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May 10, 2011 Vol. 4, Issue 3


Is it possible for one of the world’s largest and most diversified workforces to become more adaptable?

The U.S. military operates in a highly uncertain world. To enhance the adaptability of its workforce, the Department of Defense (DOD) needs to develop a skills inventory, accelerate the use of existing hiring authorities, and develop strategies to screen for adaptability, according to the Defense Science Board’s report “Enhancing Adaptability of U.S. Military Forces.”


Citing the rapidly changing and unpredictable environment that our nation’s military faces today, the report provides recommendations to promote and increase adaptability within DOD in order to improve mission effectiveness. “The top level objective of this study was to help DOD make adaptability a core value – a part of its ‘DNA,’” the authors write.

Defining adaptability as “the ability and willingness to anticipate the need for change, to prepare for that change, and to implement changes in a timely and effective manner in response to the surrounding environment,” the study examines workforce policies that include:

  • Defining and acquiring personnel with needed skills that may be required in future operations.
  • Identifying and assessing individuals who are more adaptable in the sense that they may be better able to make effective decisions when faced with unforeseen circumstances.
  • Training individuals to be more adaptable.
  • Rewarding personnel who demonstrate adaptability.

In addition to examining academic, governmental and industry reports about successful adaptive organizations, the study also provides recommendations that address the cultural, organizational and regulatory challenges to creating a greater degree of adaptability within DOD.

“How well an organization (like DOD) can truly adapt to an ever more rapidly changing environment will determine its fundamental ability to execute its strategic vision,” the authors note.

Read the study.

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