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Research Questions

  1. How can assessment design and planning support U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) efforts to inform, influence, and persuade and, by extension, higher-level internal and broader DoD strategy?
  2. What assessment planning and implementation frameworks can best address real-world challenges in assessing the progress, performance, and effectiveness of these efforts?
  3. Where are there opportunities for USEUCOM to enhance its processes, practices, and capabilities to better support assessment and ensure that assessment results are informative and actionable?

Campaigns to inform, influence, and persuade a range of foreign audiences are critical to achieving key U.S. national security objectives, but it can be challenging to assess the progress, performance, and effectiveness of these efforts in a real-world context. Systematically planned and implemented assessments are important in ensuring that finite resources are allocated appropriately, that plans can be refined, and that key objectives are realized. This report offers guidance, frameworks, and recommendations that can support and enhance assessment design and planning. Although they focus on U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) activities, they are instructive for any organization involved in planning and evaluating information campaigns.

Progress assessments indicate the overall progress of a program, operation, activity, or investment toward an objective or set of objectives, while performance and effectiveness assessments offer a more thorough understanding of the function and contributions of an individual effort. Ideally, efforts are designed concurrently with plans to assess their progress, performance, and effectiveness through an iterative process that includes commanders, expert working groups, and other stakeholders, improving the relevance of the assessment results.

The assessment frameworks in this report were developed in collaboration with USEUCOM's information and assessment staffs and with input regarding stakeholder decision-support needs, command strategy, and data collection and analytic capabilities. Thus, they are robust but flexible and designed to address real-world challenges to planning and implementing assessments with results that are informative and actionable.

Key Findings

Frameworks for assessment highlight whether and to what extent efforts to inform, influence, and persuade are meeting their objectives

  • Progress assessments help planners and commanders determine whether a program or other effort has met its objectives, while performance and effectiveness assessments highlight gaps in the logic of an effort and help pinpoint where changes can be made to better meet those objectives.
  • Objectives are typically drawn from existing guidance and organizational priorities, but they usually need to be refined in collaboration with stakeholders and expert working groups to ensure that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  • Ideally, efforts are designed concurrently with plans to assess their progress, performance, and effectiveness through an iterative process that includes commanders, expert working groups, and other stakeholders, improving the relevance of the assessment results.
  • Assessments require continuous data collection. They might draw on currently collected data, or they could require new data collection.

Applying assessment frameworks and principles in a real-world planning environment is challenging

  • Efforts to inform, influence, and persuade may be part of larger campaigns with multiple and complex objectives, making it difficult to discern the contributions of a specific program, operation, activity, or investment.
  • These efforts often seek to effect changes in attitudes and behaviors, which are inherently difficult to measure.
  • Theories of change help address these challenges by highlighting causal links and identifying where there are gaps in information or logic, improving the validity and utility of the assessment results.

Recommendations

  • USEUCOM should adopt the frameworks and processes for assessment design and implementation described in this report. This will help ensure that planners and practitioners address the core components of a program, operation, activity, or investment whenever senior leadership requires a progress, performance, or effectiveness assessment.
  • Planners and assessment practitioners should begin an assessment design by defining or refining sub-objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  • When communicating results, assessment practitioners should provide commanders and other stakeholders with information about the intent of the data collection and analysis, along with recommendations for using the results.
  • Commanders should recognize that high-quality assessment design requires time and resources and ensure that assessment planners and practitioners have sufficient time and resources to implement well-designed progress, performance, and effectiveness assessments.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    A Framework for Developing and Implementing Progress Assessments

  • Chapter Three

    A Framework for Developing and Implementing Performance and Effectiveness Assessments

  • Chapter Four

    Demonstration Application: Addressing the Effects of Major Coalition Exercises

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations

This research was sponsored by U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute.

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