Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 30/07/2020

From the “Oops” Files: Who are our “Adversaries”?

Sometimes how we label things in wargames matters way beyond the scope of the particular, or even the underlying questions the game was set to address. And sometimes what those labels say can be… problematic. Without further comment, the news below:


The training has now been made mandatory within the DOD as part of Secretary Esper’s crackdown on leaks – however he has ordered a change to the wording, which will replace “adversaries” with “unauthorized recipients”


PENTAGON LABELS PRESS, PROTESTERS ‘ADVERSARIES’: A new mandatory Pentagon training course aimed at preventing leaks refers to protesters and journalists as “adversaries” in a fictional scenario designed to teach Defense Department personnel how to better protect sensitive information, Seligman reports.

The Pentagon defended the use of the term “adversaries” in the public training materials . “An adversary — a common generic term for a person or group that opposes one’s tactical goals — is acting counter to our information security objectives and therefore personnel must understand that threat,” Lt. Col. Uriah Orland said in a statement. “Attempting to read more into the use of the term obfuscates the clear purpose of the training: to prevent information from falling into unauthorized hands regardless of its potential use.”

But George Little, who was a Pentagon press secretary and CIA spokesperson in the Obama administration, called the characterization “appalling and dangerous.”

In one section of the course, trainees are given a fictional scenario in which news of a secret military exercise gets out, and TV cameras and hundreds of “anti-government protesters” show up. The course instructs trainees to identify the “adversaries,” who it says are driven to exploit “vulnerabilities” for their own gain.

Others with experience in military-media relations expressed alarm at what they consider a warped — and dangerous — view of the role of the press. Price Floyd, who served in the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, said in his experience the training materials inaccurately portray the overall relationship.

“If for some reason a reporter got wind of something that was classified or secret, all it would take is a conversation with public affairs and someone to say, ‘look this is classified, it is secret, talking about it right now puts lives in danger,’” Floyd said. “I think this witch hunt by Esper is just a way to try to clamp down on what they view as fake news, when in fact all the media is doing is reporting the facts.”

%d bloggers like this: