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Research Questions

  1. What questions should a decisionmaker ask of any future logistics concept?
  2. Relative to what factors should future logistics concepts be versatile?
  3. How can the versatility of logistics as a general attribute be assessed?
  4. What implementation challenges are present in the process of transforming from the status quo to a future logistics concept?

RAND researchers present a Future Logistics Concept Assessment Framework, which is a disciplined, systematic way to assess proposed future logistics concepts to meet the requirements of the National Defense Strategy. The idea is to reveal the most-promising concepts and prune the least promising before significant resources are invested. The methods outlined in this report should help the U.S. Air Force avoid regrets from pursuing future logistics concepts that eventually disappoint. But even sound ideas can falter if their advocates are not prepared to defend them. 

It is imperative that the U.S. Air Force successfully advocate for new concepts within government (and against the legacy concept that would be replaced). The arguments the framework produces also will be useful for justifying and defending budget positions once the concept is adopted. To ensure stable funding, the U.S. Air Force also will need to anticipate and address counterarguments for any future logistics concept that the Office of the Secretary of Defense or Congress might raise, show that the concept objectively provides the robustness needed during wartime, and show that its costs are affordable. Systematic, objective, and reproduceable analysis is essential to form these arguments. It is the goal of this report to provide a systematic way to inform these decisions.

Key Findings

  • Future logistics concepts need to be assessed against a range of circumstances representing the spectrum of possible future environments that might stress logistics. The dimensions that form a basis for these possible future environments will need to be defined. These dimensions are not predictions of the future and are not scenarios in the usual sense of the word. They are key ways in which the future might vary and, therefore, are the variables against which versatility is assessed. Three overall dimensions of the future—the changing geopolitical setting, the threat environment, and evolving Blue concepts of employment—drive the challenges outlined in the National Defense Strategy. Delineating these dimensions and how they bear on versatility is central to the assessment framework.
  • Not all future logistics concepts will simplify, consolidate, and reduce requirements. Higher operational versatility might reduce efficiencies during peacetime. Moreover, the entire life cycle of a future logistics concept must be accounted for, including procurement, sustainment, and disposal costs. Some future concepts might induce a need to change organizational structure, culture, training, or other aspects of the U.S. Air Force institution, or perhaps those of entities outside the U.S. Air Force. These implementation challenges must be factored into decisions about a future logistics concept.
  • The framework reveals the operational versatility and implementation challenges of a future logistics concept. It does not help make value judgments about whether any benefits are worth the costs. Military and political decisionmakers need to make those judgments, informed by the assessments of the framework.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the Director of Resource Integration, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection and conducted within the Resource Management Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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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