Adaptability Preparing for and Coping with Change in a World of Uncertainty

September, 2013
IDA document: P-5069
FFRDC: Systems and Analyses Center
Type: Documents
Division: Strategy, Forces and Resources Division , Cost Analysis and Research Division
William R. Burns, Jr. See more authors
This paper emphasizes the importance of adaptability in a security environment characterized by uncertainty, constant change, and the inability to predict where and how the military will be called upon in the future. The paper establishes a foundation by citing the call for adaptability by both military and civilian leaders over a period of several decades. While suggesting examples of where the military has adapted well or been slow to adapt in the past, the paper emphasizes the importance of (1) giving precise definition to the word and (2) developing a greater understanding of exactly what adaptability means and offers in relation to people, organizations, systems, and processes. It contends that the Department of Defense (DOD) would benefit greatly from a well-defined and dedicated effort to analyze a wide range of adaptabilityrelated issues and their relevance to the various functional aspects of DOD. The paper suggests that while DOD has, in fact, shown it can and does adapt, a concerted effort to (1) better understand what it means to be adaptable and (2) enhance adaptable performance across the department has significant potential for saving lives and money and advancing the nation’s security interests more effectively in the future. The paper concludes with a proposal for developing and executing a multi-year program of cross-cutting research that has the support and participation of a broad-based community of interest within DOD.