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Research Questions

  1. What is the current state of development of the Air Force's OTTI?
  2. What are the barriers to developing OTTI for improved readiness assessment?
  3. How should OTTI investments for the combat air forces be coordinated to address these barriers?

Senior leaders on the Joint Staff are becoming increasingly concerned that the readiness assessment system is unable to provide credible answers to whether U.S. air forces can meet the demands of high-end conflict and whether individuals and aircrews have developed the right skills to complete their missions in stressful, complex environments. The sense is that the emphasis has not been on possible future scenarios and that readiness metrics do not provide accurate signals of force deficiencies. This ultimately results in decision priorities that do not align with national strategy. This report focuses on the Air Force's operational test and training infrastructure (OTTI), which is responsible for achieving aircrew readiness, and on the processes for assessing skill development and maintenance. The authors further focus on OTTI for the combat air forces. The objective was to offer diverse stakeholders a framework they can use to easily discern the implications of different training infrastructure investments for assessing skills and monitoring readiness. The authors describe interdependencies across different components of OTTI and implications for coordinating and prioritizing investments in those components.

Key Findings

  • The frontier of OTTI development generally falls short of providing a capability to assess skills beyond the individual level.
  • Progress in certain areas of OTTI—competency models and data analysis—is limited by a lack of foundational knowledge and a lack of consensus; others are held back by organizational, policy, and technical challenges.
  • Beyond fundamental research challenges, the lack of incentives to develop interoperable and standardized training systems and the parochial focus of training investments within the DAF and across DoD hinder progress along multiple dimensions of OTTI.
  • Progress along different dimensions of OTTI is highly interdependent; for example, the development of data storage and analytic capabilities for assessing readiness in highly complex environments depends on identification of competency models and associated performance criteria.
  • More-authentic training at the individual level alone is unlikely to provide an accurate capability to assess collective and joint readiness; more research is required to identify competencies, metrics, and data analytic capabilities to assess performance and readiness at higher levels of aggregation.

Research conducted by

This research was commissioned by Headquarters Air Force A3T and conducted by the Workforce, Development, and Health Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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