Defense Science Board Task Force
Red teams can be a powerful tool to understand risks and increase options. Their purpose is to reduce an enterprise’s risks and increase its opportunities. Red teaming can be used at all three levels of an enterprise: strategic, operational, and tactical. The Defense Science Board, however, found that the use of red teams within the Department of Defense is mixed at best.
Despite this mixed record, the Defense Science Board concluded that the use of red teams is especially important given today’s climate. Adversaries are tough targets for intelligence (compared to the Cold War). Red teaming can both complement and inform intelligence collection and analysis. Aggressive red teams challenge emerging operational concepts in order to discover weaknesses before real adversaries do. Red team also tempers the complacency that often follows success (referenced to the time period following Desert Storm).
Red teams come in many varieties and there are different views about what constitutes a red team. The Defense Science Board defined the term broadly, including not only playing the adversary, but also playing devil’s advocate and related roles. While differing in some respects, these activities all have in common the challenging of an organization’s norms. A red team is comprised of individuals selected for their special subject matter and expertise, perspective, imagination, or critical analysis. The red team itself is only one element in a red teaming process. Elements of the process include who the red team reports to, how the red team interacts with the management of the enterprise, and how the enterprise considers the use of the red team’s products.
Although red teaming is important, it is not easy and rarely done well. Typical causes for red team failure include the read team not taking their tasking seriously, the red team loses its independence, and the red team becomes removed from the decision making process. Conversely, attributes of an effective red team include an environment that values internal criticism, “top cover” or the support of upper level management to raise issues that may be unpopular, and proper staffing on the red team.