Cover: Proposed Analytical Products for the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability

Proposed Analytical Products for the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability

Developing and Presenting Options for Future Force Design and Capability Development

Published Dec 16, 2020

by Debra Knopman, Don Snyder, Irv Blickstein, David E. Thaler, James A. Leftwich, Colby P. Steiner, Quentin E. Hodgson, Elaine Simmons, Krista Romita Grocholski, Yvonne K. Crane


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Research Questions

  1. What analytical and other products would best serve AFWIC's mission to generate and analyze options and inform Air Force decisionmaking on integrated concept development, force design, and planning?
  2. What historical lessons from force planning should be included when considering AFWIC's analytical process and products?
  3. What experience and lessons learned can Air Force leaders and those in other services provide that would be applicable to AFWIC?
  4. What organizational imperatives should be included when considering AFWIC's analytical processes and products?

The Air Force has long faced a challenge integrating force design and capability development planning with programming. The consequences of not executing the integration function well can lead to imbalances in capabilities, vulnerabilities in subsystems, and insufficient funding for investment in new capabilities. Over the past several years, Air Force leaders have recognized the need to improve both the quantity and quality of the Air Force's enterprise-level analysis and decisionmaking on future force planning. In February 2018, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Integration and Requirements asked RAND Project Air Force (PAF) to assist the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) in conceptualizing and executing analytical and other products to support options for future force design and capability development and their links to planning and programming.

To this end, PAF team members spoke to AFWIC leaders and key staff, other Air Force stakeholders, and individuals familiar with integration efforts in the other services. The team developed a roadmap of analytical and other product elements that could enable AFWIC to sustain its integrating role in future force design. In this report, the authors present their findings, recommendations, and vision for AFWIC's analytical processes and products. For AFWIC to succeed and endure, senior leaders will need to create favorable conditions for independent analysis of new concepts and options for future force design in support of the joint force and their practical implications for Air Force near-term planning, programming, budgeting, and execution.

Key Findings

Senior leadership must play a major role

  • The success of enterprise-level future concept development requires advocacy by — and continuous engagement with — the highest levels of senior leadership, including the Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF), Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF), and Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force (VCSAF).

AFWIC analysis should be of the highest quality

  • AFWIC should aim to become the organization within the Air Force with the highest standards for quality of analysis. No critique of a proposed future concept of operations (CONOPS) or force structure option should come from a source outside AFWIC or the Air Force that was not already identified and assessed within AFWIC.
  • The products of the analysis should be — and should be perceived to be — Air Force products rather than AFWIC products.

AFWIC must reduce barriers to innovation

  • Large institutions, such as the Air Force, must break down barriers between organizational units and cultures to achieve agreement on innovative, enterprise-wide solutions to future problems.

AFWIC should stay above the fray of current operations

  • To successfully address future challenges, CONOPS, and force structure options, AFWIC needs to stay above the fray of current operations and work in a time frame beyond the Future Years Defense Program. However, any solutions identified by AFWIC eventually will need to shape the Program Objective Memorandum and be plausible enough to gain stakeholder buy-in. These considerations are somewhat in tension with one another.


  • AFWIC should have frequent, direct access to the SECAF, CSAF, and VCSAF. Although senior leaders cannot directly participate in the analysis, the more they are involved in the foundations of the analysis, the more they will have confidence in the results and be equipped to advocate for those results.
  • AFWIC and its leadership should cultivate a culture of skepticism and introspection within the organization, expose analysis to rigorous internal and external reviews to reveal weaknesses in evidence and logic, and be frank in expressing any uncertainties and limitations of its analysis to senior leadership.
  • Senior leadership should create incentives for career development for personnel in AFWIC and those seconded to AFWIC by major commands (MAJCOMs). This would encourage the best talent in the Air Force to work on AFWIC problems and would persuade MAJCOMs to contribute to that talent.
  • AFWIC should develop more-sophisticated means of communication to establish connections and credibility with key audiences.
  • AFWIC should be selective in its choice of problems. Topics should force enterprise-wide thinking across mission and functional disciplines and should be responsive to both near-term and longer-term decisionmaking needs.
  • Analysis of problems should be set by the changing military, technological, and political environments that the Air Force must respond to and shape. AFWIC's work tempo should follow those driving factors and should be conducive to consistent, high-quality analysis.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the United States Air Force and conducted by the Resource Management Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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