National Academies Press: OpenBook
« Previous: Executive Summary
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.



The evolving missions of the Department of Defense (DoD) put heavy and new demands on DoD’s modeling, simulation, and analysis (MS&A) capabilities. Some of the most noteworthy facets of this evolution are these:

  • Operations in a broader context. It is increasingly common for DoD planners to consider the entire range of diplomatic, intelligence, military, and economic (DIME) means for achieving national goals so as to enable what is called effects-based planning and effects-based operations (EBO).1 Thus, there is a need for MS&A capabilities that can address this broader context in a coordinated and sensible manner while taking into account the learning and adaptation that take place en route to attaining the desired effects.

  • Capabilities-based planning. DoD has shifted to capabilities-based planning (CBP), which stresses the development and honing of capabilities that can be applied to a wide range of challenges and circumstances (Rumsfeld, 2006; Davis, 2002), and to CBP’s analogue in operations, adaptive planning, in which war plans are developed so as to anticipate and then support major changes as circumstances change.

  • Increased networking. The increasing interconnectedness of forces, often referred to as network-centric operations, offers many advantages but also presents planning and operational challenges.2 For a more complete discussion of network-centric operations, see the section “Representing Networking” in Chapter 3.

  • Involvement in nontraditional warfare. As U.S. military prowess in traditional combat becomes more and more overwhelming, adversaries have been adopting strategies and tactics designed to avoid traditional engagements.3,4 These include irregular warfare, such as characterizes the insurgency in Iraq; moving more installations underground or otherwise seeking to frustrate overhead surveillance and precision targeting; mingling with the civil population; and attacking the United States, its allies, and their interests at home.

  • Stabilization and reconstruction operations. The U.S. military has not traditionally had much enthusiasm for stability and reconstruction missions, but these are often important and are likely to become an important element of military operations in the foreseeable future. Success in these missions without the benefit of an overwhelming force presence poses daunting challenges.

Planning for nontraditional missions and transformed forces requires analyses of the capabilities and trade-offs for various proposed force structures and equipment and also


Some in the DoD use the acronym DIME as shorthand for the space of diplomatic, intelligence, military, and economic actions. A related acronym is PMESII (political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information), which refers to the range of effects that planning and operations are meant to produce.


See, for example, Alberts and Hayes (2003); Alberts et al. (1999); NRC (2000).


Although the term “nontraditional mission” is often used, the strategies and tactics involved are as old as war itself. DoD often refers to “asymmetric warfare.”


Some DoD policy documents draw distinctions between planning for traditional, irregular, disruptive, and catastrophic conflict. Irregular threats are those posed by circumstances such as terrorism, insurgencies, or coercion. Disruptive threats are those that employ new capabilities, such as cyberattacks, directed-energy weapons, or attacks on assets in space. Catastrophic threats use weapons of mass destruction outside the normal battlespace to mount a major attack on national symbols or on infrastructure. The taxonomy builds on work by the Office of Force Transformation, whose first director was the late Admiral Art Cebrowski, who briefed the panel in 2004. The relevant Web site is

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.

requires doctrine for a range of military operations, including those with which the United States has very little or no experience. For these, as well as for more familiar operations, analysis based on M&S can be an invaluable tool for developing and assessing concepts across a broad set of circumstances.


To develop an overall vision for MS&A that can contribute to the fulfillment of evolving DoD needs, the Defense Modeling and Simulation Office5 asked the National Research Council (NRC) to establish a committee on modeling and simulation for defense transformation and gave it the following charge:

The study will make recommendations to guide the development of defense MS&A to better support defense decision makers at all levels. Specifically, the study will:

—Evaluate the current capabilities of MS&A to support defense transformation.

—Identify high-leverage opportunities for M&S research.

—Recommend approaches for framing existing and future MS&A products to decision-makers, giving them the appropriate context and caveats, including evaluation of the risks.

—Identify potential organizational and human resource development issues related to these themes.

Defense MS&A covers a very broad spectrum of technologies, from rough models created with spreadsheet software by one person to guide his or her own decisions, to billion-dollar simulation tools based on multiyear efforts by large teams to support completely separate groups of analysts and decision makers. Models range from those supported by years of use and validation to those just emerging from ongoing research. The committee that was formed— the Committee on Modeling and Simulation for Defense Transformation—focuses on the latter: the frontier of MS&A capabilities. This frontier regime of MS&A can gain the most from an outside study such as this one while still addressing the communication, organizational, and human resource issues called out in the charge. The committee’s emphasis is on challenges facing the developers of new MS&A capabilities rather than on issues that influence, say, the transition from R&D to commercial tools or the effective and appropriate use of commercial simulation products.

This report builds on a number of others—by the NRC, the Defense Science Board, and others—over the course of more than a decade. One such report (NRC, 2002) includes an appendix summarizing 10 reports, from 1994 to 2000, on just the topic of M&S applied to acquisition. One of the best statements of issues in M&S is contained in Volume 9 of another NRC report (NRC, 1997).

The current report builds on the 1997 report in the following ways: (1) by dealing with issues that affect all of the services as well as joint operations; (2) by including considerations of how M&S tools are used in analysis for, ultimately, informing strategic decision making; (3) by discussing how current MS&A efforts across DoD can be adjusted to address the broader range of threats now accepted as being in the military’s purview; and (4) by evaluating some of the most important new conceptual and technological approaches in MS&A.

This report provides high-level guidance for developing the MS&A capabilities that will support planning by DoD and the services in an evolving environment.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) named a panel on simulation-based engineering science that held two workshops, in April 2004 and September 2005, and in their course made recommendations to NSF. The recently published report from these two workshops (NSF, 2006) examines the role of MS&A throughout our society, with emphasis on engineering applied to medicine, homeland security, energy, environment, materials, industry, and, very briefly, defense. After explaining the importance of MS&A for present and future U.S. competitiveness, the report makes recommendations to NSF that would allow NSF to advance the science and practice of MS&A. Although the NSF panel and this committee operated independently, the similarity of their recommendations is striking. Within the wide purview of MS&A, the challenges and opportunities facing DoD are those facing U.S. society as a whole.

In a sense, the current study can be regarded as a focused effort to examine the problems and solutions as they relate to DoD and in more detail than was possible in the NSF study. In Chapter 6, the committee reviews the NSF study and discusses the mutually reinforcing sets of recommendations.


DoD’s reliance on MS&A is not new. Ever since World War I, military analysis in some form has played an essential role in defense, with many success stories in the three domains of acquisition, training and operations, and defense planning (the last is sometimes inappropriately referred to as the “analysis” domain). In acquisition, for example, exceedingly accurate and reliable ballistic missiles have been acquired and fielded while relying heavily upon M&S, in part because realistic and exhaustive field testing is infeasible and too expensive. In training, cockpit simulators have been successful for decades, allowing personnel to develop skills and intuition in a safe and controlled fashion. The dramatic performance of U.S. armored-force units in the 1991 war with Iraq demonstrated to participants the great value of


Recently renamed the M&S Coordination Office (M&SCO).

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.

simulation-based training. MS&A is being effectively used for, among other things, (1) scheduling maintenance, (2) placing sonobuoys, (3) loading cargo, (4) developing training schedules, (5) search and detection, and (6) planning for statistically significant operational tests. Today’s large-scale joint exercises routinely mix live activities (pilots flying, tankers maneuvering, etc.) with simulated activities, often seamlessly and often with participants not even knowing or caring which targets are real and which are simulated. Detailed mission-rehearsal simulations are now an essential and proven part of operations planning generally, as are simulations of mobilization, deployment, maneuver, and logistics. Today’s defense-planning analysis draws on sophisticated end-to-end simulations of how alternative joint forces would actually be employed in hypothetical scenarios.

Although it is beyond the scope of this report to provide a complete history of DoD M&S, the committee lists below some early examples of models used successfully by DoD, versions of which are still extant:

  • Joint Theater Level Simulation (JTLS).6,7 JTLS is in many ways the grandfather of all DoD combat models. Development was begun in 1983 as a means to automate the board-game-based wargaming program that was then used by the Army. It has grown over time to represent the spectrum of joint and coalition operations.

  • SUPPRESSOR.8 This Air Force model started in 1978 and has been continuously updated to reflect changes in tactics and equipment. It is currently one of the most widely used air combat mission models and is also used for design and acquisition studies.

  • Corps Battle Simulation.9 This model and its successors have been in place for over 20 years and have been extended to include maneuver, command and control, fire support, air defense, combat service support, mobility, countermobility, survivability, intelligence, special operations, and psychological operations. It is currently used as the land warfare component of various joint training exercises.

While many past studies examined defense M&S, this study examines military analysis as well, because all three activities—modeling, simulation, and analysis—are essential, intertwined inputs to decision making. Models (mathematical or otherwise logical representations of entities, relationships, or processes of importance to military operations) and simulations (exercises that include computations based on those models and possibly humans executing related tasks) are most effective when they are designed with analyses in mind. It is best for military analysts to provide input into the creation of the models and simulations that will underpin their analyses, and the best M&S-based support for decision makers comes about when M&S personnel and military analysts work coherently to explore and illuminate the issues facing those decision makers. Because of the need for such rich connections between M&S and military analysis, this report is written as though there were a single MS&A community, which would be a desirable situation.10

MS&A is of value in the early stages of defense modernization, when roughly defined concepts can be examined and adjusted in virtual worlds. It might be of even greater importance as planning becomes more concrete, because MS&A will then be needed for detailed engineering-based or physics-based analyses of proposed equipment, forces, doctrinal and strategic choices, with whatever analytical technology exists. Take, for example, network-enabled forces. All the services are looking to network their forces as a way of ensuring information superiority, improving situational awareness, shortening the response time for military actions, and increasing synchronization and related effectiveness. But tools do not yet exist to explore the trade-offs associated with actually building network-enabled forces, and no one’s intuition is adequate for the task. Networks and networked forces, because of their complexity, cannot simply be assembled from existing tools and expected to work as predicted—there are far too many unforeseen interactions, vulnerabilities, and feedback loops. Therefore, it is critical to develop capabilities for modeling, simulating, and analyzing the behavior expected from various networks and networked forces, based on particular choices of components, protocols, doctrine, attacks, and contexts.

In tandem with advanced MS&A’s use to engineer transformed forces, it is also essential to developing budgets, personnel plans, logistics support plans, and so on for how the forces will be fielded and used. That is, models are needed that can represent all aspects of military operations. M&S will also be of central importance for training personnel on new equipment for new scenarios. Moreover, novel force structures are also effecting dramatic change in the military at the social and cultural levels, and M&S can prepare the ground (consciously or not) for future changes. MS&A can also help assess, support, and identify how to constrain or enable this evolutionary process.

The DoD’s Transformation Planning Guidance (DoD, 2003, p. 8) affirms the need for strengthening and expanding






M&S is not, strictly speaking, a separate discipline that creates standalone tools, although there are certainly specialists within M&S who delve deeply to create new capabilities that can be incorporated into valuable tools. Similarly, military analysts are not always able to use canned software or predefined models if they are to perform well-targeted analysis.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.

FIGURE 1.1 The MS&A modeling process.

MS&A capabilities. That document notes, in a paragraph on transformed strategic analysis, that

… the Department needs a transformed analytic capability that can identify and assess risks for strategic planning…. DoD must be able to support a capabilities-based planning process that accounts for greater uncertainty in threats and capabilities, and must be capable of comparing risks across time and between multiple theater-level operations.

Strong MS&A capabilities are also needed to support the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) process, which periodically provides a detailed understanding of the posture of the military forces and how they are going to approach the changing world over the next 4 years. The main goals of the QDR are to understand four things: (1) the impacts of new technologies, (2) the impacts of the changing world on force structure and capabilities, (3) the changes in our adversaries, and (4) the changes in the budget.

While the use of MS&A is not explicitly called for in the QDR, it is clearly necessary if the objectives of the QDR are to be met. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the high-level, strategic models in common use within DoD are cold war legacies that do not reflect the full spectrum of current military missions and threats or the impact of civilians and civilian organizations.


It is useful to distinguish various roles that are relevant to the MS&A enterprise. The committee has identified five such roles. In practice, however, the functions of each role may be divided among several people or, conversely, one person may take several roles. The modeling process into which the identified roles fit is pictured in Figure 1.1.

The roles and their associated functions are as follows:

  • Analysts create the formal model representation from the real-world problem, act as domain experts, and interpret and present results.

  • Modelers and programmers translate the representation into a documented and executable form.

  • Implementers develop and execute the experimental plan and transform the model’s raw outputs into useable results.

  • Managers oversee the MS&A team by managing personnel, making required purchases necessary for efficient operation of the team, checking for quality of the MS&A product, and interacting with others involved in M&S governance.

  • Consumers employ MS&A to support military decisions.

The effectiveness of MS&A in supporting military decisions depends heavily on how well practitioners play their respective roles and also on how well individuals in different roles work together toward a common objective. In its interactions with the MS&A community, the committee observed that different roles sometimes do not mesh as well as they should and that the quality of decisions can suffer as a consequence. Well-designed education and training can contribute to a solution.


The increasing prominence of MS&A calls for a complete rethinking of systems, organizations, policies, and

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.

training, in the same way that the pervasive use of information technology has created the need for a reengineering of business processes. MS&A is becoming embedded throughout the force structure for enabling better decisions and control, presumably because it provides more complete information and offers well-validated, easily interpreted multifaceted models. All decision making—from strategic, long-term decisions to real-time command and control—has the potential to be better informed and can therefore be improved through the effective employment of MS&A.

Chapter 2 goes into greater detail about changes in DoD’s operations and mission, how these changes place very challenging demands on MS&A, and how emerging IT-based technologies add other demands. Chapter 3 explores some of the ways in which R&D and technology have begun addressing these challenges. It discusses some specific directions that promise to provide the needed functionality and identifies some R&D topics that need further exploration in order to bring that promise to fruition. The chapter also discusses infrastructure needs that must be addressed to enable these technical advances. Chapter 4 discusses how to improve the effectiveness of the support the MS&A community provides to decision makers, and Chapter 5 discusses the education, training, and career development needed by the MS&A community. The report concludes with a chapter explaining how these promising directions in MS&A can be of maximal value to DoD.

Appendixes A-C contain further details on subjects that the committee felt could not be dealt with adequately in the body of the report.


Alberts, D.S., J.J. Gartska, and F.P. Stein. 1999. Network Centric Warfare—Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority. 2nd ed. Command and Control Research Program Publication Series. Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense.

Alberts, David S., and Richard E. Hayes. 2005. Power to the Edge: Command and Control in the Information Age. Springfield, Va.: EBR Inc. Available at

Davis, Paul K. 2002. Analytic Architecture for Capabilities-Based Planning, Mission-System Analysis, and Transformation. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND.

Department of Defense (DoD). 2003. Transformation Planning Guidance.

Gordon, Steven C. 2000. “Determining the value of simulation,” in Proceedings of the Summer Simulation Conference. Available at

National Research Council (NRC). 1997. Technology for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 2000-2035, Becoming a 21st-Century Force. Vol. 9, Modeling and Simulation. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

NRC. 2000. Network-Centric Naval Forces: A Transition Strategy for Enhancing Operational Capabilities. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

NRC. 2002. Modeling and Simulation in Manufacturing and Defense Acquisition: Pathways to Success. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

National Science Foundation (NSF). 2006. Simulation-Based Engineering Science. Available at

Rumsfeld, Donald. 2006. Quadrennial Defense Review. Department of Defense.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2006. Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11726.
Page 8
Next: 2 The Changing Landscape »
Defense Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis: Meeting the Challenge Get This Book
Buy Paperback | $36.00 Buy Ebook | $28.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Modeling, simulation, and analysis (MS&A) is a crucial tool for military affairs. MS&A is one of the announced pillars of a strategy for transforming the U.S. military. Yet changes in the enterprise of MS&A have not kept pace with the new demands arising from rapid changes in DOD processes and missions or with the rapid changes in the technology available to meet those demands. To help address those concerns, DOD asked the NRC to identify shortcomings in current practice of MS&A and suggest where and how they should be resolved. This report provides an assessment of the changing mission of DOD and environment in which it must operate, an identification of high-level opportunities for MS&A research to address the expanded mission, approaches for improving the interface between MS&A practitioners and decision makers, a discussion of training and continuing education of MS&A practitioners, and an examination of the need for coordinated military science research to support MS&A.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!