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Theory and Methods for Supporting High Level Military Decisionmaking

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Technical rept.

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In this report, the authors describe an approach to high-level decision support for a Joint Forces Air Component Commander in combat operations or a Chief of Staff in defense planning. Their central theme is the fundamental importance of dealing effectively with uncertainty, whether in effects-based operations, building the Commanders Predictive Environment, or planning future forces with the methods of capabilities-based planning. Although many features of the future can be predicted with reasonable confidence, the emphasis here is on the many that cannot. High-level decision makers are commonly afflicted with deep uncertainties that materially affect the choice of a course of action but that cannot be substantially resolved by merely working harder. Such issues have been studied in a variety of fields, and the answer to the problem they pose is clear The solution is to adopt a course of action that is as flexible, adaptive, and robust as possible. This is in contrast to making a best estimate of the future and preparing only for that. The central idea is that instead of treating uncertainty as an annoyance that merely disrupts developments on the margin, it is better to proceed with the expectation of surprise developments and to have great skill in recognizing when adaptations are needed and in making them at the right time. This report sketches the framework of a high-level decision-support environment consistent with an uncertainty-sensitive approach. That framework includes principles such as being top-down, expressing concepts in simple and intuitive language, dealing explicitly with risk and uncertainty, and providing zoom capability so that decision makers can readily discover and question the bases for key assumptions and assessments. The authors describe two explicit methods and their related tools the first involves portfolio-style thinking and analysis, and the second is a novel modification of what has come to be called foresight exercises.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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