Managing Military Readiness
National Defense University -Institute for National Strategic Studies Washington United States
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Understanding the limits of the Nations ability to generate and deploy ready military forcesis a basic element of national security. It is also the element most likely to be taken for grantedor assumed away despite ample historical evidence of the human and operational costs imposedby such an error. As budgets shrink and threats grow more diverse, national security leadersneed a specific accounting of the readiness limits of the force and the consequences of thoselimits as well as the insight to make timely and effective mitigation decisions.This paper presents an analytic framework that builds from previous work to yield thesystematic and defendable readiness analysis that must underlie decisions ranging from budgetallocation to force employment and even strategy development. To manage readiness, the Departmentof Defense DOD must balance the supply and demand of deployable forces aroundthe world. The readiness of an individual unit is the result of a series of time-intensive forcegeneration processes that ultimately combine qualified people, working equipment, and unittraining to produce military capabilities suitable for executing the defense strategy. While thisdiscussion is a basic tenet of production theory, it had not been commonly applied to readinessmanagement until recently. The important point here is that understanding how the readinessof military capabilities is generated provides the clearest picture of the current readiness statusand whether that status is likely to change over time. Furthermore, it provides the best shot atidentifying effective management policies to ensure that DOD can generate the capabilities thatthe Nation asks of it. This paper argues that traditional unit-level readiness metrics are useful aspart of a larger readiness management construct, but by themselves they do not provide enoughinformation to proactively manage strategically.