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Annex Containing a Preliminary Database of Existing Data, Metrics, Processes, and Models

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Research Questions

  1. What are the limitations of existing approaches to assessing readiness?
  2. How might the concept of strategic readiness overcome these limitations?

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has moved to institutionalize the concept of strategic readiness, which it identifies as "the ability to build, maintain, and balance warfighting capabilities and competitive advantages that ensure DoD can achieve strategic objectives across threats and time horizons." This report summarizes key shortfalls in prior systems for understanding readiness, outlines a framework for how DoD might conduct a future strategic readiness assessment (SRA), and highlights several analytic tools that could be used within this framework to better understand risks and options. This framework and the associated tools are then applied to two illustrative sets of defense policy issues, one on munitions procurement and another on planning modernization schedules across services. The report concludes with recommendations for how an SRA might be implemented.

Key Findings

There are four limitations of existing approaches to assessing readiness

  • Assessments generally focus on a unit's combat readiness, thereby overlooking a host of critical readiness-related questions.
  • Existing assessments have tended to focus on a handful of canonical scenarios and concepts of operations, without an explicit analysis of risk or trade-offs involved should the Joint Force be called on to execute other types of operations.
  • Assessments primarily focus on short-term preparedness, without an explicit analysis of trade-offs between present-day demands and those of the medium- and long-term future.
  • The system for understanding and measuring readiness is disjointed, and results in a piecemeal approach to understanding readiness and the implications of readiness failures.

The concept of strategic readiness has been proposed to overcome these limitations

  • Strategic readiness would integrate readiness assessments (1) across many stakeholders and readiness dimensions, (2) for both priority contingencies and other potential demands, (3) across the short-, medium-, and long-term future, and (4) with a more transparent methodology for understanding risk and trade-offs in readiness-related decisions.
  • Strategic readiness analyses run the risk of being either (1) excessively high-level or (2) more detailed, but also too labor-intensive and ponderous to be practical. Navigating a middle path between these two risks is the central challenge of an SRA.
  • Several analytic tools could support the implementation of the proposed SRA process, including flexible campaign assessment tools, exploratory modeling, causal maps and network analysis, process maps and failure mode and effects analysis, and readiness exercises.


  • An SRA should engage senior leaders on key issues and ensure they are frequently involved in iterating on key analytic products.
  • The designers of an SRA should seek to integrate existing readiness assessments by providing context to readiness measures. An SRA should be a network of assessments. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (OUSD [P&R]) should focus on the gaps and seams of existing readiness processes and seek to fill in gaps and integrate across seams.
  • An SRA should provide decisionmakers with a clearer sense for uncertainties and trade spaces by making critical assumptions explicit to senior decisionmakers, expressing, when feasible, measures as ranges rather than point estimates or dichotomous ratings (i.e., ready or not ready), and basing measures on outcomes when possible.
  • Those designing an SRA framework should resist the tendency to drive simple, transparent, exploratory analyses toward ever more-cumbersome, detailed analyses.
  • An SRA framework should ensure the readiness and adaptability of decisionmaking processes.
  • An SRA framework should provide OUSD (P&R) with a “toolkit” that needs to be fit to purpose. By building confidence among stakeholders by starting with widely accepted problems that no single stakeholder can fix, stakeholders could be encouraged to collaborate, demonstrating that an SRA seeks to integrate rather than supplant existing processes.
  • OUSD (P&R) will need to establish a governance structure for an SRA.
  • OUSD (P&R) should test new SRA procedures and iterate using feedback from earlier efforts.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and conducted within the Personnel, Readiness, and Health Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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