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Increasing Flexibility and Agility at the National Reconnaissance Office

Increasing Flexibility and Agility at the National Reconnaissance Office: Lessons from Modular Design, Occupational Surprise, and Commercial Research and Development Processes

Dave Baiocchi
Krista S. Langeland
D. Steven Fox
Amelia Buerkle
Jennifer Walters
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 88
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  • Book Info
    Increasing Flexibility and Agility at the National Reconnaissance Office
    Book Description:

    To help the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) become more flexible and agile in an increasingly uncertain world, RAND sought answers to two key questions: Would the NRO benefit from building modular satellites? What lessons might be drawn from how chief executive officers, military personnel, and health care professionals (among others) respond to surprise?

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8203-9
    Subjects: Technology, Business, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Summary
    (pp. vii-xii)

    The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) is now facing a larger number of unknown threats than at any other time in its history. During the Cold War, the IC faced one primary, well-identified threat, along with a few second-order concerns. Today, the biggest surprises facing the IC are likely to come from places of which the community may not even be aware.

    To help address these challenges, the Advanced Systems and Technology (AS&T) Directorate at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) asked RAND to perform research to help it develop strategic plans that will yield insights on becoming more flexible and adaptable....

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)—indeed, the entire U.S. Intelligence Community (IC)—faces an operational environment that is faster paced, more uncertain, and filled with more variables than it was even ten years ago. One of the biggest challenges facing the IC today is that it must confront unknown threats that continue to emerge from unexpected directions. This represents a dramatic contrast to the environment that the IC faced during the Cold War, where the challenges were (relatively speaking) less dynamic and better understood. As one way of addressing this problem, the NRO’s Advanced Systems and Technology (AS& T) Directorate...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Investigating the Suitability of Modularity Toward National Reconnaissance Office Space Systems
    (pp. 5-32)

    We will begin by looking at the first topic: modularity. We studied modularity because it represents one approach for creating systems that can adapt to change. This slide describes our research objective and method.

    As we will show, implementing a modular architecture provides the user with a system that is more easily modified to respond to external changes, but the ability to make these changes often comes at a cost of additional up-front systems engineering. The goal for our analysis was to take a first-order look at whether NRO systems are good candidates for modularity.

    To address this question, we...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Occupational Surprise
    (pp. 33-56)

    We now move on to the second research topic: What can we learn about agility by looking at how different occupations respond to surprise? Surprise is universal. Virtually all professionals must plan for and deal with unexpected events as part of their daily practice. This makes “occupational” surprise an attractive study topic because the lessons promise to apply broadly across a variety of professions, including the U.S. IC.

    Our work began with two basic questions about how people react to surprise:

    1. How can we become more adept at planning for an uncertain future?

    2. Are there lessons in how...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Organizational Mechanisms That Increase Responsiveness
    (pp. 57-62)

    For the last section of this report, we will describe some pilot research that looked at how other organizations run their research and development (R&D) processes. In the previous two sections, we examined ways that the NRO could allow its people and hardware to become more flexible. In this final section, we performed preliminary research on how an organization’s processes can be used to improve responsiveness. Our research on this topic was motivated by questions that were given to us by AS&T personnel: What methods have other organizations used to become more responsive? Are there observable similarities that could benefit...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Conclusions
    (pp. 63-68)

    We conclude this report by making some observations that tie all three topics together, and we present some ideas for future work. At first glance, all three of these research topics appear to be very different, but we did observe several common lessons throughout this project.

    The first observation is that modularity and innovative methods are not goals by themselves—they are tools for meeting a particular goal. No one sets out to make a modular architecture for the sake of making a modular system. A modular architecture is motivated by a set of user needs, which usually include a...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 69-72)