Cost of Creating a Data Base

Invariably, especially with a new book coming out (War by Numbers), I expected to get requests for copies of our data bases. In fact, I already have.

Back around 1987 or so, a very wise man (Curt Johnson, VP of HERO) estimated that for the LWDB (Land Warfare Data Base) that it took 3 man-days to create an engagement. The LWDB was the basis for creating many of our later data bases, including the DLEDB (Division Level Engagement Data Base). My experience over time is that this estimate is low, especially if your are working with primary sources (unit records) for both sides. I think it may average more like 6 man-days an engagement if based upon unit records (this includes the time to conduct research).

But going with Curt’s estimate, let’s take the DLEDB of 752 cases and re-create it. This would take 3 man-days times 752 engagements = 2,256 man-days. This is 9 man-years of effort. Now 9 man-years times a loaded professional rate. A loaded man-year is the cost of a person’s labor times indirect costs (vacation, SS and Medicare contributions, health insurance, illness, office space, etc.), general and administrative costs (corporate expenses not included in the indirect costs, including senior management and marketing), and any fee or profit. Loaded rate is invariably at least 60% of the direct costs and usually closer to 100% of direct costs (and I worked at one company where it was 200% of direct costs). So a loaded man-year may be as low at $120,000 a year but for people like RAND or CNA, it is certainly much higher. Nine man-years times $120,000 = $1,080,000.

Would it really cost more than a million dollars to re-created the DLEDB? If one started from scratch, certainly. Probably (much) more, because of all the research into the Ardennes and Kursk that we did as part of those database projects. The data bases were created incrementally over the course of more than 30 years as part of various on-going contracts and efforts. We also had a core group of very experienced personnel who were doing this.

Needless to say, if any part of the data base is given away, loaned out, or otherwise not protected, we loose control of the “proprietary” aspect of these data bases. This includes the programming and formatting. Right now, they are unique to The Dupuy Institute, and for obvious business reasons, need to remain so unless proper compensation is arranged.



P.S. The image used is from the old Dbase IV version of the Kursk Data Base. We have re-programmed it in Access.


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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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  1. You should hire cheese eating surrender monkeys then.

    Work like this generates little attention and interest – impossible to get crowdfunded or that it will see high investment interest, sadly. Perhaps you should introduce a fee or payments from all TDI forum members.

    At least its not MS-DOS anymore 😀

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