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Research Questions

  1. What is the perceived operational effectiveness of Army units and individuals after over a decade of war?
  2. How does the perceived effectiveness of Army units and individuals vary across operational environments?
  3. What factors are most important in determining the perceived effectiveness of Army units and individuals?

U.S. Department of Defense Directive 1200.17 prescribes that services integrate their reserve components into the "total force based on the attributes of the particular component and individual competencies." After more than ten years of war, however, there have been no studies that assess the relative capabilities of Regular Army and reserve component units of the same type. Accordingly, the authors of this study employed a stated preference approach to assess the relative importance of component status relative to a number of other potential determinants of operational effectiveness, including but not limited to unit type, training level, experience in country, and associated costs and risk. The authors found that, on the one hand, Regular Army officers consistently said that Regular Army maneuver units were significantly more effective than their Army National Guard (ARNG) counterparts, but that the latter may be employed in low- to moderate-threat environments with acceptable levels of tactical and operational risk. On the other hand, reserve component officers believed ARNG maneuver units perform as effectively as their Regular Army counterparts with additional training and other preparations. Policymakers will need to decide the degree to which they want to rely on the professional judgment of Regular Army or reserve component officers on this point. Preferences with regard to enablers — units employed to support maneuver forces — were considerably less pronounced, as were those with respect to individuals. In the latter category, the dominant factor in determining individual capability was whether the individual in question had a relevant civilian acquired skill.

Key Findings

For unit capabilities, on average, Regular Army officers preferpreferred to employ Regular Army units, all else equal

  • Regular Army and reserve component officers differed starkly in their perceptions of the relative effectiveness of Regular Army and Army National Guard maneuver units.
  • Operational risk was the most important factor in selecting brigade combat teams.
  • Continuity was generally the most important factor in selecting maneuver battalions.
  • Other factors, when combined, could outweigh preferences for Regular Army maneuver units.
  • Respondents considered key leaders' experience and skills critical to units' operational effectiveness.

For individual officers, component mattered most for positions concerned with day-to-day monitoring and management of military operations

  • Regular Army respondents preferred to employ Regular Army officers in operational positions.
  • All respondents preferred candidates with relevant civilian-acquired skills.
  • Continuity in positions was considered important, but not dispositive.

Key takeaway for future use of this method in a military context is the importance of inducing trade-offs for respondents through the experimental design

  • This study demonstrated that it is possible to employ stated preference methods to quantify respondents in a consistent way.
  • The salience of the findings depends on the confidence decisionmakers repose in respondents' professional judgment, recognizing the hypothetical nature of the exercise.

Recommendations

  • Differentiate operational requirements by level of risk.
  • Further assess the relative cost-effectiveness of Regular Army and Army National Guard maneuver forces in high-risk missions.
  • Consider increased pre-employment training for reserve component forces conducting counterinsurgency operations.
  • Assess the utility of increasing key reserve component leaders' opportunities to accrue operational experience.
  • Explore options for increasing access to reserve component soldiers with relevant civilian-acquired skills.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The Choice Experiment Methodology

  • Chapter Three

    Maneuver Units

  • Chapter Four

    Enablers

  • Chapter Five

    Individuals

  • Chapter Six

    Implications

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program with the RAND Arroyo Center.

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