Research & Debate: Prediction
Hughes, Wayne P. Jr.
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The predictive power of experts, operations analysis, and the value of information are interwoven subjects that are hard to winnow down to an essence. Prediction is a big subject, so I have limited this article to what I know best: the operational and tactical domains of conventional warfare. First you will read three examples of limitations of predictions when they are formed on the basis of information alone. Next I will demonstrate that even a modest amount of quantitative analysis, even with incomplete information, can help a decision maker execute a military campaign without making explicit predictions about the coming battles or operations. Analysts cannot eliminate wartime surprises, but they can help to avoid the worst mistakes and steer military leaders toward better decisions. I will conclude by advocating what is too rarely done: the comparison of quantitative campaign analysis done before a war with what actually transpired in the war, to show that useful—even critically important—advice can be formulated very quickly to help decision makers. On one hand, intense thinking about the war is necessary; on the other hand, expert judgment alone should be augmented with simple, transparent, timely—even if incomplete—quantitative analysis.
The article of record as published may be found at https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/nwc-review/vol73/iss1/8
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