RAND has recently published a brief report by Elizabeth Bartels, Jeffrey Drezner, and Joel Predd on Building a Broader Evidence Base for Defense Acquisition Policymaking, in which they explore the potential role of serious games in exploring procurement and investment decisions.
One of the primary responsibilities of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD[A&S]) is to ensure the health of the overall defense acquisition system (DAS). USD(A&S) can bolster the health of the DAS by developing and promulgating sound acquisition policy that improves the function and operation of the DAS at the enterprise level. The premise of this report is that acquisition policymaking should be data driven. However, there are limitations to relying on empirical (e.g., historical) data to guide acquisition policy. In light of these limitations, the authors argue that acquisition policymaking should be evidence based, in recognition of a wider variety of analytic tools that can be brought to bear on acquisition policy questions. This report, intended for acquisition professionals, summarizes the case for a broader evidence base and then focuses on one specific tool that the authors suggest might add analytic value: policy gaming.
Policy gaming can be used to generate observations about how stakeholders might change their decisionmaking and behavior in light of changes in policy. Because the strengths and limitations of games differ from those of traditional tools for acquisition analysis, the authors argue that games complement the existing portfolio of analytic approaches. The authors describe a prototype game focused on Middle-Tier Acquisition (MTA) policy that RAND researchers developed to enrich the available evidence base to support acquisition policymaking, summarize insights from the game, and offer several next steps for USD(A&S) to consider.
Among their findings, they suggest:
Games can provide useful evidence about proposed policies by providing a sandbox to observe decisionmaking.
Games appear to be valuable in cases where relevant real-world data are not available because the new policy or other condition of interest has not yet occurred.
You can download the report at the link above.
It’s out! Ellie Bartel’s long-awaited PhD dissertation on Building better games for national security policy analysis is now available on the RAND website.
This dissertation proposes an approach to game design grounded in logics of inquiry from the social sciences. National security gaming practitioners and sponsors have long been concerned that the quality of games and sponsors’ ability to leverage them effectively to shape decision making is highly uneven. This research leverages literature reviews, semi-structured interviews, and archival research to develop a framework that describes ideal types of games based on the type of information they generate. This framework offers a link between existing treatments of philosophy of science and the types of tradeoffs that a designer is likely to make under each type of game. While such an approach only constitutes necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for games to inform research and policy analysis, this work aims to offer pragmatic advice to designers, sponsors and consumers about how design choices can impact what is learned from a game.
Table of Contents
- Chapter One
- Introduction: Games for National Security Policy Analysis and How to Improve Them
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Towards a Social Science of Policy Games
- Chapter Four
- Four Archetypes of Games to Support National Security Policy Analysis
- Chapter Five
- Designing Games for System Exploration
- Chapter Six
- Designing Games for Alternative Conditions
- Chapter Seven
- Designing Games for Innovation
- Chapter Eight
- Designing Games for Evaluation
- Chapter Nine
- Trends in RAND Corporation National Security Policy Analysis Gaming: 1948 to 2019
- Chapter Ten
- Conclusions, Policy Recommendations, and Next Steps
- Appendix ASample Template for Documenting Game Designs
The latest War on the Rocks podcast features Ellie Bartels, ED McGrady, and Peter Perla discussing—what else?—wargaming. You’ll find it here.
If you read War on the Rocks, you’ve noticed there’s a lively debate over the state of wargaming in the Department of Defense. After senior leaders pushed for a renewed emphasis on wargaming several years ago, are these games any good? Are they doing what they need to be doing for the U.S. military? If not, who is at fault — the gaming community or the customers sitting in the five-sided building? To tackle these questions and more, we gathered a gifted group of gamesome and gallant gamers. Join Ryan’s conversation with Ellie Bartels, ED McGrady, and Peter Perla.
Please take a minute to complete our PAXsims reader survey.
PAXsims is pleased to announce the appointment of Elizabeth “Ellie” Bartels as an associate editor of the website. Ellie is Senior Associate at Caerus Associates focused on leveraging social science methodologies to improve wargaming and national security analysis. Prior to joining Caerus, Ellie led teams to design educational and analytical strategic wargames at the National Defense University. She specializes in games to improve participants’ understanding of strategy in irregular and asymmetric warfare environments, and their effects on populations. She has previously contributed to PAXsims.
Ellie can be followed on Twitter at @elliebartels.