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Activity title

21st Century Force Development

Activity Reference



System Analysis and Studies

Security Classification




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Capability Based Planning, Force Development


Each nation undertakes planning of its armed forces. Approaches exist to define the requirements for the future force and then work back to investment decisions that can be taken today to ensure that the forces develop in the right direction. Force development has been a central focus of many previous NATO activities (e.g., SAS-055, SAS-072, SAS-076, SAS-081, SAS-093) as well as under TTCP (The Technical Cooperation Program between the defence departments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States); see [Handbook on Long Term Defense Planning, RTO-TR-069 AC/323(SAS-025)TP/41, ISBN 92-837-1098-3, 2003; Proceedings of NATO SAS-072 workshop, Oslo, 2008; Taylor, B. and Wood, D., Guide to capability-based planning, TTCP Report TR-JSA-TP3-2-2004, October 2004 (presented to NATO SAS 055 Workshop, Norfolk, 2005 as RTO-MP-SAS-055); Taylor, B., Analysis Support to Strategic Planning, TTCP Report TR–JSA–2–2013, October 2012] for representative publications in this area. The TTCP reports described a generic blueprint for an approach called capability based planning that has been adapted by a number of nations. This approach was developed in the post-Cold War era in what was then perceived as a stable and more secure security environment, and which largely assumed that nations planned their forces in isolation. In the dynamic contemporary security environment with an increased emphasis on interoperability within alliances it is timely to revisit the subject of force planning analysis processes. A number of challenges have already been identified which serve to illustrate the type of issues that can not be addressed using existing force planning frameworks: • The need in some nations to assess the capacity of the future force to meet policy requirements to conduct multiple concurrent operations • Nations will likely need to prepare forces able to operate independently whilst also needing to be able to operate within a wider alliance structure • A recognition that there may be a tension between investments to meet national policy aims and those needed to meet alliance obligations • The simplifying assumption that the homeland is essentially secure and that most operations are discretionary may not be true for all nations, if any • Assuming that the M in DOTMLPFI dominates and all the other components can follow the decisions on major equipment investments may be an oversimplification • The contemporary dynamic security environment may require a more deliberate consideration of potential future challenges.


The objective is to produce a new generic framework for force planning. Following a review of the previously published models [Handbook on Long Term Defense Planning, RTO-TR-069 AC/323(SAS-025)TP/41, ISBN 92-837-1098-3, 2003; Proceedings of NATO SAS-072 workshop, Oslo, 2008] and a consideration of their applicability to the challenges of the 21st Century a new (or revised) framework will be designed to meet contemporary challenges for NATO nations. The established framework had a number of stages: 1. Creation of future planning scenarios to represent the needs of national defense policy 2. Analysis of those scenarios to derive capability goals 3. The assessment of the currently planned forces against the future capability goals to identify future capability gaps 4. The development of capability investment options to address future capability gaps 5. Balance of investment studies to develop affordable capability investment plans


National force planning analyses are conducted in many nations through a mixture of operations research techniques. These include, but are not limited to, futures analysis, scenario development, modelling and simulation, wargaming, optimization, cost analysis, portfolio management and decision support. This RTG will touch upon many of these techniques, but its intent is to describe a process by which such techniques can be brought together to inform national force development decisions rather than to drive their further development.

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