PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

What’s Newsworthy? The Wargaming Edition

Several defense and Inside the Beltway type publications have been abuzz the past few days with the scoop about FOIA-ed documents showing possible scenario ideas for the 2018 edition of the Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Exercise (JLASS-EX) – including a notional DOD response to a “Generation Z Rebellion” “driven by malaise and discontent.” Reading the contents, it is immediately apparent why this makes a nice interest story in the current environment – but the question this contributor has is: is it?

The JLASS-EX is an annual production offered jointly (pun intended) by all the Senior Level Colleges in the US PME system. Thus it brings together folks from across the services for a wargame that takes about six months to step up and execute (I have never been part of the planning, so I don’t know how much more effort goes in between course runnings, but I’d bet a bit).

The thing about these kinds of wargames, is that they are constantly in search of new, interesting, timely dilemmas to work on, since they have to put out content on an annual basis – and a lot of the routine “Big Army, Big Navy” stuff gets handled in Title X exercises elsewhere. So, the fact that this scenario was put forward – and even the authors acknowledge that it is one among a long list of possible scenario items – is not all that surprising. Trust us, the DOD has wargamed much whackier and much more controversial things… The second thing to remember, is that these kinds of courses are supposed to challenge the thinking of leaders in the making with interesting dilemmas – not inform imminent high-level policy decisions. The final thing to keep in mind is this: let’s not assume the outcome of such a game – it were run – is nefarious. Sometimes (maybe not often enough, but sometimes) the system games things out that we know are edge of the envelope, and comes back saying “yup, that one’s not really in our wheelhouse sir. But here was some interesting learning.”

So given those things, and the fact that the author did not participate in JLASS 2018, the questions we’d pose for anyone from the system who DID would be:

1. Did that “ZBellion” scenario idea actually make it to the game?

2. If it did, what interesting things were observed and/or learned by the participants?

2 responses to “What’s Newsworthy? The Wargaming Edition

  1. devinhayesellis 11/06/2020 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for weighing in James. It’s always a shame to hear that people have negative experiences like this with work that taxpayer resources are funding. Can I ask from which institution you participated?

  2. James Lacey 09/06/2020 at 12:57 pm

    This is a personal opinion… but JLASS has, over the year, proven to be a poorly designed, poorly run exercise that is not worth the resources expanded to run it or to attend it.

    Can it be fixed…. maybe at one time… but no one involved showed any interest in updating the scenarios or fixing the problems… it is now probably not worth fixing.

    End this waste of resources and possibly replace it with something worthwhile.

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