INFORMS, MORS Praise DoD Counter-Insurgency Report on Using Analytics, Operations Research in Afghanistan

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HANOVER, MD, June 1, 2011- The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) and Military Operations Research Society (MORS) today commended the U.S. Defense Department Board Task Force on Defense Intelligence for a report recommending, in part, that operations research (O.R.) and advanced analytics methods be harnessed to improve counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and other theaters.

“While the current challenges are certainly unique, one must draw upon the lessons learned on how to apply O.R. to [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] challenges,” the report says.

Major General (retired) Richard O’Lear, co-chair of the Task Force and President/CEO of Sage Intelligence Associates, added, “I’m a strong proponent of O.R. and hope the government will begin to use it more as the budget process forces us to make some major cuts.”

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Hear an INFORMS Science of Better podcast interview with Gen. O'Lear here.

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The presidents of INFORMS and MORS spoke highly of the report’s sections on operations research.

“As intelligence agencies collect massive amounts of data about threats to the U.S. and its allies, they need sophisticated ways to sift through all this information, identify what is vital, detect patterns, and use these lessons to make the best decisions for actions to pursue, sometimes under resource or otherwise constrained circumstances,” said Rina Schneur, President of INFORMS. “Operations research and advanced analytics have demonstrated that they can – and should – play such an important role in crucial intelligence decisions.”

Terry McKearney, President MORS, said, “The Task Force’s findings underscore our feelings that the discipline of operations research can serve the full range of efforts needed to meet the growing threats our nation faces today. MORS has highlighted the need for new analytic tools to support such contemporary problems as counter intelligence and our activities over the past few years have helped our members develop new approaches to addressing these problems. It’s gratifying to see that commanders in the field and professionals in other fields are realizing the contribution O.R. can bring to the successful accomplishment of the mission.”

Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Intelligence: Counterinsurgency (COIN) Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations is dated February, 2011 and was published on May 19. It was commissioned by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper during his tenure as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

The report’s executive summary says it was commissioned in response to Major General Michael T. Flynn’s 2010 critique of military intelligence in Afghanistan and the shortfall in serving the needs of high level decision-makers.

“It is important to recognize the intensity of the resource limitations under which the DoD is operating, the growing severity of these limitations, and the enormous costs to sustain current operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere,” says the report. “However, improvements modest in their cost can be undertaken immediately. These improvements include more use of systems analysis, operations research, and planning efforts to improve the efficiencies of TTPs [tactics, techniques, and procedures] and limited ISR resources, and better inter-Service coordination…”

In 2009, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Intelligence: Operations Research Applications for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) recommended that defense intelligence officials take greater advantage of the advanced analytics methods that are a hallmark of operations research.

The INFORMS journal Operations Research published two key studies cited in the current report: “Confronting Entrenched Insurgents” by Edward H. Kaplan, Moshe Kress and Roberto Szechtman, and “Why Defeating Insurgencies is Hard: The Effect of Intelligence in Counterinsurgency Operations – A Best Case Scenario” by Moshe Kress and Roberto Szechtman.

Dr. Les Servi of MITRE, the former treasurer of INFORMS, served on the Task Force. INFORMS members Jack Keane of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and Dr. Dan Maxwell of KaDSCI LLC also served. Those interviewed during preparation of the report include retired General Stanley McChrystal, the former Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and Michael Vickers, who currently serves as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

About INFORMS

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) is an international scientific society with 10,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, financial engineering, and telecommunications. INFORMS serves the scientific and professional needs of operations research analysts, experts in analytics, consultants, scientists, students, educators, and managers, as well as their institutions, by publishing a variety of journals that describe the latest research in operations research. INFORMS Online (IOL) is at www.informs.org. Further information about operations research can be found at www.scienceofbetter.org.

About MORS

The Military Operations Research Society (MORS) is a nonprofit professional association that has proudly served the Department of Defense analytic community for over forty years and now also includes other aspects of national security in our government. Under the sponsorship of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and the Department of Homeland Security, the objective of MORS is to enhance the quality and effectiveness of operations research as applied to national security issues. Members of the Society include a cross section of the best defense analysts, operators and managers from government, industry and academia. Their involvement fosters professional interchange within the military operations research community, the sharing of insights and information on challenging national security issues and specific support to decision makers in the many organizations and agencies that address national defense. MORS provides an array of meetings and publications to expose our members to the broad spectrum of thought by distinguished analysts and senior members of our community. In particular, the Society provides a unique environment in which classified presentations and discussions can take place with joint service participation and peer criticism from the full range of students, theoreticians, practitioners and users of military analysis. More information on MORS can be found at www.mors.org.

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