The Commonwealth Institute is an independent, nongovernmental public policy research center located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. The Institute is an operating program of the Commonwealth Foundation, an unendowed nonprofit corporation registered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, USA.

The lead project at the Commonwealth Institute is Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA). PDA was founded in 1991 to develop an independent critical perspective on U.S. defense policy with a special focus on strategy and the structure of the armed forces.

What I like about PDA is that closely analyze and follow trends in US Defense spending and they come up with alternatives that can save money in the budget, increase efficiency of utilizing resources, or even avoid unnecessary deployment of troops. I would love to work for such think tank because not only it can make military more efficient, but also question the necessity of starting new operations. Although PDA emphasizes the reformulation of US defense policy, PDA has also contributed to the defensive restructuring of NATO armed forces in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the developing.

One of the PDA reports I read was talking about the increased spending of the USAF and potential mismatch between the utilization of resources and provided service. The reports shows that the changes in budget and force levels since 1990 have been greater for the Army-Air Force team than for the Navy-Marine Corps, and the Army-Air Force team has carried most of the responsibility for those deployments that have drawn congressional attention.

After identifying the problem, PDA described the methods they used to evaluate the resources utilization, specifically the “readiness” of the USAF. For example, they approached readiness problems by treating a service as if it were analytically a “black box” into which resources flow and out of which comes operational activity. In this view, readiness indicators are like external gauges on the box. A decline in these indicators simply expresses a mismatch between the flow of resources and activity. Problems can be resolved directly by either increasing resources, reducing activity, or both. Picture below compare the decline in the overall readiness and Air Combat Command readiness.

Figure 4: USAF and ACC Mission Capable Rate History as of 5 January 1999

Using these kind of methods, PDA managed to raise public awareness of inefficient use of resources in USAF. PDA proposed that some combination of the personnel management reforms and the increased production of new pilots already in the works should allow the Air Force to increase efficiency without extraordinary new investments that were being planed in white house. The level of readiness was raised in the year of 2000 simply by employing active-duty reserve officers that helped balance inventories and requirements planned for United States Air Force.

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4 responses »

  1. Paul Martin says:

    I definitely agree with you that this would be a pretty neat think tank to work for. Not only because it deals with a pretty interesting aspect of our government, but also because the military in its various forms is often a hot topic, especially in the past decade. America has a long standing history of non-interventionism (not to be confused with isolationism), but it is tough to think about that when we seem to be meddling in issues all over the globe. Not that its a controversial issue, but the amount of money that America spends on its military resources is absolutely ridiculous. If you tally up the total amount of money that is spent by the entire world on military activities, America alone accounts for 43% of that. I think a think tank such as PDA is working to a great end, calling out the government in an obvious and legitimate way.

  2. Hannah says:

    I think you bring up a good point with how the think tank decides on how best to utilize resources and manage the budget so that we have the most efficient defense system. Even better, how they are exploring alternative methods to defense rather than just deploying troops. As Paul mentioned above, military spending and what actually goes on in the military has been a popular topic in the last decade or so, and although I don’t have a particularly strong opinion on the subject, I know that some people do and hate the current system. It certainly would be a neat think tank to work for because you’re exploring alternatives that impacts our entire country as a whole. There is no doubt that the work and research of this think tank would be valuable, and is has the potential to have possible the greatest impact as opposed to other changes in policies, actions etc. in other topics.

  3. Marko says:

    wow, I didn’t know that America alone accounts for 43% of total money by the entire world spent on military. That is almost mindblowing. Well, I guess it makes sense since a significant portion of US Budget every year goes for Defense. Although, you might start calling it “Offense”, since no war has ever been led on American soil (not including the Civil War). lol. Anyways, I really loved this think tank because it explores the war alternatives. I came from the country that went through whole bunch of wars in last 1000 years and I believe many things can be sorted out by using alternatives instead of brute force.

  4. brookeparker16 says:

    The military budget is an issue where I am constantly debating with myself. I grew up in a pretty big military family to the extent where we call the remote control “the commander.” Everyone on my dad’s side of the family has been in the military except for my generation of cousins. Because of this I grew up with a pretty pro-military stance; however, I can’t help but feel the military budget is ridiculous. I’m glad you mentioned this specific think tank because I will look into this. I want to make my own informed decision and not just relying on my dad’s stance. If I do not end up agreeing with my dad (and everyone else in my family) I want to have real data to make myself up. The idea that there are alternatives we are not pursuing seems crazy!

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