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Origin. Approach. People. Applications. Systems Analysis. Evolution. Evaluation. Bhavya Lal. Origins. developed in the 1950s at the RAND Corporation as part of a suite of techniques for supporting wartime assessments, in creating a “science of war”

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systems analysis





Systems Analysis



Bhavya Lal

  • developed in the 1950s at the RAND Corporation as part of a suite of techniques for supporting wartime assessments, in creating a “science of war”
    • to evaluate alternative nuclear weapons scenarios
      • next generation bomber aircraft
      • design of an air defense system
  • subsequently developed as a resource allocation methodology
    • publication of the 1960: “Economics of Defense in the Nuclear Age” by Charles Hitch and Roland McKean, economists at RAND
  • a rigorous, "rational" means of comparing the expected costs, benefits, and risks of alternative future systems--such as weapons systems--characterized by complex environments, large degrees of freedom, and considerable uncertainty.
  • the word 'systems' indicates that every decision should be considered in as broad a context as necessary . . . the word 'analysis' emphasizes the need to reduce a complex problem to its component parts for better understanding.
  • field quantitative (mathematical modeling) and qualitative, but goal is managerial decision-making
    • Operations Research
    • Game Theory
    • Probability and Statistics
    • Econometrics
    • Linear/dynamic Programming

(and later in social policy analysis)

    • Regression Analysis
    • Survey Research
    • Experimental Design
related concepts
Related Concepts
  • systems engineering (manage large projects),
    • ICBM design and development
  • operations research (analyze military operations)
    • military bombing raids
  • systems analysis (comparison of systems that offer alternative solutions to problems)
    • use of long-range bombers vs. ICBMs
  • system dynamics (models for predicting and comparing downstream consequences of outcomes of alternative policies)

SD a part of SA?

  • Early years – Military Applications
    • Charles Hitch
      • RAND and then Asst. Sec. for Defense
    • Alain Enthoven
      • RAND, and then Dep.Asst. Sec. for Defense
    • K. Wayne Smith
      • RAND
    • Robert McNamara
      • Sec of Defense, Kennedy/Johnson, Economist, Harvard MBA, Army Statistician, Ford Motor Company
early applications
Early Applications
  • Use by McNamara for streamlining the Department of Defense
    • established Office of Systems Analysis at the Pentagon
    • brought in the RAND “whiz kids”
    • approach met stiff opposition but eventually pressured the military to learn the methods and train their own staff
applications phase 1 mcnamara revolution
Applications Phase 1: McNamara Revolution
  • McNamara relied heavily on SA to reach several controversial weapons decisions
    • canceled the B-70 bomber and vetoed its proposed successor RS-70
    • increased focus on faster, less vulnerable and less costly ICBMs (rather than manned bombers)
    • terminated the Skybolt project (ballistic missile with 1000 nmile range designed for launching from B-52 bombers as a defense suppression weapon)
    • initiated and continued the TFX (later F-111 aircraft); based on SA awarded contract to General Dynamics – failed project
    • instituted a much-publicized cost reduction program which (he reported) saved $14 billion from 1961-1966
applications cont planning programming and budgeting
Applications (cont.): Planning, Programming, and Budgeting
  • McNamara instituted PPBS for
    • planning and reviewing requirements, formulating and reviewing multiyear programs, and developing the annual budget estimates
    • helping the Air Force manage the enormous costs of modern military technologies and weapons systems

In 1961 the PPBS methodology became one of the cornerstones of the "McNamara Revolution" in the Department of Defense

evolution of systems analysis
Evolution of Systems Analysis
  • Early 60s saw migration of primary national concerns away from global nuclear warfare toward counterinsurgency, limited warfare and social revolution
  • Connections between national security and social welfare began the next wave of applications; in 1965 President Johnson mandated PPBS use across the federal bureaucratic structure.
    • Charles Schultze (1965, Director of the Bureau of Budget) transferred PPBS from the Pentagon to social welfare agencies (Departments of Health, Education and Welfare, Office of Economic Opportunity etc)
proponents ii
Proponents II
  • Later years – Social Reform Analysis
    • Sargent Shriver
      • Task force on anti-poverty programs
    • Charles Schultze
      • Bureau of Budget
    • Henry Rowan
      • RAND
    • Roger Levian
      • RAND and IIASA
applications phase 2 policy analysis
Applications Phase 2- Policy Analysis
  • Establishment of new institutions for social policy analysis: the Urban Institute, IIASA, etc
  • Applications
      • health care: design and experimental testing of school voucher systems
      • education: design and experimental testing of health insurance systems
      • housing: analysis of rent control and the design of a housing allowance system
      • design of public systems for transportation, water supply and communications
      • international: global climate modeling
  • fundamentally altered the nature of decision-making in the Department of Defense (“civilianization” at DoD).
  • gave rise to a vast market for policy-oriented social science research; replaced political bargaining with technocratic expertise as the primary means of policy formulation;
  • but in the end, proved too fine-honed, too focused on technical and economic factors, to respond to the messy, politicized urban problems