Cover: Using Modeling and Simulation to Advance Effects-Based Security Forces Planning

Using Modeling and Simulation to Advance Effects-Based Security Forces Planning

Developing Prototype Approaches to Estimate Risk Reduction Across Security Missions

Published Mar 13, 2024

by Brian A. Jackson, Vikram Kilambi, David R. Frelinger, Thomas Light, Aisha Najera Chesler, Paul Emslie, Anthony Lawrence


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Research Questions

  1. Can modeling show how different types of risk could influence decisionmaking about SF personnel, systems, and strategies?
  2. What are the trade-offs of accepting different risk types, and how can modeling make these trade-offs more explicit for decisionmakers?
  3. Can modeling and simulation show how the SF can reduce multiple risks simultaneously?

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) Security Forces (SF) are responsible for detecting, deterring, denying, and defeating security threats in both garrison and expeditionary environments. The SF must address everyday threats that are very similar to those a civilian law enforcement organization responds to on a day-to-day basis. Simultaneously, the SF must address threats that are distinctly military in nature: protecting bases from potentially highly capable attackers. Although existing security planning supports detailed bottom-up, asset-based security planning, such processes do not fully explore the risk trade-offs that are associated with different security strategies, nor do they identify opportunities for SF strategies to manage multiple risks simultaneously.

This report summarizes research on how top-down risk analysis models could help inform USAF decisions regarding SF staffing, systems, and strategies. The goal was not to build a fully fledged risk tool that could be immediately applied to USAF SF personnel and other planning but to take a substantial step in building the foundation for such a tool. Five different scenarios that involved risks to USAF (1) personnel, systems, and facilities and (2) nuclear assets and sites were modeled and explored.

The USAF integrated defense approach has moved from a compliance-based to an effects-based framing for security planning and execution. This research demonstrates how outcome-based risk analysis tools could contribute to that effort, better informing planning and risk tolerance decisions made by commanders at USAF bases at home and abroad.

Key Findings

  • Modeling can show SF outcomes as different types of risk reduction, which can better inform effects-based planning. The fact that the SF manage a wide variety of risks makes assessing the full consequences of manning, technology, and other changes in practice more difficult. Models can show how choices affect day-to-day risks and potentially much higher-consequence incidents to allow for more-informed choices and make consequences clearer.
  • Models can demonstrate the tangible effects of key SF concerns. SF subject-matter experts raised concerns about the potential for stress on the SF to reduce effectiveness in protecting USAF assets and personnel. Modeling can make the potential effects of such abstract issues more tangible and better inform decisions.
  • Models can show trade-offs among different risk types. In the missile field, the SF protect silos from incursion and also are responsible for securing maintenance operations on missile systems. If personnel numbers are constrained, trade-offs might have to be made between managing adversary risk and readiness risk from deferred maintenance operations. Tools, such as models, can make those trade-offs explicit, better defining how security decisions could be forced to trade off one type of risk for another.
  • Risk modeling can help explore how the SF in one role can reduce multiple risks simultaneously. System- or effects-based security planning provides an approach for estimating the effectiveness of those combined forces, potentially allowing for strategies that better address multiple types of risks simultaneously.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the Director of Operations and Communications, Headquarters Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC/A3/6) and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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