Leveraging Machine Learning in Defense Personnel Analyses

May, 2021
IDA document: P-13174
FFRDC: Systems and Analyses Center
Type: Documents , Human Capital
Division: Strategy, Forces and Resources Division
Julie A. Lockwood, Alan B. Gelder, Matthew S. Goldberg, Jennifer T. Brooks, George M. Prugh See more authors
Leaders in government and industry are bombarded with opportunities to apply machine learning and other “big data” techniques. Reaping the benefits of these advances and avoiding missteps requires that leaders understand what these techniques can and cannot provide. Paired with illustrative examples from defense personnel research, we describe policy applications for several machine learning techniques, organized by the type of question asked: “what?”, “how?” or “why?”, and “what if?” This structure can be applied to nearly any topic area. Machine learning techniques offer to dramatically expand researchers’ ability to capture intricate dimensions of human decision-making in complex models. We offer recommendations to assist leaders in making effective and judicious use of these techniques.