RAND: Worth the price of admission?

Recently the RAND Corporation’sLonger Parental Deployment Linked to More Emotional Challenges for Military Children” (Let’s call it “Save the (Military) Children”.) has drawn some attention. (You know. Oh! The sacrifices the forces are making for America. Yes, those same all-volunteer forces continue to perform agreed-to duties they have been trained to do and are paid to perform. But we digress.)

“Save the (Military) Children” concludes “Children in military families may suffer from more emotional and behavioral difficulties when compared to other American youths, with older children and girls struggling the most when a parent is deployed overseas.” No surprise there, nor is it a shocker the study was funded by the National Military Family Association. Will this study give this group the ammo it needs to scam dollars (government and otherwise) to “Save the (Military) Children?”

This particular study brings into question the whole RAND report gig, courtesy of your tax dollars. We wonder: Chicken-Egg? Do we have a vexing issue followed by a study to provide plausible solutions? Or, do we have a finely crafted question whose study likely will increase the chances of producing the right report to prove what the sponsor already knew? Or, Door Number 3: Do we have an idiot in search of a village?

Probably the first two. Well, maybe all three.

So, what has RAND been up to lately? This prestigious call girl (and she’s not cheap) has published a handful of worthwhile studies, funded by patrons like the Army, Air Force and assorted government entities. The confidential “Intelligence Operations and Metrics in Iraq and Afghanistan”, though a year old was one of the best. Prepared for US Joint Forces Command, it found redundancies as well as the inability to share crucial information had been undermining counterinsurgency operations on the ground. It was a winner.

But they have also published a number of dogs. Worse, some RAND studies seem obsolete even before the PhDs crack a book. With things moving at warp speed on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, studies into operational questions, for example, are answered by just about anyone in theater before RAND completes its study. Cutting-edge inquisitions quickly become pricey, nice-to-have, outdated data, but hardly the nut cracker the requestor envisioned.

Other studies are just ridiculous. Recent faves: “Should the U.S. Air Force Modernize Its Refueling Fleet to Meet Upcoming Mandates?” “Countering Piracy in the Modern Era,” and the most absurd “Recruiting Minorities: What Explains Recent Trends in the Army and Navy?” Everyone knows this defines the personal journey of Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead.

So, sure, RAND is worth its free price of admission to voyeurs like us, but is it worth the tax dollars to keep this jobs program for PhDs running in Washington?

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