Since its founding in 1973, the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) has continually provided long-term comparative assessments of trends, key competitions, risks, opportunities, and future prospects of U.S. military capability to the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense. ONA’s work is conducted in accordance with written guidance by the Secretary of Defense, as well as DOD Directive 5111.1. ONA’s mission and worldview have remained largely unchanged in its 40+ year history.
ONA products include internally-produced assessments which represent years of detailed analysis. These assessments are highly classified, tightly controlled in distribution, and provide strategic-level management insights for the Secretary of Defense and other senior DOD leaders. Three such assessments have been completed since 2017.
The office also produces and commissions shorter studies, less formal assessments, and topical memos, to support its research or in response to requests from the Secretary or senior DOD or Congressional leadership. These studies include historical analysis, alternative futures, and more speculative work about the possible character of military conflict in the future. ONA research on the character of future warfare since 2000 formed the diagnostic basis of the most recent National Defense Strategy. An ONA-sponsored study helped inform Congress’ decision to reverse the Budget Control Act in 2017. On several occasions since 2016, ONA work has been used in briefings to the President.
Though the Department does not publicly disclose the entire scope and nature of ONA's research, the office has produced and distributed hundreds of unique works to individuals across the U.S. government since 2015. ONA products, both externally commissioned and internally written, are read by or briefed to the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Under Secretaries of Defense, the Chairman and Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Combatant Commanders. ONA work is also shared widely with other government agencies, including with the National Security Council staff, the National Intelligence Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the State Department.