System Evaluation Division

Steve Warner, Director, System Evaluation DivisionThe longstanding mission of the System Evaluation Division (SED) is to provide high-quality analyses of the most challenging national security issues.  SED, IDA’s oldest research division, was originally established to undertake scientific analyses of weapon systems and new equipment and technologies and to assess operational data derived from combat and field exercises.  These types of classic “systems analyses” have remained a chief focus for SED studies, increasing in importance to our sponsors as contemporary defense systems have become more intricate and costly.  These systems can range from a single system (e.g., the Joint Strike Fighter) to multiple integrated systems (e.g., networked space situational awareness systems).

Topics We Examine

The topics we examine include the performance of individual air, land, sea, and space-based systems, new concepts or system architectures, and the effectiveness of various force mixes.  

Although the subjects of our research are always changing as a result of technological advances, newly recognized threats, and the continuously evolving international political environment, our mission remains constant: to provide a wide range of independent analyses for a variety of sponsors within the Department of Defense (DoD).

Topics examined by the System Evaluation Division invoke several of the core research and analytical capabilities of the IDA Systems and Analyses Center (SAC); typically more than one capability per topic. Four of these core research and analytical capabilities are shown at the right, mapped to eight SED Research Areas.

Technically Focused Researchers

SED’s technically focused researchers – 98 percent with advanced degrees in the physical sciences, engineering disciplines, or mathematics and 78 percent holding Ph.D. degrees – bring objective high-quality research and analysis to bear on the most critical national security issues.  Our research staff is particularly valued for its specialized analytical expertise.  Their analytical tool set includes the ability to examine the effectiveness of missions and forces, to develop and apply tailor-made modeling and simulation tools, to employ advanced data-mining techniques, and to conduct robust mathematical analysis.  Our sponsors rely on these strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as our ability to both dive deeply into detailed technical issues and to communicate the big picture, often to an audience with diverse backgrounds.  The results of our analyses are used to decide between competing systems, assess the readiness of developmental systems, set force and inventory levels, identify suitable concepts for employing systems in an operational environment, and evaluate cost effectiveness.

photo SED research staff discuss project





Steve Warner, Director, SED
System Evaluation Division6


 Independent and Unbiased Assessments

Known for our independent and unbiased assessments, the types of questions we may be asked to answer include the following:

  • How many B-52 bombers do we need in conjunction with our other aircraft?  How many can we eliminate from the inventory?  For those we keep, how much should we improve them?
  • What is the most capable and cost-efficient future launch architecture for defense and intelligence space payloads?
  • How do requirements on DoD space systems shape the national strategic position and how can the DoD choose requirements to better align with strategic posture goals? 
  • Are the Navy’s mine countermeasure systems that are currently in development adequate for the job in terms of reliability and mine clearance rate?  If not, what are the appropriate investments the Navy can make?  Which systems may cause delays?
  • How effective, operationally and in terms of cost, would sensors and Standard Missile-3 interceptors based in Europe be at defending the United States, U.S. forward-deployed forces, and Europe against a ballistic missile attack from the Middle East?