15 February 2016

Full Text of TSJ's Article "Firmer Ground" on COIN

it's disappeared from the web, so here it is for you.

Firmer ground 

How the U.S. Army is teaching tough-to-simulate COIN and irregular warfare 

By Michael Peck

October 01, 2011 

Counterinsurgency, vast and nebulous, has long been intellectual quicksand for the defense modeling and simulation community. But the sands may be firming up.

“Frankly, the best modelers in the Army were uncertain what could be accomplished and at what pace, in the face of many new and different challenges to the modeling of military operations in [irregular warfare],” said Garry Lambert, director of the U.S. Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center (TRAC) at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Steve Goodwin, director of the strategy and operations division of National Defense University’s Center for Applied Strategic Learning, echoes Lambert’s assessment.

“The exercise community has not generally been successful in developing COIN models and simulations that can predict outcomes with a reasonable degree of confidence,” he said. “This is particularly true of games looking at complex contingencies, where psychological and social lines of operation, such as information operations and political negotiation, are hard to capture in mathematical models.”

But in just the past few years, the mood has changed. Don’t call it optimism. Call it realism, a sense of what is possible and what isn’t. Irregular warfare models and simulations are coming. But if you’re hoping for a computer program to tell you how to beat the Taliban, don’t hold your breath. 

Forget the kinetic boom-boom models from the Cold War that offered the illusion of precise predictions that an F-22 fighter or an Abrams tank would kill a certain number of Soviets. The future is computer models that will detect trends in Afghan public opinion, analyze the effectiveness of various counterinsurgency methods or assist in a tabletop counterinsurgency exercise for senior leaders. One expert predicts new COIN models might be able to conclude that 60 percent of possible outcomes for Strategy A are positive, which is better than the 40 percent probability of positive outcomes for Strategy B. 

Some of the new irregular warfare simulations will focus on analysis, like TRAC’s Irregular Warfare Tactical Wargame. Developed for $6 million and first tested in 2009, it analyzes the effect tactical operations have upon the attitude of the civilian population.

That’s a change for an organization that has traditionally focused on kinetic combat models.

“By focusing on a lower level of warfare, we have taken a bite of the elephant, but not tried to eat the whole,” Lambert said.

Designed with the Center for Naval Analyses and the Naval Postgraduate School, the game analyzes different courses of action regarding material, organization and operations in irregular warfare. Lambert said it could also be useful for training or planning operations.

The computer game is played in weekly turns, with each turn taking about two hours of real time. Set in Afghanistan, it allows players to step into the shoes of company, battalion and brigade commanders; Afghan army and police; non-government organizations; or the Taliban. 

Those playing commanders conduct tasks such as performing dismounted patrols and cordon and search, engaging with local leaders, and building infrastructure. Missions assigned by the players are evaluated by a planning and adjudication tool, which in turns feeds the results into a cultural geography model that adjusts the population’s attitude and provides feedback. The game also incorporates events to disrupt best-laid plans, such as the assassination of a key local leader.

Last year, the game was used to conduct an exercise to analyze the effects of adding extra civil affairs teams to a brigade. 

“We were able to show when there were additional civil affairs teams, the presence of those teams changed what tasks the company commander chose to conduct,” Lambert said. “Company commanders did less kinetic events. It wasn’t how they were thinking in the beginning, but they changed because the civil affairs teams were talking to them, and convinced them to use a softer approach. This changed the number of kinetic actions that took place. And those that did take place, they were getting better information, more pinpoint targeting, and less collateral damage.” 

Another exercise is planned this year to test the effects of adding company intelligence support teams.

A training gem

The new wave of irregular warfare simulations will also focus on training.

“We’ve gotten to a point where we realize we can’t shoot our way out of counterinsurgencies, so people are looking at different ways to train their guys,” said Brant Guillory, a senior consultant at Cary, N.C.-based Harnessed Electrons, which has designed irregular warfare simulations for National Defense University. 

The Games for Training program, under the Army’s Combined Arms Center-Training, now includes Urbansim, which puts the player in the role of a battalion commander conducting COIN and stability operations. Developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, a center funded by the Army and with deep ties to Hollywood, Urbansim has a sociocultural behavioral model that governs the interaction between the numerous tribal groups, leaders and government forces. It also includes a social network diagram that indicates which local politicians, commanders and businesses are friendly or hostile toward each other. 

Urbansim allows players to choose what they wish to emphasize. Is it better to focus on civil security or providing essential services? Should U.S. forces move aggressively or tread softly? Depending on a player’s actions and various events initiated by the game, such as improvised explosive device attacks, a population support meter measures the player’s performance.

Another example is Gemstone, a strategic simulation for senior leaders that was developed at the Center for Applied Strategic Learning at National Defense University (NDU). 

“Most COIN sims and games have existed at the operational level and lower,” said Guillory, who co-designed Gemstone. “Their focus was on the guys in the field. How does the grunt talk to people? How does he avoid pissing people off? We have also done OK with battalion and brigade staffs. What we haven’t done is look at the strategic-level thinkers that are putting out policy, allocating resources, money and time over the course of two, three, 10 years. If I’m going to put a lot of budget into governance, or infrastructure, or military development, will it pay off for me in five years? We don’t game those things very well, if at all.”

Gemstone is essentially a BOGSAT (bunch of guys sitting around a table) seminar-style game, backed up by computer adjudication. Originally designed to orient new students at NCU’s College of International Security Affairs, the game puts players in senior central government roles in a nation beset by insurgency. Last year, the game was set in Colombia, and Colombian officials participated. A subsequent exercise in September centered on the Philippines. 

Gemstone divides a country into provinces or states. Players allocate resources such as troops, police and economic funding. Their decisions are fed into the computerized adjudication model, and the results are displayed as color-coded outcomes on a scale of red to green. The simulation is expressly designed to incorporate Field Manual 3-24, the Army’s COIN doctrine.

“Elements of the doctrine include the game’s focus on lines of operation, including service provision, governance, perceived security, information operations and economic development,” said NDU’s Goodwin. “There is a lot of emphasis on gaining an understanding of how the parts feed into the whole in 3-24.”

Goodwin said computer adjudication allows for more consistency over human subjectivity. Professors liked having the chance to observe and work with students rather than adjudicate the game. The limitation of Gemstone is that it simulates a government fighting an internal struggle against an insurgency, rather than a government aided by external powers fighting an insurgency.

“Gemstone was not designed to include foreign military interventions, because while there are many simulations intended to support intervention games, games intended to teach about how countries can solve their own problems are rarer,” Goodwin said. 

Goodwin said Gemstone could also be useful for civilian and military leaders.

“Understanding the impact of strategic decisions in a holistic way is incredibly difficult, and Gemstone shows not only non-kinetic interactions, but also the ripple effects of decisions over time and space,” he said.

The center plans to develop Gemstone as a Web-based tool for a variety of programs within the Defense Department’s Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program, and possibly for other DoD customers.

Nonkinetic modeling

COIN simulations rely on models, the invisible algorithms that determine the outcomes of player actions. The Army has made incremental improvements to the Joint Non-Kinetic Effects Model (JNEM), which is the irregular warfare component for constructive simulations such as Warsim. JNEM is “simply a scorecard” for how populations feel about issues such as security, religion and the presence of foreign forces, said Michael Wright, associate chief systems engineer for computer-generated forces at the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation. 

“It’s just a metric, a number that says, ‘I feel good, I feel bad,’ from zero to 100,” Wright said.

JNEM, first deployed in 2006, tracks four concerns of civilian populations that are applicable to all parts of the world. 

“The only really Middle Eastern-centric part of JNEM is the mosque situation that comes about when a mosque is damaged in the ground game. Naturally, if there are no mosques in the scenario, then that will never occur,” Wright said. 

Wright said Korea-centric modifications are in the works, a response to some Army officials who want to use JNEM more extensively in Korean exercises. 

Wright would like to see less abstraction in JNEM. For example, while it can model population attitudes toward problems with infrastructure such as sewer and electricity, it lacks the ability to track infrastructure by block and neighborhood. So if a commander in the exercise allocates his resources toward fixing the electrical grid in one neighborhood but not another, JNEM can’t break down attitudes by neighborhood.

Obstacles remain

While there has been progress in modeling irregular warfare, the obstacles remain daunting. At the top of the list is a lack of social science theory. Put 10 political scientists in a room, and you’ll have 10 theories of what causes insurgencies or why people support certain political parties. If political scientists, economists and sociologists can’t agree, then the theoretical foundations of COIN models will always be shaky. But the defense modeling community is adapting.

“We haven’t in the past reached out to social scientists, and we need to do so,” said Jeff Appleget, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and the former head of TRAC’s effort to improve irregular warfare analysis. “Think of us analysts as kinetic guys. We understand the physics behind shooting a tank round. We don’t need social scientists to understand that. If we’re talking about how a foot patrol in Baghdad affects how the populations view their government and the insurgents, I’ve got no idea how to model that.” 

Then there is the goal of predicting consequences. The holy grail of irregular warfare simulation is modeling second- and third-order effects, Appleget said. 

“You build a school, and you don’t make sure it’s staffed properly, and the staff that is there is teaching extremism, so you’ve actually had a negative effect instead of a positive effect,” he said. 

Appleget hasn’t seen any models that demonstrate this well, but there has been improvement. “In the past, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Now we know what we don’t know.” 

As a result, there is now special attention paid to collecting data. The Naval Postgraduate School, U.S. Africa Command and the State Department are collecting data on Africa. 

“As we get out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and start looking toward Africa, what we would love to do is to prevent any sort of armed intervention from being necessary, by understanding the way those populations are reacting and maybe getting in on the ground floor to help them be more stable,” Appleget said. “We are not going to forecast irregular wars happening in Africa. But what we understand from [irregular warfare] is that it’s all about the population. We’ll get a sense of those populations, how they change over time, and how they react to different stimuli.”

In the end, modeling and simulation can only make a difference if users trust it. Much will depend on whether the military accepts the new wave of irregular warfare simulations. 

“Most interesting to me is how this will play out with senior leaders,” Lambert said. 

“They are used to the kind of results we portrayed in the past, the combat simulations where you get X percent of goodness via metrics like the number of threats killed. It will be interesting to see how they respond to these softer assertions where we say, ‘If you put five more civil affairs teams in, it changes how company commanders conduct operations.’”

Appleget agrees. “Our senior leaders were spoiled by the way we did combat modeling. We came up with numbers that they could use to support acquisition decisions. Then we became involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, and DoD said, ‘OK, where are my models? You’ve been at this for six months. What’s taking you so long?’ Ignoring the fact that our physics-based combat models took years and years to develop, and if you look under the hood, they’re not perfect, either.”

Perfection is the last word Appleget would use to describe COIN simulations. 

“In irregular warfare, we’re never going to get there,” he said. 

“The best you’re going to do is get insights and give senior leaders a kind of probability space of different outcomes if they do this or that.”

19 November 2015

Anniversary: The Gettysburg Address

Today marks the anniversary of the delivery of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Could the Confederates have won the battle? How? By: Brant

11 November 2015

Mike Royko on Veterans' Day

Mike Royko is a WWII Veteran who was a newspaper columnist for a lot of years. This column has been in circulation for over a decade, but it should be required reading every Veterans' Day.

I just phoned six friends and asked them what they will be doing on Monday.

They all said the same thing: working.

Me, too.

There is something else we share. We are all military veterans.

And there is a third thing we have in common. We are not employees of the federal government, state government, county government, municipal government, the Postal Service, the courts, banks, or S & Ls, and we don’t teach school.

If we did, we would be among the many millions of people who will spend Monday goofing off.

Which is why it is about time Congress revised the ridiculous terms of Veterans Day as a national holiday.

The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor all veterans.

So how does this country honor them?…

…By letting the veterans, the majority of whom work in the private sector, spend the day at their jobs so they can pay taxes that permit millions of non-veterans to get paid for doing nothing.

As my friend Harry put it:

“First I went through basic training. Then infantry school. Then I got on a crowded, stinking troop ship that took 23 days to get from San Francisco to Japan. We went through a storm that had 90 percent of the guys on the ship throwing up for a week.

“Then I rode a beat-up transport plane from Japan to Korea, and it almost went down in the drink. I think the pilot was drunk.

“When I got to Korea, I was lucky. The war ended seven months after I got there, and I didn’t kill anybody and nobody killed me.

“But it was still a miserable experience. Then when my tour was over, I got on another troop ship and it took 21 stinking days to cross the Pacific.

“When I got home on leave, one of the older guys at the neighborhood bar — he was a World War II vet — told me I was a —-head because we didn’t win, we only got a tie.

“So now on Veterans Day I get up in the morning and go down to the office and work.

“You know what my nephew does? He sleeps in. That’s because he works for the state.

“And do you know what he did during the Vietnam War? He ducked the draft by getting a job teaching at an inner-city school.

“Now, is that a raw deal or what?”

Of course that’s a raw deal. So I propose that the members of Congress revise Veterans Day to provide the following:

- All veterans — and only veterans — should have the day off from work. It doesn’t matter if they were combat heroes or stateside clerk-typists.

Anybody who went through basic training and was awakened before dawn by a red-neck drill sergeant who bellowed: “Drop your whatsis and grab your socks and fall out on the road,” is entitled.

- Those veterans who wish to march in parades, make speeches or listen to speeches can do so. But for those who don’t, all local gambling laws should be suspended for the day to permit vets to gather in taverns, pull a couple of tables together and spend the day playing poker, blackjack, craps, drinking and telling lewd lies about lewd experiences with lewd women. All bar prices should be rolled back to enlisted men’s club prices, Officers can pay the going rate, the stiffs.

- All anti-smoking laws will be suspended for Veterans Day. The same hold for all misdemeanor laws pertaining to disorderly conduct, non-felonious brawling, leering, gawking and any other gross and disgusting public behavior that does not harm another individual.

- It will be a treasonable offense for any spouse or live-in girlfriend (or boyfriend, if it applies) to utter the dreaded words: “What time will you be home tonight?”

- Anyone caught posing as a veteran will be required to eat a triple portion of chipped beef on toast, with Spam on the side, and spend the day watching a chaplain present a color-slide presentation on the horrors of VD.

- Regardless of how high his office, no politician who had the opportunity to serve in the military, but didn’t, will be allowed to make a patriotic speech, appear on TV, or poke his nose out of his office for the entire day.

Any politician who defies this ban will be required to spend 12 hours wearing headphones and listening to tapes of President Clinton explaining his deferments.

Now, deal the cards and pass the tequila.

- Mike Royko

By: Brant

06 November 2015

If you're wondering

where we've been, Brant's spend most of his time running www.grogheads.com

After a few years of hoping that GrogNews would become a bigger deal than it did, it was pretty clear that folks were already set enough in their regular reading/browsing/commenting patterns that we just weren't able to offer enough to change their habits to make us a more regular part of their day.
That's really OK with us.  We tried.  Some of it worked; some of it didn't.  Some of the lessons have been used to improve GrogHeads.  Some of them acted as cautionary tales of what not to do, too.

It's been fun, and we appreciate y'all joining us.  We're going to leave the site here for the archives, but don't expect a lot of new content (as you probably guessed).

In the meantime, feel free to join us over at GrogHeads, and check out the forums where a lot of news and articles get posted, shared, and discussed.


29 June 2015

Detail of Canada's Deployment to Poland

In support of NATO defensive missions, the Canadian Army is deploying troops to Poland for Operation REASSURANCE. Details from Canadian Forces press release.

  • Soldiers from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group - part of the 2nd Canadian Division - will take part in a series of exercises over the next six months to demonstrate the troops’ state of readiness and operational interoperability with our NATO allies and our security partners.
  • These training opportunities ensure NATO is able to react in an effectively and in a timely manner to a whole possible situations no matter where they might occur.
  • The Canadian Army benefits from these training opportunities, which allow our soldiers to achieve better interoperability with NATO allies, showcase their capabilities, and further demonstrate their leadership abilities.
  • Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have been in Central and Eastern Europe since May 2014, and have participated in collective training exercises and partnership engagements with our allies.
  • Operation REASSURANCE refers to the military activities undertaken by the CAF in support of NATO’s assurance measures in Central and Eastern Europe. Canada’s land contribution consists of the military capabilities for training, exercises, demonstrations and assigned NATO tasks.

28 June 2015

The Most Interesting Man In The Army

This guy is purportedly the last Vietnam vet on active duty. Which is pretty damn cool, really...

In the 1970s, he was among the last Marines sent to Vietnam.

In the '80s, as an Army Green Beret, he deployed into Honduras during the Contra Wars.

In 1991, he was gassed in Iraq.

But wait - Iraq didn't launch any chemical munitions at us, remember? Our stated policy was to shoot back with nukes, and I don't remember us using any nukes...

24 June 2015

Should've Just Left The Tanks There In The First Place

The US is going to "temporarily" pre-position armor assets and other equipment in Baltics, Poland, southern Europe. In this case "temporary" = "until the Russians quit dicking around," so it could be a while.

The U.S. will temporarily pre-position a brigade’s worth of tanks and other vehicles in the Baltics and elsewhere in eastern Europe, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced in Estonia Tuesday, as the U.S. continues efforts to reassure allies concerned about Russian revanchism.

The U.S. will spread about 250 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, artillery and other equipment around Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, according to the plan, to make it easier for U.S. forces to participate in training maneuvers in those countries, according to the Defense Department. Such equipment is also stationed in Germany.

All of those countries “have agreed to host company- to battalion-size elements of this equipment, which will be moved around the region for training and exercises,” Carter said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

Carter met in Estonia with his counterparts from all three Baltic states. Estonian President Toomas Ilves said the crisis in Ukraine underscored the need for the U.S.-led NATO alliance to demonstrate its solidarity with vulnerable partners.

“For a year and half now, a war has been underway in Europe,” Ilves said. “For Estonia, this has brought the realization that our freedom, our sense of security and safety is not as self-evident as we are used to believing. But we have also learned something else. We have learned about the solidarity of Estonia’s allies. And now, even the doubters know that Estonia has reliable allies.”

21 June 2015

Updating NATO?

Ash Carter is going to push the other NATO members to move beyond the "mass of Russian armor thru the Fulda Gap" plans that've been on the books for so long.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will urge NATO allies to "dispose of the Cold War playbook" during a trip to Europe this week, as the alliance adapts to a new kind of threat from Russia in the east and Islamic State to the south, U.S. officials said.

Carter heads first to Berlin, where he is expected to call for a more muscular global security role from Germany, Europe's largest economy. Germany remains hesitant to deploy troops abroad, seven decades after the end of World War Two.

"He will encourage Germany, under the firm leadership of the minister of defense, to increase their security role in the world, commensurate with their political and economic weight," a senior U.S. defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Relations between Moscow and the West have plunged to a post-Cold War low since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region. NATO says Russian is still actively providing military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, despite Moscow's denials.

U.S. officials say Ukraine has illustrated the importance of being able to counter "hybrid warfare," the blend of unidentified troops, propaganda and economic pressure that the west says Russia has used there. NATO's historic focus had been the conventional threats of the Cold War, which ended in 1991.

"Carter ... will really push the alliance to think about new threats, new techniques, urge them to kind of dispose of the Cold War playbook and think about new ways to counter new threats," the official said.

In visits in Germany and then in Estonia, Carter will get a first-hand look at NATO's new rapid response forces and climb aboard a U.S. warship fresh from Baltic Sea drills, aiming to reassure allies unnerved by Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

Carter will likely offer details on plans to pre-position heavy military equipment in Europe, the official said.

All of the moves been decried by Moscow, which has threatened to beef up its own forces and to add more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year.