Risk Mitigation through A Composite Risk Management Process: The U.S. Army Risk Assessment

Article excerpt


This paper focuses on Risk Management, a key criteria for effective leadership that is embedded in the culture and values of the United States Army. As an official step in planning for every mission the Army undertakes, leaders are taught even in the most basic entry-level schools, the importance of including risk assessments and mitigation tools to effectively accomplish any military undertaking. The most costly of all military resources is human life. It is therefore unacceptable for any leader to approach a situation without first qualifying and quantifying the risks associated with that mission. The most effective leaders include the risk assessment process as part of the organizational strategic planning process and approach the process proactively as a safety measure. This paper outlines the approach advocated by the U.S. Army and illustrates its value for civilian and corporate undertakings.

Every day service members are victims of accidents, whether preventable or not. Thus far, in the most recent report from the U.S. Army's Combat Readiness Center (2006, September), the U.S. Army has experienced 994 fatalities in fiscal year 2006. Of these fatalities 482 (49%) were combat related, 223 (23%) were accidental deaths, and 279 (28%) were classified as other and reveal any number of documented causes for death. What mitigation measures are in place to prevent these deaths and how can leaders throughout the U.S. Army employ these tools to avoid more deaths? While combat related deaths will never be avoided entirely, simple measures can be employed to prevent unnecessary loss of life, property, and money in future operations - on duty and off duty.

Why Risk Management?

As the United States military continues to fight wars, there continues to be losses of soldiers, civilians, and equipment due to combat action and accidents, which results in a degradation of combat readiness. Military operations are inherently complex, often very dangerous, and usually exceptionally fluid and dynamic. "It is characterized by uncertainty, ambiguity, and friction" (Department of the Army, FM 100-14, 1998). Risk management is a process of identifying, assessing, and controlling risks related to operational factors and decision-making that balances risk costs with mission benefits (Department of the Army, FM 100-14, 1998). Integrating a risk management process into all aspects of mission accomplishment should be considered anything but pretentious.

For example, regarding any mission, a deliberate decision-making process must be employed weighing all risks against possible outcomes. People have a tendency to underestimate risks involved in activities with which they are familiar. With the amount of training employed by members of the Armed Services, actual operations are sometimes considered just another training scenario. When this occurs, leaders overlook their responsibility to employ an evaluation of risks associated with the mission. "Regardless of the true probability of harm, research indicates that when potential harms are severe, people tend to overestimate the probability. And when potential harms are less severe, such as embarrassment, people tend to underestimate the probability" (Collaborative IRB Training Initiative, 2006, Module 2.4, Assessing Risk Objectively).

A risk management process is an aspect of operational planning and must be completed prior to embarking on any major endeavor. U.S. military mission execution should not occur without planning beforehand either. "Planning is the means by which the commander envisions a desired outcome, lays out effective ways of achieving it, and communicates to his subordinates his vision, intent, and decisions, focusing on the results he expects to achieve" (Department of the Army, FM 3-0, 2001). Identifying risk is an integral part of planning and should be employed for each operation. The risk management process permits leaders to make informed decisions about acceptable levels of risk (Department of the Army, FM100-14, 1998). …