Cover: Developing Operationally Relevant Metrics for Measuring and Tracking Readiness in the U.S. Air Force

Developing Operationally Relevant Metrics for Measuring and Tracking Readiness in the U.S. Air Force

Published Dec 21, 2020

by Muharrem Mane, Anthony D. Rosello, Paul Emslie, Thomas Goode, Henry Hargrove, Tucker Reese


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Research Questions

  1. What changes in the reporting and analysis of readiness factors are needed to enable decisionmakers at Air Combat Command to assess readiness in an operationally relevant manner?
  2. How can readiness data be aggregated to measure deployable units?

Current force readiness and availability metrics have important deficits that limit their ability to inform U.S. Air Force decisionmakers about the number of units available and to identify capability and capacity shortfalls in meeting scenario demands. The authors of this report developed an approach that allows authoritative data sources that feed the current readiness reporting system to be leveraged and aggregated and therefore better measure the readiness of Air Combat Command forces to meet scenario demands. The methodology proposes the definition of combat power as the specific collection of personnel and equipment to fulfill a given capability (e.g., the air superiority capability of a six-ship of F-22 aircraft). Combat power readiness would be measured by linking the status of personnel and equipment to specific capability sets (e.g., fly the aircraft, maintain the aircraft) that contribute to the required set of Unit Type Codes demanded by scenarios when said power would be utilized.

Key Findings

  • The existing UTC construct provides a foundation for defining combat power and measuring its readiness.
  • The proposed approach can be used to assess combat power readiness from a manpower perspective. Shortfalls in personnel availability tend to drive low readiness; thus, a personnel assessment provides a close approximation of reality.
  • Improving access to some existing data and information would enable combat power readiness to be assessed and would provide decisionmakers with a metric that informs the availability of usable capability.


  • Track and make available personnel data at the individual level and equipment data at the part level. Including more-detailed personnel and equipment data in existing systems (e.g., Defense Readiness Reporting System–Strategic) will help to complete the readiness assessment.
  • Explicitly link personnel availability data to personnel training data. Personnel availability and training data must be considered and accessed simultaneously at the individual level, since bringing together availability and training data at the unit level overlooks important information.
  • Define or update descriptions and groupings of UTCs that enable their aggregation into relevant force packages. A more clear and concise description of mission capability statements of the UTCs is needed to provide the foundation for the grouping of UTCs into combat power.

Research conducted by

This research was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force and conducted within the Force Modernization and Employment Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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