Cover: Assessing and Evaluating Department of Defense Efforts to Inform, Influence, and Persuade

Assessing and Evaluating Department of Defense Efforts to Inform, Influence, and Persuade

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Published Apr 17, 2015

by Christopher Paul, Jessica Yeats, Colin P. Clarke, Miriam Matthews


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Research Questions

  1. What are good practices for assessing U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) inform, influence, and persuade (IIP) efforts in terms of their effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and extent to which they support the larger goals of military campaigns?
  2. What can IIP planners and assessment practitioners learn from commercial marketing, public communication, academia, and other sectors, and which approaches are particularly applicable to DoD IIP activities?
  3. How can planners ensure that they are reaching stakeholders and decisionmakers with necessary information about the outcomes of IIP efforts presented in the right way?
  4. How can DoD better support the assessment of IIP efforts? And how could better assessments lead to more effective and efficient IIP efforts?

To achieve key national security objectives, the U.S. government and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) must communicate effectively and credibly with a broad range of foreign audiences. DoD spends more than $250 million per year on inform, influence, and persuade (IIP) efforts, but how effective (and cost-effective) are they? How well do they support military objectives? Could some of them be improved? If so, how? It can be difficult to measure changes in audience behavior and attitudes, and it can take a great deal of time for DoD IIP efforts to have an impact. DoD has struggled with assessing the progress and effectiveness of its IIP efforts and in presenting the results of these assessments to stakeholders and decisionmakers. To address these challenges, a RAND study compiled examples of strong assessment practices across sectors, including defense, marketing, public relations, and academia, distilling and synthesizing insights and advice for the assessment of DoD IIP efforts and programs. These insights and attendant best practices will be useful to personnel who plan and assess DoD IIP efforts and those who make decisions based on assessments, particularly those in DoD and Congress who are responsible for setting national defense priorities and allocating the necessary resources. In addition to identifying where and why efforts have been successful, assessment can help detect imminent program failure early on, saving precious time and resources. An accompanying volume, Assessing and Evaluating Department of Defense Efforts to Inform, Influence, and Persuade: Handbook for Practitioners, offers a quick-reference guide to the best practices presented here for personnel responsible for planning, executing, and assessing DoD IIP efforts.

Key Findings

Across Sectors, Best Practices for Assessing Efforts to Inform, Influence, and Persuade Efforts Adhere to a Handful of Common Principles

  • Effective assessment requires clear, realistic, and measurable goals.
  • Effective assessment starts in planning.
  • Effective assessment requires a theory of change or explicit logic of the effort that connects activities to objectives.
  • Change cannot be measured without a baseline.
  • Assessment over time requires continuity and consistency.
  • Assessment is iterative, not something planned and executed once.
  • Assessment requires resources, but any assessment that reduces the uncertainty is valuable.

DoD Has Historically Struggled to Assess the Progress and Effectiveness of Its IIP Efforts

  • There is a lack of shared understanding about how IIP efforts function, which broadens the scope of the assessment questions asked. Good accountability assessments would show not only that these efforts support broader military campaign and national security goals but also how they do so.
  • In complex operating environments, IIP efforts often face constraints, disruptors, and unintended consequences. Good assessment can help predict these challenges and overcome them when they do arise.
  • Good assessment can support learning from both success and failure. Well-designed, early assessment can help identify problems and get a struggling IIP effort on a path to success.
  • Organizations that do assessment well have cultures that value assessment. Organizing for assessment involves dedicating the necessary resources to the assessment process (5 percent is a common benchmark); ensuring leadership buy-in, advocacy, and willingness to learn from assessment results; training assessment personnel; and implementing a system of continuous assessment, data collection, and program change in response to assessment results.


  • DoD planners should develop IIP efforts according to assessment plans and should develop assessment plans according to stakeholder and decisionmaker needs.
  • Assessment practitioners should be explicit about their need for resources, information about campaign objectives, organizational support, and stakeholder expectations.
  • DoD leadership should ensure that IIP assessment efforts have the necessary advocacy, standards, doctrine and training, and access to expertise. Leaders also need to recognize that not every assessment must be conducted to the same standard.
  • DoD leadership should support the development of a clearinghouse of validated (and rejected) IIP measures to encourage sharing of successful approaches and learning from mistakes.
  • Congressional stakeholders should continue to demand accountability in assessment and be clearer about what is required and expected.
  • DoD reporting must acknowledge that congressional calls for accountability follow two lines of inquiry and must show how assessment meets them. Congress wants to see justification for spending and evidence of efficacy (traditional accountability), but it also wants support for assertions that IIP activities are appropriate military undertakings.

This research was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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