24 October 2011

TSJ Covers Wargaming of Irregular Warfare

Hey look! Wargaming content! Michael Peck's got an excellent article in Training and Simulation Journal, covering the current state-of-the-art of irregular warfare wargaming in the military. An excerpt (wonder why we chose this bit, eh...?)

(updated link: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120201/TSJ02/302010011/Firmer-Ground )

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.

Great article - read it all.

Another good article about wargaming COIN from a few years ago.

By: Brant


Anonymous said...


Other than that, good job getting yourself in print.

Brant said...

Yes, we are totally lacking in sham :-D

Anonymous said...

Interesting that even though Michael (and other writers) have announced the death of professional military interest in manual (board) wargames many times, TSJ's cover artist still portrays the action on a field of hexagons... kind of like how we still teach children to read by associating words with pictures of things they have never actually seen, like barns or big wedges of cheese.

DomS said...

"putting out policy, allocating resources, money and time over the course of two, three, 10 years"

In the context of COIN and modern intervention operations, one problem is the length of a conflict is hard to predict. Few would have predicted initially that we'd still be in Afghanistan. So do you start out on a 5-year plan when you might pull out in 2 and be judged to have squandered resources? Or do you anticipate imminent withdrawal and look at things on a short timescale (neglecting longer-term trends)? This could be explored in a game by linking certain political conditions with variable game length.