Ready For What?

Shaun Doheney, Chair of Resources and Readiness Applications
Connor McLemore, Chair of National Security Applications


For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The proverb “For Want of a Nail” describes how seemingly inconsequential details can lead to a disaster in military readiness, and is a valuable lesson for us all.  For those of us who make decisions or support decision-making involving risks or uncertainty, we need to have an answer to the question, “are we ready?”  Of course, that question should almost always be followed by the question, “ready for what?”  Are we ready to respond to the next natural disaster?  Are we ready to mitigate market volatility?  Is our energy infrastructure ready to handle the increased demand this summer?  Is our city ready for the expected increased growth over the next five years?

We (Connor McLemore and Shaun Doheney) have had military Operations Research experience, and have been working with Dr. Sam Savage here at on an improved representation of military readiness. This provides a framework that we believe is useful, logically consistent, and most importantly is simple enough for adoption by military decision makers and those support such decision-making. As a poster child of poor military planning see the PowerPoint and Excel model describing the failed mission to rescue the American hostages in Iran in 1980.


One of the key components to this readiness representation framework is the ability to roll up readiness in a logical, mathematically sound, and intuitive way.  To paraphrase Dr. Savage in his recent blog titled, Why Was Available?, if squadron A has a 60% chance of accomplishing the mission and squadron B has a 70% chance, then if we send them both is there a 130% chance of success?

Recent improvements in our ability to account for uncertainty allow us to rethink approaches to representing military readiness.  To demonstrate our approach, we’ve created a few prototype models that you may download here


We hope that you’ll join us during the upcoming Military Operations Research Society (MORS) Symposium when we give presentations and a tutorial on this work.  While improved readiness accounting across the military and business or enterprises will likely be an evolutionary process with inputs from numerous stakeholders, the key in almost all situations is to “start small and reinforce success,” as Shaun likes to say.  And as Connor likes to say, “Go Navy; beat Army!”  But that’s a blog for another time!

© 2019