System Trade Studies

SED is often called upon to assist the Office of the Secretary of Defense and other sponsors in determining investment portfolios:  what types and numbers of systems to buy. These analyses typically compare the technical performance, operational considerations, and cost of pursuing different acquisition alternatives and examine the warfighting capabilities, redundancies, and complementary offered by different combinations of systems in potential military scenarios of interest. Some selected recent SED projects are briefly described below along with the publication year of the associated report.

  • Weapon Utility — IDA conducted analyses that considered the implications of removing cluster munitions from the U.S. military inventory in accordance with a 2008 DoD policy memorandum. In analysis for the Joint Chiefs of Staff J-8, we examined potential capability gaps and corresponding mitigation strategies related to the removal of such munitions from the U.S. Air Force inventory. For the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, we examined the utility of the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires missile – the replacement for the Army Tactical Missile System – in a U.S. European Command-related scenario. (2015, 2016)
  • Brownout Rotorcraft Enhancement System (BORES) — IDA analyzed rotorcraft mishaps for the BORES analysis of alternatives for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff J-8 to help inform decision-makers about the cost-effectiveness of BORES.  We examined historical data on accidents involving helicopters and other rotorcraft when pilots’ visibility was restricted by dust or sand (brownout), as well as the cost of notional U.S. Army helicopter operations using the BORES anti-brownout system. (2015)
  • Domestic Fixed-Wing Airlift — In our analysis of fixed-wing airlift requirements for the U.S. National Guard Bureau and the Air National Guard, IDA modeled airlift operations to estimate the number of fixed-wing cargo aircraft that would be needed to support a federal response to notional regional domestic emergencies, including major earthquakes and a terrorist nuclear attack. (2016)
  • The tactical aircraft (TACAIR) manned/unmanned mix in irregular warfare project for the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) used data from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to examine the advantages and disadvantages of using different mixes of manned and unmanned tactical aircraft in irregular warfare campaigns. (2011)
  • The joint airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) force mix project for the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) examined which mix of ISR aircraft types would maximize the ISR capability provided in several different military scenarios. (2010)
  • The joint command and control (JC2) analysis of alternatives for the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (DoD CIO) compared several alternatives for capability improvement and legacy capability migration within the joint command and control family of systems to a baseline (status quo) acquisition approach. (2012)
  • The C-130 avionics modernization analysis for the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD(AT&L)) compared the cost-benefit trades of different alternatives for upgrading and modernizing the avionics of the C-130H aircraft fleet. The project also investigated the potential impact of diminishing manufacturing sources on future operating costs and flight navigation requirements. (2013)
  • Graphic on Outsized Cargo. Text that follows explains.One method of deciding between different alternatives when making an acquisition decision is to compare the benefits provided by the alternatives to their financial costs. This figure shows, for 25 different notional military airlift fleets of different aircraft composition, the estimated amount (in kilotons) of present-day U.S. Army trucks the fleet could deliver in 30 days versus the 25-year cumulative cost (in billions of U.S. dollars) of buying and maintaining the fleet. Similar plots may be used to explore the sensitivity of the results to assumptions about the type of cargo, the cargo loading scheme, or the delivery time.

    The two horizontal green lines show the lower-bound airlift fleet cargo delivery requirement derived from the Department of Defense’s Mobility Requirements Study (MRS) and the planned amount of cargo delivered according to the Time-Phased Force Deployment Data (TPFDD) cargo delivery schedule. The vertical green line highlights the cost of the status quo (“programmed”) airlift fleet comprised of 120 C-17 aircraft (Alternative 1). The diagonal green “equal cost effectiveness” line indicates the line on which the benefit-cost ratio of an alternative would equal the benefit-cost ratio of Alternative 1. (2009)