• November 29, 2021

The ability to win wars, by James Thompson

The Rand Corporation took a look at the factors that led to the war’s effect and found that capacity was a key factor. Thanks to commenter Mac Tonight for the link.

Determinants of the productivity of military personnel: review of the results on the contribution of experience, training and aptitude to military performance
Jennifer kavanagh
Prepared for the Secretary of Defense. Approved for public disclosure; unlimited distribution, 1981.


The report reviewed previous studies where experience and training were evaluated while service personnel performed various tasks. The historical trends they identified were toward a more cognitively demanding and technically sophisticated type of warfare, which will have made their conclusions even more relevant to today’s war. The report illustrates a general principle that holds true in all settings: Success is more likely in any company if brilliant people are recruited.

We know from previous work on training, summarized by Linda Gottfredson, that the brightest recruits complete training faster, better, and then apply that training more quickly in new situations. The brightest recruits learn faster and apply better. Therefore, the training is not exactly what it seems. It is not a uniform causal variable. It can be completed faster with brighter recruits and can be applied faster and more widely. For that reason, although training is required, it does not follow that further training will propel lower-skill recruits to the brightest levels of people, not in this lifetime anyway. However, training has an effect and skimping on it reduces performance.

All recruits take the Armed Forces Qualification Test, and this can be used to classify soldiers into five categories, from the brightest down: I, II, IIIA, IIIB, IV. The first three grades are above average, the last two below average.

In the aircraft carrier landing exercise, for example, people were scored on a seven-point scale, ranging from dangerous to excellent. The effect of a 10 percent decrease in professional training hours led to a 10 percent increase in the number of unsatisfactory landings, from 14 to 24 percent of the total, and a 5 percent decrease in the number of excellent landings, at 28 percent. of flights.

Winkler, Fernandez, and Polich (1992) analyzed the relationship between AFQT and the performance of three-person teams in communication tasks, including commissioning a system and troubleshooting the system to identify faults. They find a significant relationship between the group’s average AFQT score and their performance in both activities. In the first task, they find that if the average AFQT group shrinks from the midpoint of category IIIA to the midpoint of category IIIB, the probability that the group will successfully operate the system drops from 63 percent to 47 percent. . Similar results are found for the problem-solving task; the probability that a group will identify three or more failures decreases dramatically as the average AFQT score decreases. Another important observation is that the effect of AFQT is additive, meaning that each additional member of the high-scoring team increases the overall performance of the team. This is particularly important in the military context, given the number of group-centered tasks that the military must complete.

On page 27, the author turns to measures of mental ability. Once again, the Armed Forces Qualification Test ranks soldiers into five categories, from the brightest down: I, II, IIIA, IIIB, IV.

AFQT and experience appear to be fundamentally different measures of quality. While AFQT measures an individual’s innate ability, experience considers staff performance and the level of skill that develops and manifests itself over time. This relationship is important from the perspective of our discussion because AFQT as a proxy for personnel quality can be used to guide military recruitment and requirements determination and can aid in the development of a more effective and profitable military structure.

Tank crews do best when drivers and gunners are at their brightest:

For example, they find that an increase in the AFQT score from category IV to category IIIA leads to a 20.3 percentage point improvement in performance. A similar increase in AFQT for the gunner in the same exercise will lead to a performance increase of 34 percentage points. These results are consistent with the arguments that the AFQT score is an effective indicator of staff quality and that having a force comprised of staff with higher AFQT scores contributes to more effective and accurate team performance.

A study by Winkler, Fernandez, and Polich (1992) offers additional evidence and support for this finding. The authors examine the relationship between the AFQT score and the performance of two communication activities. The sample included 84 active duty signal battalion groups and 240 teams recently graduated from the Signal Center’s Advanced Individual Training (AIT) course. In the first task, teams of three were asked to put a communication system into operation. In the second, the teams were expected to identify and repair a series of failures in the communication system.

The model predicts that for active duty units with an average AFQT in the mid-point of category IIIA, there is a 63 percent chance that the unit will successfully operate the system in the allotted time. However, if the average AFQT falls to the midpoint of category IIIB, the probability of successful completion drops to 47 percent.

The authors also note that adding another member with a high score to the team improved the likelihood of success by approximately 8 percent. This suggests that the effect of AFQT on group performance is additive. This finding is significant for an assessment of the optimal force mix because it implies that AFQT continues to make a difference in team performance even when the contribution of a second or third team member is considered.

Orvis, Childress, and Polich (1992) used controlled trials to assess how the AFQT score related to various aspects of air defense and the operation of the Patriot air defense system. The study included several types of air defense situations: point defense, asset defense, missile conservation, area defense, and a mixed defense scenario (Table 4.3).

Service members were also tested on their tactical assassinations / success in air-to-air combat and their overall survivability on the battlefield.

The authors argue that their results show a significant relationship between the AFQT score and the results of air battles or defense scenarios, both in terms of knowledge assessed through written tests and performance in simulations. The authors compared the effects of several explanatory variables, including AFQT score, years of operator experience, unit member, and simulation training every 10 days. They found that AFQT demonstrated more significant relationships with simulation results than any of the other variables. In an effort to quantify the effect of AFQT on performance in their model, the authors note that the effect of a one-level change in the AFQT category appeared to equal or exceed the effect of an additional year of operator experience, as well as the performance effect. additional training in simulation.

Keep in mind that intelligence counts for a little more than an additional year of experience. Clearly, the recruitment of the brightest soldiers accelerates the creation of a successful army. Having many recruits who cannot learn to use technology can mean that the military will never be able to function properly.

In his summary, the author notes that armies are now smaller and more reliant on technology. I think this is relevant for Afghanistan. The United States tried to train an army, but found that it could not operate or maintain complicated weaponry. When US specialists left a few weeks ago (apparently without sufficient warning), the regime’s Afghan army found itself unable or unwilling to fight without the air cover they had relied on. The Taliban, on the other hand, had weapons that were effective because they were simple and reliable. The political mistake was to assume that the training would be sufficient for the Afghans to be able to wage a technological war.

The most important political issue was to ignore the local way of doing business, which consisted of bribing and being bribed.

So the Afghan military accepted the salaries while the United States offered them, and when it became clear that their class of officers was not passing on their salaries, they accepted a lower but more credible long-term offer from their Taliban cousins, who had the Additional advantage of them do not have to die in combat.

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