Understanding the limits of the Nation’s ability to generate and deploy ready military forces
is a basic element of national security. It is also the element most likely to be taken for granted
or assumed away despite ample historical evidence of the human and operational costs imposed
by such an error. As budgets shrink and threats grow more diverse, national security leaders
need a specific accounting of the readiness limits of the force and the consequences of those
limits 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 the
systematic and defendable readiness analysis that must underlie decisions ranging from budget
allocation to force employment and even strategy development. To manage readiness, the Department
of Defense (DOD) must balance the supply and demand of deployable forces around
the world. The readiness of an individual unit is the result of a series of time-intensive force
generation processes that ultimately combine qualified people, working equipment, and unit
training to produce military capabilities suitable for executing the defense strategy. While this
discussion is a basic tenet of production theory, it had not been commonly applied to readiness
management until recently. The important point here is that understanding how the readiness
of military capabilities is generated provides the clearest picture of the current readiness status
and whether that status is likely to change over time. Furthermore, it provides the best shot at
identifying effective management policies to ensure that DOD can generate the capabilities that
the Nation asks of it. This paper argues that traditional unit-level readiness metrics are useful as
part of a larger readiness management construct, but by themselves they do not provide enough
information to proactively manage strategically.
This approach provides a clear explanation of
the causes of readiness degradations and options for how to mitigate them that can be traced to
precise resource investments.
The approach outlined here may seem impractically complex, and if we were starting out
knowing very little about how ready forces are generated, that might be true. But we are not
starting out with a blank sheet—DOD has been investing in analyses and production management
schema for decades. Moreover, we are discussing a key strategic management function
that oversees the value of billions of dollars in scarce defense resources. The effectiveness of the
oversight and the validity of redirected funding during periods of such scarce resources must be
based on a clear foundation. Dollars miscast on bad information undercuts the role of strategic
managers and corrupts overall department readiness. This is why this subject is so vital.