Cover: The Foundations of Operational Resilience — Assessing the Ability to Operate in an Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) Environment

The Foundations of Operational Resilience — Assessing the Ability to Operate in an Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) Environment

The Analytical Framework, Lexicon, and Characteristics of the Operational Resilience Analysis Model (ORAM)

Published Jul 7, 2016

by Jeff Hagen, Forrest E. Morgan, Jacob L. Heim, Matthew Carroll


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Research Questions

  1. What are the fundamental strategic assumptions about the emerging geostrategic environment as they relate to operational resilience and emerging A2/AD threats?
  2. How can Air Force planners evaluate the potential impacts of alternative Red (enemy) attacks on U.S. air forces, theater-wide, and the potential benefits of a wide range of approaches for improving operational resilience, singularly and in combination, in the face of those attacks?
  3. What resilience-related terms and definitions should serve as a standard for use across the analytical community?

Although much work has been done considering the issue of airbase resilience — especially in the Asia-Pacific region — these studies have typically focused on a single aspect of the problem (such as hardening or runway repair) but have not considered the issues in total. There is a need to view the issue more holistically, especially given the strategic implications of U.S. power projection in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments. The authors of this report developed a modeling framework and lexicon for conducting a detailed analysis of future Air Force operational resilience in an A2/AD environment; the analysis itself focused on different regions (Pacific, Southwest Asia, etc.) to bound the problem and identify a robust set of strategic assumptions and planning requirements. The study was set within the context of efforts to rebalance the joint force in the Asia-Pacific region. This report describes the Operational Resilience Analysis Model (ORAM) built for this effort, which was used to evaluate the impact of different courses of action from an operational standpoint. The authors explain the ORAM model, discuss the inputs that go into modeling Blue (friendly) and Red (enemy) capabilities, and illustrate the model using a simple notional case. They conclude with some suggestions for follow-on work to improve the functionality of ORAM and to address data uncertainties in the model.

Key Findings

Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) Challenges for the Air Force

  • U.S. forces may not be postured in a resilient manner, particularly in the Western Pacific, making them vulnerable to attack and degrading their effectiveness.
  • Competition for U.S. defense resources will not allow large expenditures to resolve resilience shortcomings.
  • Cost-effective strategies can and must be found to reposture the force for greater resilience.
  • Improving operational resilience will both improve U.S. combat capabilities and strengthen deterrence and crisis stability.

An Analysis Framework for Operational Resilience

  • The Operational Resilience Analysis Model (ORAM) can aid in calculating the potential impacts of Red attacks and the improvements that might be gained from different combinations of potential resilience investments. ORAM provides a means to measure the complex relationships between enemy attacks, resilience improvements, and combat power.
  • Operational resilience analysis using ORAM can be conducted by running multiple cases through ORAM and adjusting each side's strategies based on what the outputs of those runs revealed. Vis this two-sided game, ORAM case runs reveal the most likely enemy attacks and most needed resilience improvements.

Research conducted by

The research described here was sponsored by the Director, Air Force Quadrennial Defense Review, Office of the Air Force Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, Headquarters U.S. Air Force (AF/CVAR), and conducted in the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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