PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 02/07/2022

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 2 July 2022

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Many thanks to Aaron Danis and Steven Sowards for suggesting items for this latest edition.

The Director General Training and Doctrine has just released the Australian Army’s first Professional Gaming List. At The Cove, David Hill discusses the list and the value of wargaming.

In 2020, I wrote an article for The Cove – Reinvigorating Wargaming – which highlighted how commercially available wargames had been employed in the United States and United Kingdom to support their reinvigoration of wargaming. Both countries recognised that wargaming had the potential to enhance the critical thinking and decision-making skills of their personnel; it enables their personnel to think, fight and win in war. The recent release of the Commander Forces Command Directive, Army Wargaming: 2021 – 2025 acknowledges that wargaming has the potential to enhance our cognitive capacity by providing opportunities to exercise decision-making in safe-to-fail adversarial environments. Critically though, the directive noted that while wargaming has been revitalised in the United States and United Kingdom within the Australian Army more investment is required. The Director General Training and Doctrine has just released the Australian Army’s first Professional Gaming List; it represents the first of the Army Wargaming: 2021 – 2025 initiatives.

This article aims to explore the value of the Professional Gaming List and outline how these games can be incorporated into a unit Professional Military Education program. For a variety of reasons, the idea of playing games as part of a unit training program will seem foreign and perhaps even wrong to many. To understand the potential value of this approach it is necessary to define wargaming and in particular dispel the notion that Course of Action – Analysis is wargaming. Incorporating one of these games into a unit training activity is a deliberate decision that requires some preparation; this article will conclude with a suggested format for these training activities.

The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. The most recent issue contains links to several recent pieces on wargaming:

From armed conflicts to global pandemics, military strategists and policymakers use gaming to gain insights into some of the most challenging problems they face. Ranging from operational wargames to strategy games, these exercises help develop and test strategies, support effective decision-making, and communicate vital lessons to key stakeholders. The Gaming Lab at CNAS develops, runs, and analyzes games to derive critical insights on a wide array of military, political, and economic challenges, with the aim to make concrete policy-relevant recommendations. 

NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and the Science and Technology Organization have announced that registration is now open for the 16th annual NATO Operations Research & Analysis Conference, to be held on 17-19 October 2022 in Copenhagen.

The 2021 theme is “OR&A: New ideas, old realities”. The theme reflects the long- standing practice of Operations Research and Analysis in Defence, tackling ongoing challenges faced by the Alliance and looks to the future to bring new methods to old challenges, or well-established methods on future challenges. The conference will kick off with a keynote address and cover the following topics:

ArtificialIntelligence/MachineLearning;

BigData/AdvancedAnalytics;

Modelling & Simulation;

OperationsAssessment;

OR&AMethods;

Strategic Analysis;

Wargaming;

WarfareDevelopmentImperative(WDI),CognitiveSuperiority;

WDI, Cross-domain Command;

WDI, Integrated multi-domain defence;

WDI, Layered resilience.

Additional details can be found at the link above.

At Military Strategy Magazine (Summer 2022), Benjamin E. Mainardi (Center for Maritime Strategy) argues that tabletop wargames have an important role to play in improving civilian strategic education.

Recently, it has become commonplace to hear arguments that the United States military ought to place a greater emphasis on incorporating wargaming into its professional military education programs, so as to better prepare future military leaders for the challenges of the twenty first century. Of course, critics have acutely identified issues with the preexisting practice of wargames and their value as planning tools; notably, that participants often fail to connect the military action with political considerations or objectives and that wargames are seldom able to simulate the realities of combat situations. The fact remains; however, that wargaming already has a long history of use by the armed services and continues to be a significant aspect of crafting operation plans and strategic futures. What is most interesting about the wargaming discourse, however, is the comparatively minor presence of arguments for incorporating wargaming into the education of civilian foreign policy and national security practitioners. This is especially confounding when one considers that it is civilians who occupy the chief roles in defining the political ends, directing the strategic ways, and approving the military means of national security policies.

The education of upcoming foreign policy practitioners and national security strategists is a subject of great interest, importance, and debate. Overwhelmingly, it occurs in the political science and international relations faculties of civilian universities. For students, what an undergraduate foreign or national security policy education looks like is largely an amalgamation of abstract theories, primarily those of the international relations field; historical case studies, mostly cherrypicked from the last two centuries of European history; the strategic canon of Clausewitz and Machiavelli, among others; perhaps a foreign language; and, for some, statistical trend analysis. This is a rather problematic way of educating some of the most important practitioners within their fields, producing graduates of disparate quality in strategic thinking capacity; an issue which has been brought up repeatedly throughout the years across a variety of disciplines in what might be considered a wider debate over the atrophy of degree programs in practicality and critical thinking development. The question of what an undergraduate education, in this case international relations and affiliated programs, truly equips students to do is one of growing significance yet remains somewhat elusive. While the application of strategic concepts and international relations theory in an academic setting likely helps to develop one’s general analytical skills, its ability to truly instill an understanding of the practice of statecraft, much less the utility of military operations and the practice of war more broadly, is rather questionable.

Enter the tabletop. That tabletop games can be effectively used to enhance learning in a variety of disciplines is a well-understood and empirically founded concept.

At The Warzone, Joseph Trevithick reports that a “massive drone swarm over strait decisive In Taiwan conflict wargames.”

Wargames that the U.S. Air Force has conducted itself and in conjunction with independent organizations continue to show the immense value offered by swarms of relatively low-cost networked drones with high degrees of autonomy. In particular, simulations have shown them to be decisive factors in the scenarios regarding the defense of the island of Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.

Last week, David Ochmanek, a senior international affairs and defense researcher at the RAND Corporation and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development during President Barack Obama’s administration, discussed the importance of unmanned platforms in Taiwan Strait crisis-related wargaming that the think tank has done in recent years. Ochmanek offered his insight during an online chat, which you can watch in full below, hosted by the Air & Space Forces Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

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