Monday, March 27, 2006

Battlefield Economics

Yahoo News is saying that soldiers in Iraq are rejecting new body armor. Too heavy, they say. The words of one soldier: "I understand the more armor, the safer you are. But it makes you slower. People don't understand that this is combat and people are going to die."

Well, they embarrassed Mr. Rumsfeld over this, but the fact is that there are diminishing returns associated with every resource invested in winning a war. Tradeoffs. People think that the protection of our soldiers is an obvious first priority. It certainly is, at least until 1) you have protected them enough, or 2) you jeopardize the mission, or 3) no significant additional benefit is being contributed.

Everything you do costs money and effort. Everything that is invested in one deliverable must come from, be subtracted from, some other potential deliverable. Yes, you can increase the overall level of spending, but once you do that, guess what! You now must allocate your larger resources among potential deliverables and something will have to be neglected. Another annoying fact of life is that each additional dollar allocated for the overall effort will have less impact than the previous dollar. It is true that resource allocations are often faulty, not as effective as they might be. Can you tell me what it takes to allocate resources more effectively?

Tanstaafl is more than a Danish pastry.

3/27/2006 12:57 AM

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At Monday, March 27, 2006 6:21:00 PM, Blogger mal said...

*L* I have not seen that expression since I last picked up Heinlein many moons ago

The same issues apply in any system design. The only way around it is to innovate out of the problem.

Unfortunately, in combat situations the innovations themselves are out innovated. I think that is why we are not still throwing rocks at each other

At Wednesday, March 29, 2006 6:41:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

When it comes to a battle of innovations, I have confidence that our guys will prevail. Hillbilly armor was one such innovation. They put slats sticking out so that the RPGs would explode 6 inches too soon. The only place where the enemy is outdoing us is in the propaganda sphere. Sanity makes us vulnerable to the ravings of the madmen.

I learned about TANSTAAFL from my seventh grade history teacher, who seemed to me as old as people could get. I felt like he might have learned it from his 7th grade history teacher.


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