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Marines maneuver to gain advantage. Photo by Cpl Jocelyn Ontiveros. Scales can range from company-level raids to large joint and combined phased operations. Inherent within such planning is a desire to ease uncertainty and identify structure within an often complex situation.
A relevant, precise analysis that explains these complexities is essential to success. Operations analysts within the military are trained and equipped to perform this task. The purpose of this article is to define how operations analysts can most effectively provide this support.
Background Operations analysis is a broad field of study often synonymously referred to as big data analytics, decision science, management science, operations research, or systems engineering.
For this article, operations analysis is defined as the quantitative study of problems to provide a rational basis for decision making. Operations analysts primarily use three specific tools for analysis.
The first tool, statistical analysis, is simply the use of data to draw correlations and inferences. Statistical analysis is wholly dependent on available data, and more is almost always better when it comes to data.
The second tool, optimization, is the maximization or minimization of a variable under a set of constraints. Optimization is often used to improve logistics throughput or aircraft scheduling. The last tool, simulation, uses mathematical models to experiment with a process. Simulation models are based on a set of actions and their associated probabilities.
They are commonly used to represent complex relationships between multiple processes that cannot be represented with traditional mathematical methods. Though largely thought of as experts of Microsoft Excel, operations analysts are much more than that. They combine a keen sense of understanding interactive systems with a highly proficient familiarity of mathematical modeling tools to provide relevance and context to numerical results.
Unfortunately, their skills are often misunderstood, and they can be underutilized. OAD is staffed with a combination of active duty Marines and civilians who hold advanced degrees in operations analysis. This pool of experienced analysts is likely serving on staffs where the use of MCPP is prevalent, so they are in the best position to support MCPP with operations analysis.
Operations analysts solve problems using the scientific method. Coincidentally, the MCPP is a research process that parallels the scientific method. Steps within the scientific method include formulating a research question, developing a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, analyzing the results, and presenting the conclusions.
These analysts can apply their technical skills to a great effect during the testing of the hypothesis.
This is where statistics, optimization, and simulation are used to prove or disprove an assertion. Using the scientific method as a framework, it follows that the most effective employment of an operations analyst during the MCPP is during the COA wargaming step.
Course of Action Wargaming A typical wargame is conducted on a large map where friendly and enemy actors take turns moving units and evaluating the outcomes. Each turn includes a friendly action, an enemy action, and a friendly counteraction.
Each action should include an analysis of the effects on each warfighting function. The wargame should expose concerns like logistical shortfalls, loss of tempo, overwhelming enemy strength, or key gaps in the awareness of the operational environment.
The goal of wargaming is not for either side to outwit the other but rather to methodically conceptualize each of the major actions of the operation, analyze significant details, and improve the plan.
In most cases, a free-text journal of entries often called a wargaming synchronization matrix is the only output of this step in the MCPP. The foundation of this step is based on the results of the wargame.
Little analytical rigor supports most of the conclusions drawn from typical wargames, and many practitioners find the step to be fruitless altogether for this reason. Several opportunities exist for operations analysts to improve this process.Maan Vision, we work each and every day to help people live better lives.
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