Version of May 24, 2013

Defense Analysis (Spring 2013)

SAIS 660.776

Wednesday, 1830-2030/6:30 PM – 8:30 PM, Rome 205

Adjunct Professor Mark F. Cancian

Course description

Concept. This course explores the connection between quantitative analysis and policy formulation. The course will cover many types of analyses, not only the classic kinds of defense analysis – cost-effectiveness and combat models – but also budget, manpower and cost analyses. Although aimed at students going into national security positions, the analytical methods and approaches covered in the course are broadly applicable.

The purpose is not to make quantitative analysts of students but to make them intelligent consumers of analytical products. Why bother with quantitative analysis? Because in policy debates some numbers beat no numbers every time. Without some appreciation of quantitative techniques, policy analysts are at a severe disadvantage.

The intention is practical and concrete, to aid in making better decisions in the real world. The course aims to be directly useful in a student’s next job and in getting that job.

Structure. The course uses case studies, historical examples, readings and exercises to investigate how quantitative analysis is used in deciding major policy issues. Teaching is through a combination of lecture and discussion. Virtually every class has a case, “caselette”, or exercise to give students a chance to apply to a concrete situation both their own experience and what they learned from the readings.

Sessions are grouped into four general areas: analysis and policy, analysis of conflict, major systems acquisition, and financial issues.

There are no prerequisites. Some knowledge of military history and defense policy can be moderately helpful, but previous course experience shows little connection between such knowledge and the final grade. No prior knowledge of quantitative analysis is needed nor are any special mathematical skills required. However, a high level of discussion participation will be expected of every student.

Course themes:

Administrative Instructions. These will be discussed in detail at the first class. Here’s a synopsis.

Electronic sources. This course will make extensive use of Blackboard and the ERES system.

Professor’s notes. These will be provided before each class to explain the purpose of the readings and how to approach that week’s discussion exercise.

Readings. No texts to buy, no packet of readings. Readings are mostly on ERes and total about 100 pages of fairly dense material each week. They include many classics in the analytical world and cover the breadth of the literature – governmental organizations like GAO, think tanks like RAND and Institute for Defense Analyses, academic commentators. Readings also include some dissenting literature that questions fundamental assumptions.


(1) Class participation (20% of final grade). Participation is important and expected.

(2) Two two-page memos (20% of final grade each, total 40%). These are structured as a memo to a senior official analyzing a real-world problem.

(3) Final examination (40% of final grade), 3 hours, essays and problems covering the semester’s material.

Collaboration. Collaboration is encouraged in preparing for class and in problem solving in class. However, the papers and exam must be individual efforts.

Contact information

(W) 202-395-3879; (H) 703-237-8553; Cell: 703-915-5229; Fax: 202-395-5157

Office: New Executive Office Building, 750 17th St, rm. 10021


Office hours: Before class

At office by appointment

Course prerequisites: None

Auditors: Auditors are allowed BUT they must be prepared every week so they can participate in the discussion.

1. Introduction: Analysis and Leadership

Purpose: To discuss the role of analysis in decision-making and the implications that has for the quality of decisions, the responsibilities of senior policy officials, and civil-military relations.

First 45 minutes of class: Course description, requirements, overview



Cases (distributed in class): Canceling the Crusader Howitzer; Measuring Progress in Iraq

2. What is analysis and how is it done?

Purpose: To discuss how analysis works, the process by which it is conducted, and the tradeoffs involved.



Case: The United Kingdom’s Strategic Defense Review of 1998 (“The Strategic Defense Review Process”; “Future Military Capabilities” with Annex A and B, -- in one file on ERes and at )

3a. Analysis Case Study: Strategic Mobility

Purpose: To apply our discussion of the analysis process to a real world example.

Reading: The Art of Case Analysis, Robert Ronstadt, p.1-22

Strategic Mobility, Background Note, US Naval War College

Case: “Congressionally Mandated Mobility Study (CMMS)” and “CMMS Update”

Reference: “Statement of BG Michelle D. Johnson, USAF, on the Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study”, July 13, 2010

3b. Communicating in the Bureaucracy/Writing Effective Memos

Purpose: To discuss what makes an effective memo, in preparation for the first paper assignment.

Reading: Assignment Pentagon, (2d edition), Perry M. Smith, p.38-88

Tongue and Quill, Staley, p.21-86 [Not on ERes]

“Some Thoughts on Writing”, Professor Eliot Cohen

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte, p.9-51


4. Analyzing a Campaign

Purpose: To consider the assumptions built into campaign scenarios and models, and their effects on policy and budgets.



Exercise: Gaffney v. Adams: Alternative Approaches to a Conventional Conflict in Korea5. Combat Models: What are they and how do they work?

Purpose: To examine the structure, dynamics and assumptions inside combat models – a nontechnical discussion –, how these affect outcomes, and how outcomes affect policy.



Exercise (outside class): Simple model of Lanchester attrition laws (on ERes as Excel file)

Case: Planning the Counteroffensive in Operation Desert Storm (1991)

6. Wartime Operations: Attrition

Purpose: Using a simple mathematical formula, to gain insight into the dynamics of attrition and then to consider their policy implications


-- Attrition in ground and air combat

-- Naval barrier operations

-- Air defense intercepts

-- Munitions accuracy (CEPs)


Case: Recruiting for the Waffen SS

7. Force Structure: What do we have and why do we have it?

Purpose: To discuss why nations maintain armed forces and the factors that shape their design



Case: The United Kingdom Strategic and Security Review of 2010: Why did the forces get smaller? (MOD fact sheet; chapter 2 “Defense sections 2.1 to 2.A.17) on ERes and at and

8a. Force Structure (Cont)

Purpose: To apply in a practical exercise the insights into force structure design from class #7


Exercise: Navy Force Structure Exercise -- Designing a Navy


8b. Weapons Acquisition: How can analysis help us decide what to buy?

Purpose: To discuss how quantitative (and non-quantitative) considerations go into generating requirements for new acquisition systems


Case: “Trident: Setting the Requirements” (KSG case C15-88-802.0)


9. What is cost and how do we measure it?

Purpose: To discuss the different ways to measure cost, the different ways of developing a cost estimate, and how different costing procedures produce different results.



Cases: V-22 Costs – A Debate; Selected Acquisition Report (SAR)

10. Cost Growth: What is it and why does it happen?

Purpose: To consider what constitutes cost growth, what causes cost growth, and the ethical questions that arise.



Exercise: What does a V-22 cost? [Handed out in class #9]

Case: “Black Hole”, Government Executive, April 2001 w/ excepts from Dept. of Transportation IG Reports, 10 Feb 2000 and 29 Nov 2000; (for background, see

11. Cost-Effectiveness: Using Analysis to Make Tough Choices

Purpose: To consider the elements of a cost-effectiveness analysis.

Elements: Defining effectiveness quantitatively (static v. dynamic comparisons), equal cost v. equal effectiveness analyses, assumptions imbedded in scenarios, the difficulties in forecasting capabilities, choices in picking Measures of Effectiveness


Case: Study of the V-22 by the Institute for Defense Analyses (in transcript of Senate Hearing 101-934, FY 1991)


Financial issues

12. Budgets as strategy: Uncovering the story behind budget numbers

Purpose: To consider the defense budget from a variety of financial and historical perspectives.



Case: National Defense Budget Estimates for the FY2014 Budget (Comptroller budget backup data), Publication expected March 2013, (Assigned sections will be in one file on ERes, full document at

ch. 1 (overview, tables 1-2,1-4,1-7), 2-1 (total DOD only), 3-2, 5 (definitions, tables 5-1,5-2,5-4,5-10, 5-11,5-12), 6 (tables 6-1,3,5,16 (last page only),17 (last page only),18 (last page only) ), ch. 7 (tables 7-2,5).

Note: These readings will be updated to reflect the FY 2014 budget when these materials become available in March 2013.

13. Deciding who does what -- Active duty military, reservists, civilians and contractors

Purpose: To analyze the characteristics of the four kinds of manpower, their implications for cost and usage, and their resulting effects on national security policy.


Readings (many individual readings but not large in total volume):

Active v. reserve military:

Military v. government civilian

Government civilian v. contractors:

Contractors v. military (a single .pdf file on ERes):

Case: Forces for Homeland Security