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When It Comes To Readiness, The Fundamentals Still Matter

In this era of rapid digital advancements, so much of what goes into readiness—whether it’s military, law enforcement, or natural disasters—is driven by technology. Each year, items such as weaponry, surveillance systems, and satellites grow increasingly more sophisticated and more capable. But with that increased capability, they also grow increasingly complex and more difficult to maintain at the peak of performance.

To meet the challenges of a changing world, government leaders in defense, law enforcement, and even disaster response are forced to balance a complex mix of factors from technological advances to maintenance demands to budget pressures with very thin margins for error and high expectations from the citizens they serve. With so many considerations, and before evaluating into specific solutions or technologies, it can be helpful to clarify the picture and consider just the simple foundations of readiness.


Readiness can mean many things to many people. The mere mention of the term can conjure up images ranging from rapid response troops waiting on aircraft to dry graphs of maintenance statistics. Even the word “readiness” is not used in all countries, with other terms including “preparedness” and “adaptability.”  But no matter the term, no matter the images, the heart of readiness remains the ability of an organization to execute its assigned mission promptly and capably—and that means understanding readiness starts with an assessment of three basic pillars:

  • People: Officials must ask themselves not only how many people will be needed to fulfill a mission, they must also address who those people are. Which units or individuals within the organization have the right skills to execute this mission? In the short term that can mean asking if someone speaks the language for a mission in a foreign country. In the longer term it can mean asking if adequate training programs are in place to cultivate critical skills.

  • Place: People and equipment do not operate in isolation, they are dependent on a wide range of infrastructure to operate effectively. Therefore, readiness also should include specific questions need to be addressed as to the location of where missions will occur. What is the condition of key ports and airfields? Are friendly bases able to continue to provide electricity and drinking water even after major storms?

  • Things: Every mission needs the right kind of equipment. Knowing the location, status, and capabilities of assets is a core readiness consideration. This ranges from big things, like helicopters, to small things, like the coolant needed to make a helicopter engine work in extreme heat.

These three pillars can provide an accurate picture of the current state of an organization, but it is just the beginning of the readiness puzzle. With an accurate picture of an organization’s capabilities, it is possible to see where there are gaps between what it can and cannot do and the missions it has been assigned. Therefore, the next step in readiness is to prioritize and allocate the finite resources to best close those gaps. Choices need to be made to ensure that these resources are deployed judiciously—supporting key areas without unduly weakening any other function.

These are the basics and every agency and organization involved in defense, disaster readiness, or security has had to master them.


Readiness is about asking the right questions. And lots of them. Perhaps the most important is: How do you know you are ready? Answering this question begins and ends with a series of honest assessments regarding the people, places, and things that matter to an organization’s mission. Accurate, honest answers to those questions rely on having accurate data, a lot of it. For example: an army that needs to cross an ocean will need transport aircraft. The army will need to know how many aircraft it has at its disposal, how many personnel each plane can carry, the maintenance status of each aircraft, and even when it is likely to break down next.

Having that detailed data available is not only helpful for understanding how ready an organization is today, but it can also help understand how they may perform in different future scenarios. How would the transportation of several thousand soldiers impact other missions around the globe or the training cycle for those troops? In this way, a detailed picture of people, places, and things essentially becomes a digital twin of an organization. That twin can not only help improve readiness, but it can also become a mission planning tool.


All of these changes can seem daunting, requiring new technologies and new techniques. While many of these technologies may be new to government, they have been deployed for years as part of Industry 4.0 and can offer a proven option to accelerate mission readiness.

With sensors tracking the movements and status of nearly every aspect of an organization—from the factory floor to human resources—real-time data is already helping leaders in industry make informed decisions. In the military, real-time data can support readiness by providing clear pictures of what people have the right skills and their availability as well as what equipment has the capabilities needed and is in full repair.

Further, super computing and analytics technology today can develop a number of scenarios and responses, assessing current readiness of both people and equipment and their ability to perform in a variety of locations. Scenario analysis can also help prioritize and assign resources. Machine-learning can even build on its own assessments and potentially recommend actions and planning (more on the role of technology in readiness will be covered in upcoming blogs).


It’s true that no organization can do without the tools today’s new technologies offer. Properly used and secured, new technologies can provide a holistic view of even the largest, multi-faceted mission. But only when deployed in support of the key pillars of readiness—people, places, and things—can they be effective. No matter how sophisticated the tools, readiness will always come down to the basics.

Author: Beth McGrath

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