new synthetic training opportunities can come from the same functional areas to improve future readiness assessments.
The three gaps are:
Recommendation: Consider adding a field in the Defense Readiness Reporting System–Strategic to capture the quality of information used as inputs for subjective assessments. This would immediately improve the information available for subjective assessments. More important, it would position the Air Force to measure the impact of new synthetic training capabilities on the quality of information flowing into the system.
Recommendation: Factor readiness assessment gaps into Operational Test and Training Infrastructure (OTTI) priorities. Plans and priorities for future OTTI capabilities might not realize their full benefit unless the impact of training technologies on readiness assessment gaps is factored in. Planning documents, such as the OTTI Flight Plan, should consider the readiness benefits when setting priorities for OTTI development. Figure 2 shows how OTTI enhancements improve decisionmaking.
The decisions made to resolve these challenges will affect how well the new system will improve readiness assessment.
Recommendation: As recommended for finding 3, factor readiness assessment gaps into OTTI priorities.
Senior leaders across major commands identified four investments:
Recommendation: Create a working group focused on data and measurement to guide synthetic environment design decisions. A wide range of entities stands to benefit from the generalpurpose information that might be created by future synthetic training environments. To ensure that new synthetic environments meet the diverse needs of these stakeholders, the Air Force should form a semipermanent cross-functional working group to advise acquisition efforts on design issues pertaining to data and measurement.