Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 07/11/2022

Domaingue: Why the State Department needs an Office of Diplomatic Gaming

In the November 2022 issue of the Foreign Service Journal, Robert Domaingue argues that the US State Department needs an Office of Diplomatic Gaming:

Serious games, also known as decision or policy games, are used by many different organizations to deal with complex problems. They can be used to promote strategic thinking, conduct analysis, perform training, and advance diplomatic goals.

The Department of Defense (DoD) and the intelligence community (IC) routinely use games to examine assumptions, test concepts, and explore alternative courses of action. The Department of State, however, is lagging far behind in the use of policy gaming, and this hinders the department’s ability to proactively engage on issues rather than reacting to them as they occur.

There is no centralized office at State devoted to supporting the use of gaming to enhance decision-making. Various offices have used tabletop exercises (TTX) to explore important issues, but they have relied on DoD and IC designers to create and run the exercises. State needs a dedicated office with the capacity to design, facilitate, and utilize its own policy games, but it does not have one.

This was not always the case. The Foreign Service Institute’s Office of Special Programs, headed by Fred Hill from 1986 to 2006, advanced some of these capabilities. It developed high-level policy games on such topics as the possible collapse of the Soviet Union, transitions in various governments, potential war between countries, nuclear programs in specific countries, and conflicts in different regions. But the FSI office closed in 2007, and the State Department never replaced it.

Gaming is the tool of choice when facing uncertainty, and the State Department needs an office that can coordinate and build capacity for using this tool.

You can read his proposal at the link above.

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