The Defense Readiness Reporting System: A
New Tool for Force Management
Ten years ago, the growing U.S. involvement
in Bosnia engendered discussions on how the Department of Defense
(DOD) measures the ability of the Armed Forces to execute a broad
range of missions. Many recognized that readiness reporting systems
needed to reflect a continuum of possible operations. Today this
question takes on new significance as DOD wrestles with both the
enormity and uncertainty of the present operational environment.
The sustained demand for forces in Iraq and Afghanistan makes it
challenging to find units that are both suitable
and available for deployment. It also underscores the importance
of understanding residual force capability should another crisis
The new environment requires both a thorough
understanding of what military forces can do and the ability to
adapt quickly to emerging requirements. The pressure of current
operations is forcing unprecedented changes along these lines. In
the spring of 2002, the Office of the Secretary of Defense formally
announced plans to create the Defense Readiness Reporting System
(DRRS), with the promise that it would promote a real change in
how DOD thinks about, plans for, and assesses the ability of the
Armed Forces to conduct operations. Today, the system is evolving
to meet the need of force providers such as U.S. Joint Forces Command
(JFCOM) to identify units that have, or can quickly develop, the
capabilities requested by theater commanders. The DRRS is designed
to track detailed information on what forces, and even individuals,
can do on a near-real-time basis. When complete, DRRS will be a
network of applications that provides force managers at all levels
the tools and information to respond to emerging crises and the
ability to assess the risks of conducting such operations.
The DRRS is a major transformation, moving
the focus of force managers from reporting unit readiness to managing
force capabilities. Specifically, it represents a shift from:
-resources to capabilities-inputs to outputs
-deficiencies to their implications
-units to combined forces
-front-line units to all units contributing
to front-line operations.
Force Management Challenge
Today's force managers understand that uncertainty
is unavoidable but not unmanageable. The question is not just what
forces are ready for, but how well they can adapt to meet current
needs. The approach is very different from the rigid structuring
of the Cold War era. Consider that some of the capabilities in highest
demand today are truck drivers and civil engineers. Not only did
these occupational specialties not make force managers' radar screens
4 years ago, but they were often targets for outsourcing. To meet
these needs, DOD adopted a flexible approach of adapting units with
similar skill sets and tailored their training to meet the theater
commander's requirements. The point is not to highlight force planning
deficiencies, but to suggest the folly of thinking that planning
can be done with perfect foresight.
In June 2004, the Secretary of Defense tasked
JFCOM to provide operational commanders the capabilities they need.
This responsibility means the command must have current information
on the location, status, and availability of capability entities-any
combination of personnel and equipment that provides a recognized
operational capability, regardless of size or parent organization-throughout
the Department. Capability entities can be as large as a carrier
strike group or as small as a five-man security detachment. Without
a system like DRRS, the command would have to query scores of isolated
databases throughout DOD for a comprehensive picture of who can
The need to identify residual capability is
as pressing as the need to source existing operations. With so many
forces either currently or recently deployed, force managers must
know what is left in case another emergency develops. They must
understand what those forces can do, the limits of flexibility,
and what those factors mean in terms of operational risk.
The key to managing forces is understanding
what capabilities DOD has and how they can be tailored and combined
to respond to operational needs. During the Cold War, units tended
to be sourced (provided) to operational commanders along fairly
rigid ideas of capability. Today, the pressure to sustain operations
at high levels and possibly over years requires sourcing flexibility.
In some occupational areas, the majority of units and individuals
have been deployed at least once, and some are preparing for third
tours in theater. To ease the stress, DOD is looking more broadly
for units that are capable of relieving forces in theater. As a
result, units are often required and trained to conduct missions
very different from those they were designed for. Army artillery
units trained to relieve Army security forces are an example of
sourcing flexibility within a service, while Navy masters-at-arms
trained to relieve Army units guarding detainees are a case of flexibility
across service lines. This adaptibility means that DOD has larger
capability pools from which to draw forces.
The DRRS uses two complementary approaches
to identifying capability for JFCOM and other force managers. The
first is identifying mission- essential tasks (METs), a concept
the Army created two decades ago to manage training and now being
used to establish a common language of tasks, conditions, and standards
to describe capabilities essential to the completion of almost any
stated mission. DRRS uses METs as a vehicle for assessing the capability
of all DOD organizations, at all operational levels, to conduct
Under this framework, a capability is the ability
of any organization to perform a given task to the standards either
prescribed by parent organizations or dictated by operational needs.
Monitoring that ability is especially important for organizations
conducting missions outside of those they were previously trained
and equipped for. Managers can track progress not only in developing
new capabilities, but also the potential atrophy of the original
The DRRS also allows force managers to trace
inventories of individuals in high-demand occupations such as law
enforcement and civil engineering or who possess rare skills such
as speaking Farsi. This information supports the MET information
described above and is therefore helpful in identifying organizations
that could reasonably provide needed abilities. For some skills,
demand is severe enough to warrant searches for individuals who
could be deployed immediately.
The detailed information on what individuals
and organizations can do- from capability entities up to combatant
commanders-resides in the Enhanced Status of Resources and Training
System (ESORTS). The goal of any readiness reporting or assessment
system is to reveal whether forces can perform their assigned missions.
Historically, DOD has inferred that ability from the status of unit
resources. That is how the Global Status of Resources and Training
System (GSORTS) has been used. But such input-based assessment does
not yield direct information on what these forces can actually do.
ESORTS provides a more complete readiness assessment system by directly
measuring outputs- the ability to conduct a task or mission to the
prescribed standard-along with inputs. The system is designed to
come much closer to the goal of understanding "ready for what?"
ESORTS is a secure, Web-based information system
describing the status of organizations that contribute to the warfighting
system. It is built around explicit measures of performance relative
to assigned standards, resources, and force sustainment. The system
-An evolution of the traditional input view.
ESORTS contains an empirical description of the quantity and quality
of resources for all units in the warfighting system. Units that
now report in the Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS)
will find that ESORTS metrics look much like the information used
to assign the SORTS scores of C1 (highest) through C4 (lowest).
-Mission assessments. ESORTS provides a vehicle
for each organization from individual units to combined forces to
report on its ability to achieve the performance standards of its
mission-essential tasks under the conditions of the assignments.
Commanders can compare their unit's actual performance for each
measure with the established criteria. With this information and
the resource data discussed above, they can assess the organization's
ability to accomplish individual tasks and the task list as a whole.
ESORTS is being developed as a combined effort
of the services, defense agencies, Joint Staff, and combatant commanders.
Its products (metrics describing various aspects of DOD health and
capability, both inputs and outputs, objective and evaluative) will
be directly reported throughout the Department and used to support
contingency sourcing and adaptive planning.
The Inputs: Building on SORTS
ESORTS begins with the same basic information
that underlies GSORTS. However, it more explicitly uses and disseminates
detailed measures of the quality and quantity of resources such
as personnel, training, ordnance, major weapons systems, and supplies.
For example, it lists the rank, skills, and certifications for all
individuals assigned to each reporting organization. Users can view
this information in aggregate, or drill down to the individual level.
Similar data are provided for other resource measures.
The system also contains information on whether
individuals meet medical, legal, and administrative deployment criteria.
It contains records of past theater deployments (and mobilizations
in the case of Reserve forces). This information helps ensure departmental
compliance with existing rules governing how often military members
can be recalled for the same operation.
ESORTS requires information from each level
of the operational hierarchy, not just the basic tactical-level
units. For example, Navy aircraft squadrons would report as they
always have, but the battle group and any joint task force, standing
or ad hoc, would give an accounting as well. These higherlevel forces
will report on the combined readiness and capabilities of their
component units and on the command staff that runs that combined
Support entities and the Defense agencies have
not used this type of reporting system in the past; under ESORTS,
they will report information relevant to their mission-the support
of the warfighter. The capabilities of these support organizations
should be reflected in DRRS because they hold important data on
assets or services that are available to sustain operations.
One of the goals guiding development of the
Defense Readiness Reporting System is to take advantage of modern
information technology to reduce the reporting burden of operational
units. Because DRRS aims to take full advantage of existing information
systems, it will not require a unit to enter data for ESORTS that
it has already entered in another system. It will take what it needs
from those existing data sources, allowing units to double-check
the information and write in comments. This relieves the units and
serves as a built-in test for accuracy. The DRRS, like many databases
throughout DOD, will be accessible on a secure Web site to facilitate
reporting and use of these data.
The most common way to answer the question
of whether an organization is capable of doing something is to avoid
the matter entirely and address the easier question of how many
resources the organization has. Answering the first question requires
the synthesis of complex, sometimes intangible factors that cannot
be replicated by a canned algorithm. That is why task and mission
assessments in DRRS are the professional judgments of commanding
officers and are not algorithmically derived. If leaders are appointed
on the premise that they are qualified to create a fit, capable
force, they should be qualified to assess the capability of that
force, and those assessments should have value.
In simple terms, to assess a task or mission,
commanders must judge whether they can perform a particular task
today-yes or no. The overall assessment for the mission those tasks
comprise is also yes or no. These evaluations will enable force
managers to quickly address the status of organizations for use
in a variety of operational environments and assist them in choosing
which units can be deployed quickly or need immediate training or
resources for follow-on mission requirements.
Unfortunately, there will be a fair degree
of inconsistency in the assessments -an inescapable characteristic
of evaluative judgments. Some assessments will be higher or lower
than anticipated (based, say, on seemingly comparable units). Having
higher echelons base their status on lower echelon reports should
improve the integrity of individual assessments. Higher levels would
naturally reconcile information from subordinate commands in forming
a coherent organizational report.
Seeming inconsistencies between mission assessments
and resource accounting data may reflect important issues, such
as resource stress or negative synergies that tend to be difficult
to observe and document. The combination of commanders' assessments
and resource data in ESORTS will identify specific deficiencies
that could be masked if resources were merely monitored in aggregated
bundles, such as equipment and personnel.
Crisis Planning and Contingency Sourcing
ESORTS answers the question of whether forces
are capable of conducting assigned missions and tasks, but history
tells us that no plan is executed without major revision. Current
events add the lesson that the ability to adapt forces quickly is
the best strategy for managing uncertainty. DOD must ensure that
the Armed Forces not only can conduct the operations they regularly
plan for, such as those comprising the National Military Strategy,
but also that they can respond to severe and unanticipated crises.
The Department does not have the option of turning down missions,
and that makes preparing for and assessing the risks of tomorrow's
force requirements a matter of exploring margins and alternatives.
Currently, the DRRS contains applications that
support contingency sourcing. These provide managers a nascent ability
to find forces and individuals to meet user-specified requirements.
The applications can be used not only to identify forces that are
immediately qualified and able to support operations, but also to
provide information on forces that are nearly qualified in terms
of their current resource status or their possession of similar
skills or capabilities. Force providers such as JFCOM are guiding
the development of these applications.
Future reporting systems will contain applications
that support risk assessments and the adaptive planning process.
These applications will provide the means to match available units
to plans, monitor unit capabilities, conduct risk analyses, and
revise plans-all within days or weeks rather than months or years,
the current standard. In other words, these applications will allow
force managers to query the forces (and their corresponding capabilities)
that have not been consumed by current operations and see how far
they go toward meeting the demands of additional operations. Managers
will also have the ability to adapt current plans to suit emerging
conditions or accommodate a capability deficiency. The common attributes
of these applications are that they begin with the current capability
profiles furnished through ESORTS and provide the means to evaluate
these profiles against alternative demand scenarios in a matter
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