This blog post is generated as a response to one of Richard Anderson’s comments to this blog post:

Validating Attrition

Richard Anderson used to work with me at Trevor Dupuy’s company DMSI and later at The Dupuy Institute. He has been involved in this business since 1987, although he has been away from it for over a decade.

His comment was: “Keep fighting the good fight Chris, but it remains an uphill battle.”

It is an uphill battle. For a brief moment, from 1986-1989 it appeared that the community was actually trying to move forward on the model validation and “base of sand” type issues. This is discussed to some extent in Chapter 18 of War by Numbers (pages 295-298).

In 1986 the office of the DUSA (OR) * reviewed the U.S. Army Concepts Analysis Agency’s (CAA) casualty estimation process in their models. This generated considerable comments and criticism of how it was being done. In 1987 CAA, with I gather funding from DUSA (OR), issued out the contract to develop the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base (ACSDB). I was the program manager for that effort. That same year they issued out the contract to study Breakpoints (forced changes in posture) which I was also involved in.

So we had the army conducting an internal review of their models and finding them wanting. They then issued out a contract to validate them and they issued out a contract to examine the issue of breakpoints, which had not been seriously studied since the 1950s. This was at the initiative of Vandiver and Walt Hollis.

After that, everything kind of fell apart. The U.S. defense budget peaked in 1989 and the budget cuts started. So, even though the breakpoints study got a good start, there was no follow-on contract. The ACSDB ended up being used for a casual top-level validation effort that did not get into the nuts and bolts of the models. All the dozens of problems identified in the internal DUSA(OR) report resulted in no corrective action taken (as far as I know). Basically, budget was declining and maintaining hardware was more important that studies and analysis.

There was a resurgence of activity in the early 1990s, which is when the Kursk Data Base (KDB) was funded. But that was never even used for a validation effort (although it was used to test Lanchester). But funding was marginal during most of the 1990s, and the modeling community did little to improve their understanding and analysis of combat.

The nature of the missions changed after 9/11/2001 and The Dupuy Institute ended up focused on insurgencies (see America’s Modern Wars). Budget again started declining in 2009 and then sequestration arrived, killing everything.

The end result was that there was a period from 1986-1989 when the U.S. modeling community appeared to have identified their problems and were taking corrective action. Since 1989, for all practical purposes, diddlysquat.

So…..30 years later…..I am still fighting the “good fight.” But I am not optimistic. Nothing is going to happen unless people at senior levels fund something to happen. For the price of a Stryker or two, a huge amount of productive and useful work could be done. But to date, having an extra Stryker or two has been more important to the army.

For this year and next year the U.S. Army has increasing budgets. If they wanted to take corrective action….now would be the time. I suspect that bureaucratic inertia will have more weight than any intellectual arguments that I can make. Still, I have to give it one last try.


* DUSA (OR) = The Deputy Under Secretary of the Army (Operations Research). It was headed by Walt Hollis forever, but was completely shut down in recent times.

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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.

Articles: 1516


  1. Chris, have you identified a patron or two for your cause? A rising star or two to ascend that hill. A horse or team of horses to which you can hitch your wagon? A Alfred Mahan? A Teddy Roosevelt? A Hyman Rickover? A Billy Mitchell? A John Paul Jones? (Well, maybe not a J.P.J. because he wasn’t all that successful in overcoming the bureaucracy.) Whom do you see as being on board with your cause and rising in influence?

  2. Surely someone must care. It is such a fundamental problem.

    I have a war-game contact in the Australian DST group who may be interested. I will probe further and let you know.

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