As I (Michael C) am wont to do, I alleged in yesterday’s post that the Army doesn’t employ any operations researchers or management scientists. Since I didn’t see any OR people during in Afghanistan or working at a battalion, brigade or group, I assumed they probably don’t exist.
As I wrote this, though, I knew it wasn’t 100% true.
The Army has a handful, but they mostly do work on human resources or weapons testing, in a branch of careers called “Operations Research/System Analysts”. I mean, it’s right there in the title! (In classic Army form, they had to add two letters to the acronym.)
“The Operations Research/Systems Analysis (ORSA) functional area encompasses the application of analytic methods to the solution of varied and complex strategic, operational, and managerial defense issues....ORSA techniques are important decision support tools, and analysis grounded in objective ORSA techniques provides decision makers with a quantitative basis for the evaluation of decision options. ORSA officers frequently bridge the gap among military, science, and management activities.”
The website goes on to describe how ORSA-selected officers work in personnel, combat and general applications of operations research methods.
While ORSA officers exist, they never make it down to the level which needs them the most: operational levels like division, brigade and battalion. The regular Army (think brigades on down) doesn’t interact or incorporate cutting edge research.
Instead, operations researchers exist in the bureaucratic world of the Pentagon, theorizing about hypothetical conflicts with future (possibly fictional) enemies. Look at the list of jobs on the About.com website: “Military Assistant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Army”, “Analyst in Army Materiel Systems Analysis Agency”, and “Analyst in Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM)”. Those aren’t positions helping the troops; they’re positions writing reports in an office buried deep in some wing of the Pentagon.
The gigantic disconnect between cutting-edge Pentagon research and the troops who who could use that research disappoints but doesn’t surprise me. In a few weeks, I plan to start a series on using statistics, Bayes Theorem and other advanced analytical techniques. I can already envision a lot of commenters saying, “But we used Bayes Theorem to crack the Enigma code!” Or, “I had a friend at the Multi-National Corps Headquarters in Iraq who used logistic regression to plan IED sweeps!”
But exceptions don’t disprove the rule: the U.S. Army doesn’t incorporate operations research into its daily garrison and combat operations.
Yeah, the Pentagon has some cool toys and has some operations researchers and management scientists. But regular units--the ones performing 95% of patrols and providing 90% of intelligence and doing 99% of the work--don’t have those tools. I didn’t have (or use) them in Afghanistan.
That’s why I ask where the management scientists have gone. They didn’t disappear from the Army, but they disappeared from combat.