Applicability of the Law of Requisite Variety in major military system acquisition
Santiago, Juan R. Jr.
Cusack, Steven R.
Dillard, John T.
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In 2005, the U.S. military found itself inadequately prepared with doctrine and materiel to wage counterinsurgency operations in Iraq. As the insurgency adapted to American tactics, the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) became a target of the insurgency because of its lack of armor, which led to significant casualties caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The U.S. response to the IED threat to HMMWVs was to procure the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, a costly endeavor. The MRAP increased Soldier and Marine survival rates during IED attacks, but other aspects of the vehicle contradicted counterinsurgency strategy. Because of its survivability, leaders expected tactical commanders to use the MRAP, which reduced tactical commanders' variety of options to engage the enemy. This research explores the value of variety in major military systems by applying concepts from the Law of Requisite Variety and uses the MRAP as an example of a materiel solution throughout. Increasing system variety conflicts with current acquisition practices, which prefer commonality. This research finds that warfighter capabilities increase with variety, but variety is contra to achieving commonality and cost savings. To achieve a balance between commonality and variety, the authors suggest organizational and system hardware alternatives.
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