Continuity and Contingency in USAF Posture Planning
RAND PROJECT AIR FORCE SANTA MONICA CA SANTA MONICA United States
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Posture planning is a juggling act. Because posture changes can be maddeningly slow to execute and, once implemented, difficult to change, planners must have a long time horizon. Good posture planning must distinguish powerful long-term trends from headline-grabbing but ephemeral events, have sufficient breadth to capture a wide range of possible posture demands, and be robust in the face of the inevitable uncertainties about where, when, and how U.S. interests will be challenged. Meeting these requirements would be challenging even if planners faced a relatively bounded problem, such as Design a posture in 2015 that will be able to meet U.S. requirements in Asia in the year 2030. U.S. Air Force USAF planners face an immeasurably more complex problem Design a posture that can evolve to meet changing global demands over a multi-decade period while making immediate adaptations to meet the urgent demands of todays crises and contingencies. Posture planners have to work simultaneously in three periods the near, middle, and far terms. In this way, posture planning is similar to the challenge of sustaining and modernizing force structure Current systems must be maintained to meet todays demands programs must be developed, funded, and executed to modernize over the middle term and research and development must push technology to meet long-term challenges. Long-range planners and strategists recognize that future demands may be quite different from todays needs, sometimes in ways that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. They account for these demands through trend and scenario analysis. These are valuable exercises. However, they are limited by contemporary intellectual frameworks and resource constraints, leading to a focus on the most important or most plausible challenges.
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