New Challenges for Defense Planning: Rethinking How Much Is Enough

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New Challenges for Defense Planning: Rethinking How Much Is Enough

Edited by Paul K. Davis
RAND, 1994
769 pp. $35.00

How Much is Enough? was the title of a belligerently self-congratulatory memoir by two top systems analysts in Robert McNamara's Pentagon. They, like so many of their colleagues then and successors since, hailed from RAND, the California think tank that proved a fecund incubator of strategic thinkers in the 1950s and early 1960s. Paul Davis, editor of this volume, has the unwieldy title of corporate research manager for RAND's defense and technology planning department -- a job description that reflects, perhaps, the bureaucratization of RAND over the decades, and the routinization of the analysis it pioneered. Some two dozen chapters here cover a variety of subjects, from the principles of systems analysis to its applications in strategic, operational, and logistical planning. The quality varies, of course, but the chief interest of the book lies in what it reveals of the mentality of RAND, which shaped the Aspin Pentagon and carries no less weight there today. Contributors Fred Frostic and Christopher Bowie articulate clearly and convincingly the case for campaign analysis of the RAND type. Other analyses (for example, one of Poland's defense requirements) clank with mechanistically derived kill ratios and rates of advance. The RAND analysts have a distinctive and familiar voice: the clipped prose, the bulleted lists of considerations, the flow charts reducing political complexity to five boxes connected by arrows, and the authoritative-looking graphs of uncertain provenance showing the point at which aircraft killing 1.5 tanks per sortie destroy 65 percent of the enemy's armored vehicles and thereby satisfactorily conclude an imaginary war. In some cases the RAND style of analysis has worked well; in others it has not. The authors of the first How Much is Enough?, one recalls, took no responsibility for the calamity of Vietnam, a war their techniques never mastered and never could. An important book, but one to be taken more skeptically than its authors would wish.

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