PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

The ICONS Project endorses Derby House Principles

I am pleased today to write, as Director of the ICONS Project at the University of Maryland, that we have endorsed the Derby House Principles.

Throughout its 37 year history, ICONS has sought to advance and uphold inclusion and diversity in the academic research setting as well as in our field of simulation and gaming. Half of our Directors have been women, and the composition of our staff has normally been around 50-60% female as well. The Project has always striven to provide a safe, inclusive, and welcoming work environment for all – regardless of race, gender, creed, or orientation. We, like the vast majority of organizations in the academic and national security space, can and should do more to promote diversity in our ranks, and the advancement of women, minorities, and people of color in our profession. It is with this intent that we wholeheartedly endorse the Derby House Principles, and recommit ourselves to the goals they advance.

Devin Ellis

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?

US now gaming COVID-19 potential as adversary bioweapon

“The Pentagon and the intelligence community are more forcefully investigating the possibility that adversaries could use the novel coronavirus as a bioweapon, according to defense and intelligence officials, in a shift that reflects the national security apparatus’ evolving understanding of the virus and its risks,” POLITICO’s Natasha Bertrand, Lippman and Seligman report.

Secretary Mark Esper | AP Photo

Secretary Mark Esper | AP Photo

The intelligence community has begun gaming out the potential that bad actors might seek to weaponize the virus, said three people familiar with the matter.

Officials emphasized the change does not mean they believe the virus was purposefully created to be weaponized. The intelligence community is still investigating the virus’ origins, but there is no hard intelligence or scientific evidence to support the theory that it spread from a lab in China, people briefed on the matter said.”

“Crimson Contagion” – What Can We Learn?

The New York Times today broke a well reported and detailed story about pandemic flu wargaming that had been done from the late Obama into the Trump administrations here

The signature item in the article was an exercise codenamed CRIMSON CONTAGION, the  AAR of which bears serious reading.

The article touches on many important process and methodology issues, especially as related to gaming at the very highest political level. It is worth reading for all of us in the community, and I expect, will be the subject of much further unpacking in the near future.

Of special note, since we here at PAXsims are always promoting the wisdom of co-editor Stephen Downes-Martin, is the question of what the utility of gaming is after the original customer moves on? (see Stephen’s famous Three Questions to ask a game sponsor – including “When do you rotate?”)

“But by the time the current crisis hit, almost all of the leaders at the table — Mr. Tillerson, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Perry among them — had been fired or moved on.

In 2018, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, John R. Bolton, ousted Mr. Bossert and eliminated the National Security Council directorate, folding it into an office dedicated to weapons of mass destruction in what Trump officials called a logical consolidation.”

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In the blog over the last week we have highlighted the Do No Harm principal. It is important for us all as practitioners to keep that front and center when gaming with people’s lives. But this story also demonstrates again where there may have been serious utility to using gaming to shape policy – with accurate data, well informed science, and serious attention from high level decision makers. It also shows how easy it is for the power of this tool to be shelved, sidelined, or fall through the cracks.


For further resources, see PAXsim’s COVID-19 serious gaming resources page.

Further Holiday Spirit…

Evidence that the Matrix Game Construction Kit can be used to win an office holiday party door decorating competition – yet another way to deploy this amazing product!

 

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Taps: CAPT Todd Kauderer

Howard-Kauderer-1499764860.pngWith great regret we pause to note the passing of Todd Kauderer. Todd was a stalwart of the wargaming community, and a friend and mentor to many. He had a distinguished career in the United States Navy, as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, and as one of the chief wargamers at the Johns Hopkins APL. Of all Todd’s many admirable qualities, one we will most miss was his boundless enthusiasm. Despite being an old hand, with a lustrous CV, he was always first in line to show a new recruit the ropes; always signing up for every new demo and half-baked idea. Todd was an inspiration in his vocation and his avocation. The middle of three generations of proud service to the U.S. military, he also spent his free time assembling one of the great 15mm scale miniature collections, and helping the rest of us be more accurate and more relevant. He gave his technical expertise and encyclopedic knowledge as generously as he could, and he never lost his love for the work. The last time I spoke to him he was still plotting what team might be assembled to steal the NIC wargaming contract from SAIC. His loss will be deeply felt.

http://www.navintpro.org/taps/2017/07/13/taps-todd-kauderer/

 

Talk: Insights from Cyber Wargaming at Newport

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The Joint Staff, J39 Office of Strategic Multilayer Assessment will host a talk at 1400 ET, January 26 by Jacquelyn Schneider from the Center of Naval Warfare Studies will discuss, Cyber and Crisis Escalation: Insights from Wargaming.

To call in to the talk, dial: 866-712-4038; then passcode:  60114984#.

Jacquelyn G. Schneider is an Instructor in the Center for Naval Warfare Studies and a core faculty member of the Center for Cyber Conflict Studies. Her research focuses on the intersection of technology, national security, and political psychology with a special interest in cyber, unmanned technologies, and Northeast Asia. Her work has appeared in print in Journal of Conflict Resolution and Strategic Studies Quarterly, and on-line at War on the Rocks, The Washington Post, The National Interest, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and The Center for a New American Security. Jacquelyn is an active member of the defense policy community with previous adjunct positions at RAND and the Center for a New American Security. She previously served as an active duty Air Force officer in South Korea and Japan and is currently a reservist assigned to U.S. Cyber Command.  She holds a B.A. in Economics-Political Science from Columbia University, an M.A. in Political Science from Arizona State University, and is a PhD Candidate at George Washington University.

Slides and paper here:

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Collision of Tropes: DC Edition

It’s not everyday the liberal establishment and the wargaming community of interest meet in one event (other than when Rex and I have drinks and talk about US foreign policy…), but here is the forthcoming  New Yorker article entitled “War Games” which covers the story of a bunch of IC professionals playing Axis and Allies and lamenting the political situation today…

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Transition Gaming

In an article this afternoon covering the meeting between President Obambombera and Donald Trump at the White House, the New York Times included the following snippet of information at the end:

“In December, Mr. Obama’s team plans to hold the first of two war-gaming exercises to prepare Mr. Trump and his staff for a potential national security crisis.

Mr. Obama’s aides participated in a similar exercise organized by Mr. Bush’s White House the week before his 2009 inauguration, during which they sat side by side in the Situation Room and gamed out how the government would respond to a series of simultaneous explosions in American cities.

The second simulation for Mr. Trump is set for January, days before he officially gains access to the nuclear codes.”

Very high-level games like these – and the periodic other games held at the White House situation room – are usually organized by some combination of the National Security Council staff and key elements of the most relevant Departments that are responsible for strategic-level, political-military gaming (for example the Joint Staff Studies, Analysis, and Gaming Division (J-8 SAGD)).

This is NOT a Drill!

First – Applause for the Connections UK crowd – it was a very nice week in London, and I will be posting on that front shortly.

But in the meantime… Over the weekend, I read the pretty well done Politico piece on the “missing” hours on 9/11 during which the presidential retinue was being hop-scotched around the country on Air Force One. I was struck by the following extract. Early on, they head to Barkesdale AFB to get fuel and try and figure out what’s going on. As it happens, the 8th Air Force is in the middle of dialing-in to GLOBAL GUARDIAN – the annual STRATCOM exercise – leading to the following moment:

 “Lt. Gen. Tom Keck, commander, Barksdale Air Force Base, Shreveport, La.: I was the commander of the 8th Air Force. We were in the midst of this big annual exercise called GLOBAL GUARDIAN. They loaded all the bombers, put the submarines out to sea, put the ICBMs at nearly 100 percent. It was routine, you did it every year.
A captain tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Sir, we just had an aircraft hit the World Trade Center.” I started to correct him, saying, “When you have an exercise input you have to start by saying, ‘I have an exercise input.’ That way it doesn’t get confused with the real world.” Then he just pointed me to the TV screens in the command center. You could see smoke pouring out of the building. Like everyone else in aviation that day, I thought, “How in a clear-and-a-million day could someone hit the World Trade Center?”

I had forgotten that the GLOBAL GUARDIAN exercise that year was actually investigated by the 9/11 Commission for whether it had impact the military response to the attacks detrimentally. The conclusion was ultimately that the heightened exercise readiness may have actually helped response. Go read the 2001 GLOBAL GUARDIAN scenarios – no spoilers in this post – and think about 2001 vs. 2017.

Of course 9/11 is the salient event of the contemporary, western national security narrative – but as practitioners we have to think about the same kinds of things in our daily lives. To whit, a conversation I had with a colleague and collaborator a couple of years ago:

“Me: hey [colleague], what’s up?

Colleague: Hey, did you send me some scenario materials, like draft injects?

Me: Oh, yeah, I did, a few hours ago, why?

Colleague: are they fake versions of acquisitions documents for an ISR program, with, uh, FAKE SAP markings on them?

Me: Yeah! …oh

Colleague: So, you didn’t write: “Exercise Purposes Only” on them, and now there are some guys taking all the computer hardware out of my office, and I have to see my security officer in an hour…

Me: [pause] Sorry.”

Mistakes happen in both directions. Remember to check-in!

Legal Advises You to Choose a Fictional Country…

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Jonas Savimbi IRL and in Call of Duty: Black Ops

We don’t talk a lot on the blog about the weirder liability considerations involved in games designed for profit – or even sometimes as part of a public research agenda – but the risk is out there.

The family of infamous Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi is suing the makers of Call of Duty: Black Ops over the game’s depiction of the warlord. Three of Savimbi’s children, who live in Paris, having taken the company, Activision, to court, demanding 1 million Euros in damages for defaming their father as “a barbarian.” The game designer’s lawyers, meanwhile, have called the portrayal: “favorable.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 shows him rallying his troops with phrases like “death to the MPLA”, referring to the party that has governed Angola since independence from Portugal in 1975.

But his family said they are outraged at the depiction.

“Seeing him kill people, cutting someone’s arm off… that isn’t Dad,” said Cheya Savimbi…

A lawyer for Activision Blizzard, Etienne Kowalski, said the firm disagreed with Savimbi’s family, saying it showed the former rebel as a “good guy who comes to help the heroes”.

OK then. Well the U.S. government had strong currents of support for him at times too, I guess – despite the appalling violence committed by UNITA (including burning suspected witches. Really).

At least in Brynania you can assign whatever despicable behavior you want to the Zaharian Peoples Front (ZPF) without fear of winding up in court. Game writers take note.

ICONS Project seeks researcher/simulation developer

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Dear Readers,

I’ve not been posting much lately. In part due to the fact that I am under an extremely heavy workload. The good news, is that the ICONS Project is adding staff, so I should soon have a lot of time back! I encourage anyone in the PAXsims community who is interested in joining the Project to consider applying here and/or passing this notice on to your communities of interest.

The ICONS Project seeks a Researcher and Simulation Developer to support the ICONS Project’s growing portfolio of simulation-based research, education, and professional training programs. A substantial portion of this position’s time will be devoted to supporting projects looking at U.S. strategic planning and decision-making in the field of international relations and security.

The open position will join the Project’s simulation development team, reporting to the director of the Policy & Research program. Duties will include simulation design and writing, simulation maintenance, project management, research and development and instructional materials and tools, and technical support and customer service.

The position will be directly supervised by the ICONS Project Associate Director. The candidate will report to the ICONS Project’s lead simulation developer on overall creative matters, and to the appropriate principal investigator or program head on specific projects. The ICONS Project has a long history of growth and innovation, and we welcome applicants who are looking for an opportunity to shape and expand a position over time.

Best consideration date is October 27. The sooner we fill this role, the sooner I can turn to another “On Methods” posting…

Devin Ellis

Cards Against Humanit… arian Aid. Really.

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For those of you cynics out there who have been waiting for the gamification of the aid world’s dysfunction – wait no more. We give you: Jaded Aid the satirical card game based on Cards Against Humanity (TM), but with cards specific to appalling corruption, malfeasance, abuse, failure, and greed from the realm of development assistance.

So far the cards remain under development, but the article is worth a read, if for nothing other than two gems:

  1. the idea came about at Board Room, the wonderful but absurdly elitist Dupont Circle board game bar (when the Bank has you grounded you have to get your Catan fix somewhere, right?).
  2. The initial kickstarter was oversubscribed within 24 hours. That’s how disillusioned the development community is… OK, and how much fun they are willing to have at their own expense.

PAXSIMs promises that when the “Jaded Aid” CAH pack is released, the associate editors will convene some DC testing sessions and post a review on the blog.

PAXsims at ISCRAM 2015

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I have just arrived here in picturesque Kristiansand Norway, to attend the annual Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM). At the moment the weather is very. ahem, ‘Norwegian Seaside’ (read 50 degrees F, with cool rain blowing in off the ocean, and dense fog), but I’m excited to here. As Rex noted earlier, the association has added a new Serious Gaming track to the conference this year, and I will be delivering a paper on a training simulation ICONS developed in conjunction with some crisis communication experts and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) for the US Department of Homeland Security. I am also very much looking forward to many of the panels in the Analytical Modeling and Simulation track.

I plan to post at least once this week with updates and worthy information for the community of interest. Check out the Conference Proceedings and comment on this post or drop me an email if there’s a paper you would really like live reporting on, or an author I should approach for more information.

From ‘The Norwegian Riviera’
Devin

PAXsims Goes to Carlisle

Barracks-e1376937377369I will be attending the upcoming China Futures Wargame at the USArmy War College Feb. 18-19. The game is unclassified and will focus on a strategic look at the US-China relationship outside the traditional Asia Pacific AOR (i.e. Africa and latin America). The event should be interesting, and there will be high quality attendees including some of my China expert colleagues Michael Swaine from the Carnegie Endowment and Will Norris from Texas A&M, as well as NIC wargame master Dan Flynn. I will plan to report as appropriate.

–Devin

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