Capabilities-Based Assessment (CBA) User’s Guide

Keywords capability capability assessment

On 20 October 2003, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) issued a memorandum on a recently completed study of forcible entry operations. This memorandum directed that “…The Director, J-8, Joint Staff, in coordination with the Commander, US Joint Forces Command, and the Services, develop a Forcible Entry Joint Operating Concept (JOC) by 31
December 2003. …The Director, J-8, Joint Staff, in coordination with the Services, use the JOC-derived tasks to
conduct a capabilities-based assessment by 30 September 2004.” [JROCM 199-03, 2003] Suppose that this memo landed on your desk, with a handwritten note telling you that you would lead the assessment. Your first thought might be one of self-satisfaction, since the four-star generals and admirals charged with determining the needs of the DoD have chosen you to lead an analysis of a critical mission area.

More likely, however, your first thoughts would be:

1. What’s the background?
2. What’s the issue? What’s the real issue?
3. What’s a capabilities-based assessment?
4. How am I going to do this?

Uncovering the answers to the first two questions is necessary for any staff action, and we will reinforce the importance of knowing the answers to these questions. But, the thrust of this paper is to help you answer the last two questions. You may think that Question 3 should be easy, and there is a short, authoritative answer available.
CJCSI 3170.01G, Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS), states that the CBA identifies:

The capabilities and operational performance criteria required to successfully execute missions; the shortfalls in existing weapon systems to deliver those capabilities and the associated operational risks; the possible non-materiel approaches for mitigating or eliminating the shortfall, and when appropriate recommends pursuing a materiel solution. [2009, p. GL-3] So yes, there is a compact answer to the question “what is a CBA?” But understanding what a CBA is
requires a bit more discussion.

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The Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) was established in 2003 to overcome several shortcomings in the existing requirements process. Among other things, JCIDS introduced the notion of a “Capabilities-Based Assessment” (CBA) as the starting point in identifying the DoD’s needs and recommending solutions. This document offers practical advice on how to conduct such an assessment. Since the original
version of this guide was published in January 2006, JCIDS instructions and manuals have been revised several times, and many CBAs have been done by various organizations. This update addresses both the regulatory changes and what we have learned about doing these analyses.

This guide does three things:

• first, it advises an action officer on how to organize and execute a CBA;
• second, it connects the CBA process to both the overarching strategic guidance and the
proven analytical methods available in the DoD; and
• third, it uses an informal, readable style.

As a result, this paper discusses bureaucratic realities that would not be addressed in an instruction,
points out the occasional area where strategic guidance is immature, inconsistent, or conflicting, and
aims at engaging the reader.

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