Reflections on Net Assessment

October 4, 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation & Institute for Defense Analyses

Andrew W. Marshall, Edited by Jeffrey S. McKitrick and Robert G. Angevine

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Published by the Andrew W. Marshall Foundation (AWMF) and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), Reflections on Net Assessment features newly released interviews with Andy Marshall, one of the longest-serving defense intellectuals in the United States, including 25 years at the RAND Corporation and more than 40 years as the founding director of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Backed by their decades of experience working inside or supporting the Office of Net Assessment at the U.S. Department of Defense, editors Jeffrey S. McKitrick and Robert G. Angevine have woven together a description of Marshall’s place in the rapidly changing 20th century with interviews that defense analyst Kurt Guthe conducted with Marshall between 1993 and 1999. In these interviews, Marshall reflects on the themes that defined his career. He recounts his experience as an analyst among exceptional thinkers at the flourishing RAND Corporation during the Cold War and his work in national security and defense under six U.S. presidents. Readers gain insight into his basic beliefs about human endeavors, his view on the nature of competition between nations, and his strategy for exerting influence in the U.S. government.

Reflections on Net Assessment is an opportunity to learn about the intellectual history of net assessment in Andy Marshall’s own words. It is a unique primary source for students, experts, and anyone interested in national security and strategy.

The original interviews with Andrew Marshall upon which this book is based were funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation.

The Diffusion of Military Technology and Ideas


Stanford University Press

Read the Foreword by Andrew W. Marshall

About the Book

“As military forces across the globe adopt new technologies, doctrines, and organizational forms suited to warfare in the information age, defense practitioners and academic specialists are debating the potential consequences of the “revolution in military affairs.” The central question of this book is how such revolutions spread, to whom, how quickly, and with what consequences for the global balance of military power. The contributors to this volume—who include historians, political scientists, policy analysts, and sociologists—examine the diffusion of weapons technology, know-how, and methods of conducting military operations over the past two hundred years. The approach reflects the recent reawakening of interest in the relationship between culture and security.

The transition from the industrial age to the information age has impacted warfare much as it has other social institutions. Advances in precision weapons, surveillance satellites, robotics, and computer-based information processing, together with organizational changes that network military units, promise to create fundamentally new ways of war; the final outcome of the current revolution is unpredictable—as the North Korean missile program shows—but its global impact will hinge on how the revolution diffuses.”

Strategic Appraisal: The Changing Role of Information in Warfare


RAND Corporation

Contributors: Carl H. BuilderDavid C. GompertJohn ArquillaDavid RonfeldtMichele ZaniniJeremy ShapiroEdward R. HarshbergerDavid A. OchmanekBrian NichiporukStephen T. Hosmer, et al.

“Advances in information technology have led us to rely on easy communication and readily available information — both in our personal lives and in the life of our nation. For the most part, we have rightly welcomed these changes. But information that is readily available is available to friend and foe alike; a system that relies on communication can become useless if its ability to communicate is interfered with or destroyed. Because this reliance is so general, attacks on the information infrastructure can have widespread effects, both for the military and for society. And such attacks can come from a variety of sources, some difficult or impossible to identify. This, the third volume in the Strategic Appraisal series, draws on the expertise of researchers from across RAND to explore the opportunities and vulnerabilities inherent in the increasing reliance on information technology, looking both at its usefulness to the warrior and the need to protect its usefulness for everyone. The Strategic Appraisal series is intended to review, for a broad audience, issues bearing on national security and defense planning.”

The Korean Armistice Conference: A Personal Memoir


RAND Corporation

“In 1951, the late Herbert Goldhamer, a senior RAND analyst, spent several months as an adviser to the United Nations team that was negotiating with the North Koreans and the Chinese at Panmunjom. Long classified, this now historic document is an unedited transcript of the observations Goldhamer dictated immediately after his return. Intended to capture impressions while they were still fresh, this lively account was to be the raw material for a later more systematic analysis. It offers the reader a firsthand look, through the eyes of an astute observer, at the roles that interpersonal relations and culturally based perceptions play in diplomatic negotiations. The volume includes a Foreword by Andrew W. Marshall and an Introduction by Ernest R. May.”

Some Thoughts on Military Revolutions

August 23, 1993

Memorandum for the Record, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Made available by Stanford University

“The purpose of this memo is to put down some ideas about the nature and character of military revolutions and to record where my office is in developing a better understanding of the current, potential military revolution. I also want to put forward some ideas about what ought to be done in the next two or three years. I’m doing this following talks with Bill Perry and John Deutch. Both are quite interested in the notion that a military revolution may be underway, or may be possible. I want to go beyond what I talked about with them to a fuller description of what might be undertaken if they and other top-level officials become convinced that, in fact, we are in the early stages of a major change in the nature of warfare.”


Long-Term Competition with the Soviets: A Framework for Strategic Analysis


RAND Corporation

“A suggestion for a shift in focus on planning and programming U.S. strategic forces. Long-term analysis of the U.S.-Soviet competition should be concerned with both opponents, treating threats within that framework, searching for areas of possible U.S. advantage, and looking for weaknesses as well as strengths. Current analysis focuses solely on warding off potential Soviet difficulties and advantages. It is doubtful that forces on either side develop in accordance with simply stated national goals. Analysis should incorporate the tools of Bayesian analysis and two-sided, force-posture planning games, similar to SAFE and XRAY. It should develop more comprehensive U.S. positions on composition of strategic forces, SALT, arms-control issues, the nature of the strategic arms competition, and general U.S. objectives. By leading away from concentration on a single criterion, the analysis could gain some freedom in planning.”

Problems of Estimating Military Power


RAND Corporation

“Mere tabulations of military forces are not meaningful estimates of military power, which is always relative to the military posture of some other country or alliance. Until we understand the decisionmaking process within typical military bureaucracies and take account of the political balancing, coordination problems, information flow, conflicting objectives, etc., we cannot effectively forecast future military postures beyond the four to five years decisively determined by present military commitments and inertia. Models of the decisionmaking behavior of a military organization should treat it as an adaptively rational multi-objective process, rather than an omnisciently rational single-objective process like that shown in the SAFE force planning game. This paper was prepared for presentation to the American Political Science Meetings in New York, September 6-10, 1966. 22 pp.”

Determinants of NATO Force Posture


RAND Corporation

“A discussion of the political and economic factors that continue to keep Western Europe militarily weak despite the spending of almost twenty billion a year on defense. The author sees the major determining factors in the diversion of resources to national rather than alliance use, in diseconomies of scale, in the high production cost of weapons, and in underinvestment in new equipment.”

Cost/Benefit Analysis in Health


RAND Corporation

“Discussion of the economics of medical care and medical research. The author reviews the relevant research on the problem of cost benefit analyses in health (the focus is on the work of economists interested in the economic implications of improved health), and explores the likely requirements, difficulties, and opportunities for cost-effectiveness studies in government health programs. A sample program budget for health prepared by the Bureau of the Budget is included.”

The Deterrence and Strategy of Total War, 1959-1961: A Method of Analysis


RAND Corporation

“This study was primarily undertaken in order to develop additional methods for the analysis of deterrence and wartime strategy. The substantive conclusions are largely a by-product of the attempt to illustrate how the method of analysis operates. These substantive results are based on certain hypothetical numbers introduced to make clearer and more concrete the nature of the model employed.”