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Research Questions

  1. Are DoD's existing requirements, resourcing, and acquisition structures and processes compatible with fielding DARPA's vision of Mosaic Warfare? Are those management systems compatible with the envisioned increases in time-effectiveness?
  2. If DoD's current governance systems are not adequate to handle the increased time-effectiveness, what are viable alternative governance models and management systems for acquiring a Mosaic force? What are the opportunities, challenges, and risks associated with them?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has a vision for Mosaic Warfare, conceived as both a warfighting concept and a means to accelerate capability development and fielding. Mosaic Warfare entails a more fractionated, heterogenous force that can be dynamically composed on tactical timelines. It entails shifting away from monolithic platforms, which can be slow to develop and field, to simpler force elements that can be developed and fielded quickly and integrated at mission execution.

The Mosaic Warfare vision is more challenging to transition than a single program or technology. Anticipating this, DARPA asked RAND Corporation researchers to examine the opportunities and challenges associated with developing and fielding a Mosaic force under existing or alternative governance models, as would be required for the vision to move from DARPA to widespread acceptance by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

The researchers designed and executed a policy game that immersed players in acquiring a Mosaic force. During the game, players first operated within the authorities, responsibilities, and constraints of DoD's existing acquisition governance model for setting requirements, allocating resources, and overseeing acquisition. Then, they operated under an alternative governance model that centralized some of those authorities within a new office while still requiring joint service, combatant command (COCOM), and Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) approval before fielding new capabilities. In this report, the researchers present insights on the challenges and opportunities of acquiring a Mosaic force under the current and the alternative model and highlight other acquisition models worth exploring.

Key Findings

DoD can field individual capabilities on Mosaic timescales today

  • Nothing inherent to DoD's existing requirements, resourcing, and acquisition systems prohibits or even inhibits the development, procurement, operation, or sustainment of systems that are fractionated, heterogeneous, and dynamically composable.
  • DoD has means to accelerate fielding of individual systems today.

Current means of accelerating acquisition are limited in scalability and thus likely unaligned with institutionalizing a Mosaic force

  • However, DoD mechanisms to accelerate acquisition are, by and large, exceptions to standard process and thus likely unaligned with the Mosaic vision of routinely and systematically fielding new capabilities on operational timescales.
  • Even if DoD could cost-effectively field systems that are more heterogeneous, fractionated, and composable, the time required to execute the associated acquisition functions for an entire Mosaic force is likely incompatible with developing and fielding on operational timescales.

An alternative governance model—one that would centralize some acquisition authorities while requiring joint service, COCOM, and OSD approval before fielding—would address some challenges but create other risks

  • In the game, consolidating acquisition authorities allowed taking the divisive actions that would allow Mosaic Warfare to scale.
  • Requiring service, COCOM, and OSD approval for fielding incentivized players to resolve competing interests.
  • However, the model created new institutional seams and introduced risks, such as managing the rate at which new capabilities must be integrated into the training, maintenance, and operational planning enterprises.
  • The report highlights other possible governance models and foreshadows that there is likely no optimal model but a set of options with trade-offs.


  • DARPA should continue to experiment with alternative governance systems and management systems.
  • DoD, when considering alternative governance models and management systems for acquiring a Mosaic force, should acknowledge enduring DoD needs for management controls for risk management and resource allocation and acknowledge service and combatant command equities via Title 10.
  • DoD should embrace mission centrality in requirements, resourcing, and acquisition; embrace throughput (time-effectiveness) as a Mosaic Warfare measure of merit; and define a measure of merit for Mosaic Warfare that embraces uncertainty.
  • DoD should develop a simulation of the Mosaic pipeline and use it to identify policy levers and bottlenecks that would inhibit realization of a Mosaic force.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Frameworks, Assumptions, and Acquisition Models for Analysis

  • Chapter Three

    The Mosaic Acquisition Policy Game

  • Chapter Four

    Insights About Mosaic Warfare Under the Department of Defense's Current Acquisition Paradigm

  • Chapter Five

    Insights About Mosaic Warfare Under an Alternative Acquisition Paradigm

  • Chapter Six

    Alternative Models Beyond the Joint Mission Office

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions and Next Steps

  • Appendix

    Mosaic Warfare Scenario and Vignettes

This research was sponsored by DARPA's Strategic Technology Office and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation 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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