31 July 2012

PLA Influence Concerns Japan

Japan is seeing the militarization of China's foreign policy as a concern. And if anyone should know what a military-driven foreign policy looks like, it would be the Japanese.

Japan on Tuesday flagged the Chinese army's growing role in shaping the country's foreign policy as a security risk, saying a sense of caution exists across East Asia about Beijing's apparent military expansion in the region.
In its annual defense white paper, Tokyo said some believe that relations between the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the Communist Party leadership were "getting complex" and said this was a matter of concern.
There is a possibility that the degree of military influence on foreign policy decisions has been changing, the paper said, without elaborating.
"This situation calls for attention as a risk management issue," it added.
The report comes out at a time when China's senior officers, intelligence advisers and maritime agency chiefs have been increasingly outspoken in calling for Beijing to take a tougher line in regional territorial disputes with rival claimants.
In referring to those disputes, which include a long-simmering row with Japan in the East China Sea, Tokyo's views echoed the findings of a 2011 paper which welcomed China's growing role on the world stage while noting its increasingly aggressive moves.

By: Brant

Sound Off! China vs Russia

Who has the better military heritage?

China! Sun Tzu, The Boxer Rebellion, The Great Wall, 1500 years of battles we've never heard of!

Russia! The Great Patriotic War, Cossacks, the AK47, and never getting conquered!

Sound off below!

By: Brant

GrogNews Re-Run: Lessons Learned From Chechnya

I was about to post this b/c of a recent off-line discussion I was having elsewhere,and then I checked to see if we had already posted the Lessons Learned From Chechnya. Turned out we had.

Take a look and give us your comments on lessons we could have learned from the Russians 8-10 years before we had many of the same problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By: Brant

30 July 2012

China's Military Footprint Expanding

They've already got a small island "base" (see map below) from which they can base fighters and most of their naval vessels. Now they're looking at deploying a military garrison to Woody Island in the South China Sea.

China's central military authority has approved to form and deploy a military garrison in the newly established city of Sansha.

Sources with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Guangzhou Military Command said Friday that the Central Military Commission (CMC) had authorized it to form a garrison command in the city.

The garrison command will be a division-level command under the PLA's Hainan provincial sub-command, responsible for managing the city's national defense mobilization, military reserves and carrying out military operations.

The PLA's Sansha Garrison Command will be under the dual leadership of the Hainan provincial sub-command and the city's civilian leaders.

Part of the issue is the size of the unit. For a civilian government of this size, there's usually a 6000-man (or so) garrison from the PLA. There's not enough real estate out here to park that many folks, never mind the twin logistical challenges of (a) keeping them fed, and (b) keeping them from being bored.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

29 July 2012

Aleppo's Uprising Not All Home-Grown

Aleppo got dragged into the insurgency rather than waiting for it to start.

"We liberated the rural parts of this province. We waited and waited for Aleppo to rise, and it didn't. We couldn't rely on them to do it for themselves so we had to bring the revolution to them," said a rebel commander in a nearby village, who calls himself Abu Hashish.
The short scrawny man with a drooping grey moustache sits juggling cell phones and a walkie-talkie, arranging for the next convoy to head for Aleppo. Tanks of fuel and homemade grenades for use in rocket launchers are piled up along the outside of his house, ready to be dispatched.
"About 80 percent of the fighters in this city come from the countryside. Aleppo is a business town, people said they wanted to stay neutral. But now that we have come, they seem to be accepting us," he said.
As towns across Syria were rocked by the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad - in which it is estimated 18,000 people have been killed - Aleppo, home to conservative Muslim families and businesses, stayed largely silent.
Although armed resistance began in poorer districts where residents had more tribal allegiances or rural backgrounds, Aleppo's sacrifices have paled in comparison to nearby northern Idlib, central Homs or even Damascus, the capital.
Exasperated by the slow progress in Aleppo, rebels in the countryside said they were finally emboldened to push into the city after an assassination in the capital Damascus of four top government officials, including the defense minister.
"It was a boost to our spirits. We were so excited because we knew it was time. Aleppo is the economic center, the true source of regime power. If we can strike it hard, and hold on, we can bring Bashar down," said one rebel fighter joining the convoy who called himself Abu Bakr.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

28 July 2012

Relocating of Pre-Positioned Stocks Coming

The US is planning to relocate much of their pre-positioned vehicle and equipment sets.

In a significant indication of where the Army anticipates it will be deployed over coming years, and what it will be doing there, the service is planning to relocate some of its vast overseas stores of combat equipment and alter the contents of other warehouse stocks to reflect the changing nature of the mission after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Large numbers of MRAPs, the armored troop carriers built to withstand the blast of improvised explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be stored in Italy, where they could be transported for contingencies across Africa. Those could include disaster relief in hostile environments, civilian evacuations or counterinsurgency assistance to local security forces.

In addition, MRAPs would be sent to warehouses in the western Pacific for potential use during a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, under current planning being included in Pentagon budgets now taking shape, even as significant numbers are stored in Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf region.

Plans call for the brigade-size stock of armored fighting vehicles now stored in Europe to be brought home, although other infantry and support equipment would remain. A primary mission for the gear to be stored in Europe would be to supply multilateral training exercises among American and allied troops.

The Army wants to locate sets of equipment that could be pulled from storage for multilateral training exercises and other contingencies in the Asia-Pacific region, most likely aboard ships and perhaps in Australia, officials say. Other Army storage sites around the world may see an increase in gear designed for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

By: Brant

Video Footage From Free Syrian Army

Free Syrian Army ambush that nets them a pair of captured T72s.

h/t Rex

By: Brant

COA Analysis: Dissension and Reaction

This one could apply to a lot of circumstances...

Here are 4 courses of action to how dissent toward a government might be pushed, and how the government might react to it.

So pick a current situation - Egypt, Yemen, Quebec, Miami - and let us know how you think it might play out.

By: Brant

27 July 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: The Guards!

Why are you getting Warfighter 101: The Guards today? Because it's my birthday weekend and you'll get whatever I want to give you!

Seriously, though - for the 4 of you out there that might've stumbled across it, what did you think?

From a comment on BGG
The scenarios notwithstanding (some appear badly under-tested) this game is fascinating as the second module in the Warfighter Series. Infantry jump to the fore in this one, and they are very effective as a blocking force, and as a way to screen your armour from maruading anti-tank units. You gotta use dismounts to deal with his AT units, then your vehicles can mop up his remaining units.

Production quality is better than Movement to Contact, however there appears to be a dearth of good terrain types (1000m is a large scale for a hex. There could be nice terrain in there). The scenarios, while possibly unbalanced, and sometimes having impossible (as in contradictory to the rules) objectives, are nevertheless informative, and feel plucked straight from today's headlines.

Recommended, as a neat interpretation of modern platoon-level combat. This system is going places. Get it.

And yes, you can discuss it on CSW.

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

Current ISAF Placemat

It's dated for May, but it's the current one on the ISAF site. It's just been a while since we updated it.
Two interesting things:
1. They're no longer briefing the PRTs in the Placemat brief, but have replaced it with ANA locations and strengths. Clearly indicates the shift in what matters in the brief.
2. If the border areas on the AfPak border are the key problem area that we keep hearing about, why do so few border prov's have BN(+) contingents from ISAF, and there's 4 BNs in Helmand?

By: Brant

26 July 2012

BULLETS! - Ceremonies

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Ceremonies belong to the senior NCOs. The officers are just there to stand out front and be mouthpieces.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: Royal Navy Rescue & Olympic Flame

Royal Navy Search and Rescue Squadron to Carry the Olympic Flame to Land’s End • Olympic Flame arrives into Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall on 18 May • 771 Naval Air Squadron to carry the flame in a Sea King Helicopter on 19 May • First time a ‘live flame’ is carried as a passenger The Royal Navy is proud to announce that its Search and Rescue Squadron has been selected by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to transfer the Olympic Flame to Land’s End for the start of the UK Torch Relay, presented by Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung. On the evening of Friday 18th May, the Olympic Flame will arrive at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose onboard a British Airways, gold-liveried aircraft from Athens. After an overnight stay at the Air Station, the Flame will be flown to Land’s End by 771 Naval Air Squadron in a Sea King helicopter that has been used for many lifesaving missions across the South West. On landing, one the four aircrew will jump out of the aircraft and take the Olympic Flame to the start of the London 2012 Torch Relay, so that its momentous journey across the UK can begin. The Olympic Flame will then travel 8,000 miles across the UK to within 10 miles of 95% of the population. 8,000 Torchbearers will carry the Olympic Flame for approximately 300 metres each, passing the Olympic Flame from torch to torch until it reaches the Olympic Stadium on the eve of 27 July.
img from UK MoD By: Widow 6-7

Connections - Day 4, But Just The Beginning

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

Hey, I'm out of here early today, so you're only getting part of today's stuff. It's my birthday, deal with it.

Today we've got Tim Wilkie on the podium, starting out by thanking the CASL team that's hosted the conference, and they all deserve a huge thanks for their hard work as the hosts.

CASL Wargaming Community Engagement Efforts
Navigating the Archipelago of Excellence

Lots of folks doing great wargaming work in lots of places, but not talking together particularly well.
How do we engage with each other?
What are the incentives to engage with each other?

Efforts to Engage Wargaming:
-- Strategic Gaming Roundtable (quarterly series) - in person roundtables and discussions; some are streamed but not recorded. (these are the ones that I tend to live-blog when I can make it)
-- Lectures on Strategic Gaming (educational opportunity for game designers) - learn about how wargaming works for novices and journeymen entering the field of professional wargaming
-- CASL Wargaming Bibliography. And of course, we've got our own here at GrogNews, too (look up top at the tabs below the header)
-- MORS. Yeah, whoop-freakin-ee, MORS. (the problem with MORS is that unless you're connected to the US military and have a security clearance you can't get in the door, so throw out all the academics, foreigners, hobbyists, etc)
-- Online Resources: PaxSims, Wargaming Connection, Play the Past, GrogNews, Dr Sabin's Yahoo groups (pretty sure we've got all these linked on the left sidebar)
and a big thanks to Tim for pimping GrogNews to the assembled masses

What are the incentives for keeping people engaged?
-- Part of our problem in sharing our work, and publishing/publicizing is that we don't own a lot of our own work, and we're things doing for other people. They may be classified, or just touchy subjects.
-- Not everything we do has a clear outcome and tangible benefits that can be defined for our hierarchies to justify our continued engagement in this community.
-- "Lost in Translation" - no clear definition of wargaming. Dr Yuna Wong: "Wargaming is what wargamers do."

Outreach - Engagement - Collaboration
Three similar facets of working together.
Need to do a lot more within the wargaming community.

Other venues for engagement:
Origins War College

By: Brant

Connections - Day 3

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

Day 3 Panels
(these aren't all 1 panel; I glommed a few together and left out one or two I didn't feel I could capture well)

Anchors in Time: Handoffs Between Board Games & History (Jeremy Antley)
Games use narratives drawn from when they were created; gives them “temporal fingerprints” that place them in a place in time
Increasing ‘soft’ factors in hobby/wargames; factors can be highly debatable

Why do historians have antipathy towards games?
- Perceptions of source material
- Counter-factual narratives?
- Lack of ‘established knowledge handoffs’ – historians don’t know/understand the material of wargames
- Willingness to deal with unwritten sources (presenter’s background is studying peasants, who don’t have written sources)

What is “authoritative” information? Before it goes into “history” how is it “validated” in such a manner that keepers of history will accept it?
- More info on models/sources used to design
- What were the designer’s aims and what was he trying to do?

Top-Down Model on board games’ ability to simulate war (Sabin)
- Concentrates on outputs and observed effects
- Players understand mechanics and model
- Relatively easy to modify
- Crusader Kings II vs Twilight Struggle

Design involves abstraction
Board games can generate knowledge through their abstraction; can question how the abstractions were emplaced and models were developed
Videogame abstraction is very ‘black box’
Board games guided by narratives; video games guided by code
Design compresses time, but doesn’t compress thinking with history
Superpowers at War vs 1989: The Dawn of Freedom

Useful sources for tying games to history
- Design notes / lineage of design and mechanics
- Podcasts and background
- Blogs and blog posts w/ comments and interactions
- Forums
- Playtest notes & discussions as model evolves

Because board games use narratives, design has to be validated (or at least tacitly acknowledged) for the model and theme to be accepted (esp for COIN)
Historical texts are passive; games are active
Validation is what’s needed to tie the two together.

Archives and Documentation of Military Simulations
Dr Henry Lowood (Stanford)
The Cabrinety Collection of videogames, about 1350 linear feet of archive material, all as digital/videogames from mid-70s to mid-90s (Magnavox Odyssey to N64, roughly).
Did you know that there was an Atari game for Eastern Front (1941) published back in 1983 for the Atari 400/800? The volume of copies sold was apparently roughly 2/3 of the total sales of Atari 400/800 platforms.
Because the catalog is alphabetical by “author” you get E.T and Eastern Front consecutively.
As they’ve gone through and started cataloging the collection, they haven’t opened a box that didn’t have at least 2-3 wargames in it.
Because all the boxes, packaging, etc are all intact, you can analyze the ways in which the games were presented commercially. For example, Road to Moscow (WWII computer game) looks a lot like a board game in its packaging and presentation. Rules, tables, graphic presentation looks like it was lifted straight out of a board game. Because of the paper-presentation with the games, even if the games never run on a computer again, they still have value for their paper artifacts.
Stanford project “How They Got Game” on the history of videogaming / archiving the games. One of the first tasks they went at was the history of wargaming & simulation and how the commercial press treated coverage of the military sims. (The first cover of WIRED featuring Bruce Sterling’s “War is Virtual Hell”). ...building up through the 73 Easting sim.
HPS Sim’s archives, stored at Stanford where they were the academic partners with HPS for some STTRs and responsible for cartography and archiving (among other things). Among the cartography work, they were digitizing the German general staff maps of the 1940s. Trying to get a complete set of maps on Eastern front, and piece together a complete set (turns out some of them were never printed by the Germans at the time). Some are commercially available from HPS. Archives of HPS games include design notes, reviews of games, online AARs, forums, blogs, etc. Sample included a very dense table created by a user for Squad Battles with weapons stats for Vietnam-era battles.

Data Curation and Conflict Simulation, or What’s Really in Larry Bond’s Basement
Dr Matt Kirschenbaum
What is “data curation”?
The community’s data is expensive and time-consuming to gather; sometimes classified; subject to revision; needed for validation and assessment
Actions needed to maintain digital research data and other digital materials over their entire life-cycle and over time for current & future generations of users. Includes processes of needed for good data creation and management and capacity to add value.
Data has a life-cycle and preservation begins at creation
Preservation alone isn’t enough, but it also needs active and on-going management, and it will have value to future users that you cannot anticipate.
1898, Janes’ Fighting Ships and Janes’ Naval Wargame used the same blocks to print the images in the research book as well as the wargame.
--- extended discussion of, literally, what's in Larry Bond's basement, with regards to his notes, data, versions, etc as Harpoon has developed over the years ---

By: Brant

24 July 2012

Connections - Day 2, afternoon sessions

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

Afternoon session

I missed some of the introductions when I was in the wrong room. D'oh!

Anders Frank (Swedish Defence College) is discussing the development of wargaming in the Swedish military.
Low-fidelity wargames that focuses on "good enough" and capture the major attributes of warfare without detail overkill. Designed for good gameplay to learn by doing.
Pros: shorter dev times; day to learn & use; increased freq of use; engages students
Cons: Some responsibility shifted to instructors; well-suited for their base design purpose, but not more generalizable; require certain pre-req level of knowledge

First game was SSM: Simple Surface warfare Model
Cadet course in naval/littoral warfare for basic tactics
(video demo of the game)
Another game: MAO - Master of Air Operations

Lo-fi wargame issues
-- Maintaining students suspension of disbelief
-- Over-enthusiastic team "Gamer mode"
-- Not enough time for iterative use
-- essential/delicate relationship between gaming & debriefing

Wargaming research
-- Document structure & knowledge of wargaming
Build off of pedagogy, interaction, etc

"Gamer mode": desire to win over-rides the desire to learn, and rational game-based decisions take over rational real-life decisions

Ellie Bartels (CASL) talking about GEMSTONE.
Originally created to support a CISA/SPOLIC program in ICTF; mostly foreign students (20-30 nations represented)
Models US FM 3-24; doesn't have to model reality, has to be in line with doctrine
Why multi-method gaming? Social science of COIN / Systems Dynamics Modeling
-- Social science of COIN: complex causality and mix of hard/soft metrics
-- SD: dynamic adjudication that lets red & blue impact the environment
Discussion of Pearl Conflict, the actual scenario run last year
-- Blue team is 5 sub-teams, 1 nat'l gov't, plus 5 regional subordinate gov'ts
-- Red team is 5 independent non-coordinating teams; red team played by alumni from host nation
Turn sequence (will post graphic later) in which 1 day of game-play = 1 year of game time.
A lot of coordination btw blue teams in which they move resources / assets / budget around the country.
Player outputs are metrics (scaled scores + GIS data) and qualitative feedback (headlines & narrative)
Key findings:
-- GEMSTONE fills hole in DOD model, strat level, limited resources, host-nation focused
-- MMG eases staff burden while maintaining complexity
-- SD model provides a consistent underpinning to inform students

Dr Stephens Downes-Martin, talking at the level of serious, high-stakes wargamers
The Three Witches of Wargaming: Boss, Sponsor, Players
They are the three people who will interfere with your game
Even if they were once expert wargamers, they are not now (their experience will be perishable)
They will want to 'help' your design process; if they do it at the beginning of the process you can recover, but if they do it on day one of your game, it's too late
You need to have the professional courage to stand up for your design and face down higher-ranking leadership
The gamble is when the holes in your design will show through (before or after your sponsor rotates out)

The boss: research shows that once a practitioner ("doer") is moved to leadership (responsible for overseeing "doers") and then moves back to doing (i.e., giving you advice as a practitioner) they are not as effective as they were before. You can reduce these conflicts by ensuring your boss stays informed with your developments.

The players: you're not "inviting" senior leader to play in your game; you're "recruiting" them. Keep the players focused on the objectives of the sponsor (the four-star who may not be there) instead of their personal thoughts on what's happening. Explain what the sponsor is wanting and recruit them to lead the game cell through the game as designed.

The sponsor: fixing the sponsor can potentially fix the other two. You want the sponsor to bring to you a clearly-articulated problem and some guidance on participants. What you usually get is a poorly-thought-out solution with no real problem articulated. Or you get a sponsor that's too busy to talk to you, and puts an "action officer" in the middle of the communication flow.
You need to meet with the sponsor, not the action officer, not matter how much their subordinates claim to represent it. Don't start until you meet the sponsor. Need a full-scale analysis with the sponsor
4 questions:
-- What do you want?
-- Why do you want it? (and if they mention stakeholders, drill down about why they want it)
-- Why don't you have it already? (a wealth of information: bureaucratic issues, incompetence, etc?)
-- When are you leaving? (establishes your time horizon)
(No known correlation between being good at your job and being good at analyzing your job)

By: Brant

Sound Off! Cover Art

How vital is the game's cover art to attracting your attention?

By: Brant

Connections - Day 2, morning sessions again

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

As per Connections tradition, we didn't make it past the first panel and we're already off-schedule.

1030 – 1200 "Needs Pull," Defense Decision Support Wargaming Today
Co-chairs: Prof Stephen Downs-Martin & Col Westy Westenhoff
Approaches to Title X Gaming: Concepts or Capabilities, Doug Ducharme Shawn Burns, Naval War College
Wargaming In Support of Science and Technology Decision- Making, Paul Vebber, Naval Underseas Warfare Center
Aids to Effective Contingency Planning, Westy Westenhoff, Col USAF (ret) Checkmate

Shawn Burns
Talking about Title X wargaming, which are the Congressionally-mandated annual (or semi-annual) exercises that are supposed to look forward to future force requirements, capabilities, strategies, and commitments. Great slides that lay out the legal requirements for the Title X wargames, by citing and highlighting the legal/policy documents that specify the requirements.

How do diff's btw service approaches matter? (analytical vs educational)

Paul Vebber, who is not here representing NUWC, associated with NUWC, affiliated with NUWC, or any way whatsoever on the same planet on NUWC.
Talking about how wargaming can be used in support of science and technology, and using wargaming to explore S&T concepts
"It's all fun & games until someone loses an eye. Then it's fun you can't see." - James Hetfield

Don't argue over what's a "game" or what's a "simulation" but focus instead on the verbs: "gaming" and "simulating".
Types of games being used for S&T
-- Semi-adjudicated, resembled COA wargaming w/ action -> reaction -> counteraction
-- Contested, with head-to-head performance, but with the caution of "black box" effects where players can't see "why" certain things work.
-- Full CPX, w/ live and non-cooperative red-team

Building an S&T game requires a solid understanding of the customer and purpose. Also want to understand what decisions have already been made, and whether or not your purpose is merely to advocate on behalf of the sponsor. Perhaps you need to "help" the sponsor identify the likely ways in which his product/process/idea will be attacked.

SW, Ep3 - RotS scene with flying robots carrying buckets of lava - what is the question to which "Flying robots carrying buckets of lava" is the answer?
Why are we putting xyz gadget into the game? BECAUSE WE CAN

Design to detail or design to effect
--- "simulation fidelity" - cram in all the details vs "player understanding" - how much time and effort the players can muster for it
--- scenario design that matches echelon of analysis with echelon at which effects are discernible
--- design and implementation of the red force

COL(R) Westenhoff now addressing contingency planning

Feasibility, cost, time, and risk estimation
- National decision-makers have big questions and few big questions have a pat answer
First task in a wargame: Don't lose
- Avoid failure, and anticipate an active adversary
(will admit to getting a little distracted in here, and didn't take great notes while listening... sorry)
Wargames can influence decisions about wars, and can alleviate burdens of cognitive fallacies.
Participants should strive for integrity and fidelity.

By: Brant

Connections - Day 2, morning sessions

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

Dr Kjonnerod kicking off the real sessions with a discussion of how the wargaming community needs to pull together more and meet their counterparts and find solutions that other people are already having success with.

Uh, we tried that after last Connections, and were met with stunning indifference on the part of most of the professional wargaming community.

Matt Caffrey loves to talk about the importance of wargaming, and loves to address lessons of pre-WWII wargaming at the Naval War College and how lessons learned in those events informed their decisions, especially in the Pacific. When I get Matt's links to those articles / stories / books, I'll link or post them.

Dean Robert Rubel (NWC) is talking about current status of wargaming at the Naval War College. He notes that the topics that their constituents are interested in are among the toughest to wargame, and are going in new and different directions.
"Fast and objective" are still key requirements for wargaming. Can we use computers as an impartial umpire? If so, how do we impartially adjudicate non-kinetic factors?
Participants are a key component of wargames, and where senior staff/flag officers would show up for weeks at a time for the exercise, these days they only show up for a few days, max. "Fast" now means that useful game feedback comes quickly enough to be meaningful to the participants, not just that the computer calculates it quickly.
Networking players is not enough - need a way to make the interactions more meaningful.
No such thing as machine objectivity, since all machines are programmed by people. Can run tactical-level games that address kinetic actions, but at the operational/strategic levels need to bring in non-kinetic factors.
Three ways to bring in other factors into a wargame: portray it, represent it, or talk about it.
Talk about it = bring in SME's to address the exercise on how their domain will impact what's going on.
Represent it = some form of rules-based mechanism to account for the effects.
Portray it = played as a full partner.
Systematic vs Heroic vs Disruptive Warfare: disruptive warfare is based around "outlasting" the other guy (insurgency, commerce raiders, etc). A great example of "disruptive warfare" is Washington in the AWI.

Dr Philip Sabin is being web-conferenced in through a video link, and it sounds like he's in an echo chamber on his end.
First slide of Sabin's talk is
Dunnigan was WRONG
Rubel was WRONG
Perla was WRONG
Sabin was WRONG

As 2 of those guys are in the audience (and one of them was just speaking), it got a chuckle.
Dunnigan was wrong in that manual wargaming has not died out, and in fact, the numbers of titles are expanding. Among the reasons it's not died out include the lack of technological obsolescence (can still play board games from 40+ years ago, but can't play computer games from 10 years ago), and budgetary issues. Sabin's key reason that board wargaming is still popular is the accessibility and transparency of the designs.

Rubel was wrong because he was advocating a professionalization of the wargaming community in an attempt to weed out the poor designs. Sabin's argument is not to narrow the wargaming field, but to widen it as much as possible so that you have more educated consumers who can recognize poor design, as well as customers who may be capable of creating their own game rather than have to bring in someone. As an example, he shows some of the works of his students who have created games within the parameters of his master's program at King's College and had students turn out some great work, despite never having played a wargame.

Perla was wrong in that trying to account for the "black swans" ignores the variability in war that's not caused by them. (Here we go again...) Is every bit of variability in war due to "black swans" or are there other ranges that can inject necessary variability, but still with a reasonable likelihood of outcome?

Sabin war wrong: "Lost Battles" was intended to be a form of scholarship as well as recreational game. However, for ancient warfare, the volume of scholarship generated by the academic world far outweighs the amount of evidence available to scholars. Wargames force players to make decisions in the eyes of the participants.

Sabin admits he's being deliberately contrarian to make some points.
- Manual wargames are increasingly vibrant and useful even in a digital age
- Wargame design is more art than science and needs to be more accessible
- Chance is essential to wargames, but the unexpected cannot dominate
- Wargames are only taken seriously by those who actually play them (if then...)

Dr William Lademan, MCWL
"Wargaming as a Substrate for Innovation"
Without a good definition of what a wargame is, we're all partitioners, if not professionals.
Without those definitions, there's no lexicon that can unify the discussion of terminology such that we're all speaking the same language.
As a substrate, wargaming is required for innovation.
Wargaming is a great vehicle for innovation to influence and drive strategic changes. Better to have 2 cardboard carriers sunk and learn the lessons rather than learn them with real people.
Comment of MCWL as the "headlights" of the Marine Corps to look forward.
Title X wargaming - fundamental responsibilities enshrined within the the US Code that created DoD' includes the execution of annual wargames to address future capabilities in context of Title X responsibilities
Wargame definition: an artificial vehicle made up of a field of variables that replicates conflict and allows the human intellect to consider a real problem.
-- Variable - a function that may assume difference values in time and space. Too few variables and it's just tic-tac-toe; too many variables and it's too unwieldy.

Start off with objectives of the wargames
Develop an estimate of the situation: Force, Domains, Threat, Risk
Strategy / Theory of Action to help shape the enemy through Freedom of action (maximize yours, eliminate his); Cohesive user of power; Misdirection --> allows operational decision-making
(Discussion of how to wargame Joint Operational Access Concept, using a model that incorporates a series of "bands" of enemy activities as you approach the area where you want to access.)
Wargaming process:
-- Preparation (organization of variables)
-- Execution (entanglement) - not there to control, but to facilitate
-- Assessment (coherence)

(Q&A, but I'm not going to try to capture it)

By: Brant

Check out ACIG.org

Rex just told me about Air Combat Information Group's website. Tons of interesting and useful stuff here. Go check it out and talk about your favorites down below.

By: Brant

Streaming Connections

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

I'm not going to try to fully liveblog-as-I-go this time, but instead I'm going to point you toward NDU's "Livestream" of the Connections sessions. I'll still post things during the conference, but not necessarily a running commentary.

By: Brant

Afghan Police Switching Sides

I guess it's only surprising that this doesn't happen more often.

An Afghan police commander and 13 junior officers have joined the Taliban in the western Afghan province of Farah, in what correspondents say could be the biggest defection by police.

They say the commander, named as Mirwais, was in charge of a 20-man checkpoint when he defected on Sunday.

The men are said to have taken heavy weaponry, radios and police vehicles including US-made armoured Humvees.

Farah is one of the most insecure areas in the relatively peaceful west.

The commander was based in Shewan village in the district of Bala Bulak, which was until recently considered a Taliban stronghold.

The insurgents were driven out of the area following a series of operations carried out by Afghan security forces. But local officials say insurgents have regrouped in the area recently.

By: Brant

Connections - Day 2 schedule

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

Day 2, Tuesday, 24 July

0800 - 0810 Welcome
Prof. L. Erik Kjonnerod, Center for Applied Strategic Learning, NDU
0810 - 0950 Keynote Addresses,
Moderator: Mr. Matt Caffrey, Col USAF (ret), AF Material Command
Dean Robert Rubel, Dean of Naval Warfare Studies, Naval War College
Prof Phil Sabin, King's College London, Wargame Designer, Author
Dr. William Lademan, Director, WGing Div, USMC Warfighting Lab

1030 – 1200 "Needs Pull," Defense Decision Support Wargaming Today
Co-chairs: Prof Stephen Downs-Martin & Col Westy Westenhoff
Speakers: Approaches to Title X Gaming: Concepts or Capabilities,
Doug Ducharme, Naval War College
Wargaming In Support of Science and Technology Decision
Making, Paul Vebber, Naval Underseas Warfare Center
Aids to Effective Contingency Planning,
Westy Westenhoff, Col USAF (ret) Checkmate

1430 - 1600 "Opportunities Push," Developments/Potential of Popular Wargaming
Co-chairs: Chris Carlson & Gordon Bliss
Speakers: Miniatures/Figure, Alan Zimm
Print/Board, John Prados, WG designer, historian
Computer, Paul Vebber


What Comes After VBS-2?

The Army sure would like to know.

The U.S. Army is in the market for a next-generation first-person-shooter (FPS) training game that will incorporate the latest video game technology. The game will replace Virtual Battlespace 2, the Army’s official tactical training game since 2008.

With a July 12 close date for questions and comments, officials are likely now digesting responses to a June draft Request for Proposal. Published by the Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, it essentially calls for an updated version of VBS2 rather than a revolutionary change in gaming. VBS2, from Bohemia Interactive Simulations, has become the mothership of tactical simulations for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as other nations such as Britain and Australia.

There are a plethora of add-ons and modifications, from IED training to foreign language instruction, plus versions for Special Operations Command and spinoffs such as VBS2 Fires for indirect fire training. The Army wants the next-generation sim to continue to work with these add-ons, thus eliminating the need to reinvent the virtual wheel. It also wants the sim to operate on PC, Web-based and mobile platforms, and integrate into a live-virtual-constructive environment. The plan is to have industry offer solutions to these requirements, including how to adapt the latest gaming technology.

By: Brant

23 July 2012

Connections Day 1 - Wargame Design Panel

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

Current panel is Joe Miranda, Dr John Prados, and Al Nofi talking about how to design a game. After a few humorous war stories about early game play and game design, they started talking about how things have developed over the years.
Prados got started by buying his own posterboard & cardstock and trying to develop his own prototypes of forthcoming TAHGC designs.
Al Nofi has noted that where TAHGC used the same CRTs, rules outlines, etc forever, SPI wanted to really change the way the games themselves were built on their research of the situations being modeled, the victory conditions, etc. The research for the articles that accompanied the games in S&T were pretty heavily researched such that the articles and rules could almost footnote each other.
Prados' contrast to that was that his approach was to put a scenario on the map & counters first, then start adjusting based on the research, but only after the initial draft was done.
Nofi: "Scrimmage was just Firefight with a football."

Question from the audience about game design failure - after research and design and successful
creation of an actual game, there are still 2 points of failure: playtesting and rules writing/editing.
Prados: "Evolution of the rules framework has to proceed in tandem with the design as it approaches testing."
Nofi: "One of the most difficult things about rules is getting people to read them."
Nofi on playtesting your own stuff: "You're thinking the rule, but you may not be playing the rule, as it's written."

By: Brant

Connections Day 1 - Joe Miranda's Wargame Design 101, part 2

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

So someone just asked Joe Miranda "how long does it take to design a wargame?"
Joe started with the stock answer of "it depends" but then follows up with "I've got it down to about a week."
That collective groan you heard was every game designer in a 10-mile radius ready to kill Joe, as all of the folks in the room who don't understand wargame design now think that this is just some rote, automated process that just involves a few days of looking up ORBATs and then you crank out a game, and how could this possibly take you 3-4 months to fully flesh out the design and why the heck are we paying you to do this project for the government when we could just go get Joe to do it in a week even though we totally don't understand at all that he's building those one-week projects off of a tried-and-true rules engine that bears no resemblance whatsoever to what we need in our non-hobby-game way.


Someone just asked about the "golden BB" and/or "black swan" effect. See our discussion here or here about that in the GameTalk feature.

By: Brant

Connections Day 1 - Joe Miranda's Wargame Design 101

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

After a long discussion over lunch about the upcoming HADR GameLab scenario, Brian Train and I snuck into the back of the Joe Miranda's Wargame Design 101 talk. Like any Joe Miranda talk, it involves a lot of showing off his own work, and one of the discussions is about a new card-driven game system called the "commando" system. The first design will be Congo in the 60s, and other upcoming games on the drawing board are LRDG, US SOF in Iraq in '03, and something else that went by on the sled too fast for me to grab. If I can steal an image or two from Joe, I'll try to post them later. Essentially, you have some card-driven missions that determine what you have to do, and "operations" cards to help you do it.

By: Brant

Monday Video: WWII, Again

Starting your week off with a re-enacted bang.

Nominate your own videos for inclusion in the comments below.

By: Brant

Army Defense of Pricey Acquisitions At the Expense of Performance

Army acquisitions trying to defend their own investments?

The Army ordered the destruction of a report that praised the performance of an off-the-shelf software program that finds buried explosives in Afghanistan and replaced it with a revised, less-favorable assessment, according to internal Pentagon documents.
The unusual action came amid a battle inside the Army. It pits those who want the service to send more of the software platform, called Palantir, to the Afghanistan War against those who favor the Army’s own developed intelligence network, the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS).
Internal emails reveal an intelligence officer in Afghanistan who was frustrated by Army bureaucrats who blocked his request to buy Palantir in the winter.
“We are trying to solve some very hard problems that pose life or death issues for the soldiers,” the officer emailed to the Pentagon.
The documents obtained by The Washington Times show that Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff, in February ordered the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) to judge the performance of Palantir.
ATEC published internally its official report in April, but the report was rescinded and ordered destroyed. The less-favorable assessment of Palantir was issued in its place in May.
The Times first reported last week that commanders in Afghanistan asked higher-ups for permission to buy Palantir, as they raved about its ability to pinpoint a major killer of American troops — buried homemade bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The Times reported how officers had to go over bureaucratic hurdles to acquire Palantir, which is not in the annual Army budget and would have to be purchased with special funds.

The key wrap-up on DCGS is this, from an intel guy in the 82nd:
“Bottom line from our perspective is that [DCGS] has continuously overpromised and failed to deliver on capability that will meet the needs of the warfighter.
“All the bullet points they can list on a slide sitting back in the Pentagon don’t change the reality on the ground that their system doesn’t do what they say it does, and is more of a frustration to deal with than a capability to leverage.
“We aren’t going to sit here and struggle with an ineffective intel system while we’re in the middle of a heavy fight taking casualties. Palantir actually works. When DCGS actually works, we’ll be ready to use it.”
He added: “If the crew of people I work with their combined IQ, ingenuity, and years of experience, can’t figure out how to make DCGS work in this fight, they need to fix their system.”

I've worked with DCGS on the back end - data models, data schemas, system compatibility, etc - and one of the biggest problems with DCGS (just like CIDNE) is the insistence that it become the one-database-to-rule-them-all instead of acknowledging that there are other data sources out there that are relevant and useful and meaningful and they can and should be used without having to be sucked into the MCP.
The Army (in particular) and the DoD (in general) has a hard time with the idea of data sharing. In the wake of Bradley Manning, it's not an unreasonable fear. But it's too often used as a justification to defend rice bowls.

h/t Doctrine Man

By: Brant

22 July 2012

Military Mutiny in Madagascar

Madagascar's army says that the mutiny failed to expand beyond the first military camp.

Mutinous soldiers stormed a military camp near Madagascar's main airport on Sunday and the army said it had contained the fighting and there was no risk of the violence spreading.
The island nation has been wrecked by political turmoil and violence in the three years since then-opposition leader Andry Raojelina ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, who has been in self-imposed exile in South Africa since his overthrow.
"... at 5 a.m. a group of armed soldiers forced their way into the barracks of the 1st RFI (First Regiment of Interventionist Forces) Ivato. The group fired in the air, hindering all attempts to enter into the barracks," an army statement said.
Soldiers and gendarmes were now positioned around the barracks and "the events happening inside the camp do not risk overflowing to the outside", it said.
The army said Corporal Koto Mainty, a former bodyguard of a former army minister and known as "Black", had led the revolt.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

DoD Firing Up Initiatives on Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified Information

What's funny about the Statement from George Little on Defense Initiatives to Limit Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified Information is that they are initiatives to "limit" - not "prevent" or "eliminate".

Department of Defense Fact Sheet
Recent Actions to Counter Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified Information

The Department of Defense has taken a comprehensive approach to reducing unauthorized disclosures of classified information. The department is continuously improving its security posture and overall capability to prevent unauthorized disclosures. Today, Secretary Panetta directed:

- A new “top down” approach to improve reporting leaks of classified information. The Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, will monitor all major, national media reporting for unauthorized disclosures of defense department classified information. The Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence will ensure that the appropriate component of the department has been tasked with investigating leaks and that the required legal referrals to the Department of Justice and Congressional notifications are made.

In addition, over the past months, the following actions have been taken to help safeguard classified information:

- Improved personnel training on how to handle and protect classified information. The department has updated its information assurance and information security training courses that all personnel are required to take each year. The department has developed training designed to help individuals know what to do if they suspect a threat from an insider or observe security incidents such as leaks of classified information.

- Clarification of Information Security Policy. The department published the 5200.1M Information Security Program Manual which contains clearer instructions as to what constitutes an unauthorized disclosure, reporting requirements, the conduct of preliminary inquiries and other investigations, as well as roles and responsibilities across the department.

- Automated Security Incident Reporting System. The department has put into effect for the first time an online reporting system for significant security incidents for use across the department. This capability went into full operation in December of 2011 and is currently under evaluation for improvements in data management and tracking of investigations and other associated actions.

- Lockdown of removable storage device use on the Defense Secure Network (SIPRNET). The department has deployed a host-based security system (HBSS) tool to virtually monitor every defense department computer. HBSS prevents the downloading of information onto removable storage like DVDs, CDs, and memory sticks, with very limited exceptions. The tool also sends an alarm any time someone tries to write classified information to such removable storage. For authorized exceptions, the tool audits any downloads of information.

- Improved monitoring of DoD networks. The department issued a cyber identity credential (Public Key Infrastructure certificate) to every person operating on the department unclassified network. That process is underway for the classified network as well. Department personnel are working with other federal departments and agencies to help them issue the same cyber identity credential to all employees who need to access any of the government’s secret networks.

- Improving the auditing of information accesses so as to spot anomalous behavior. Department information officers are assessing the use of HBSS and other tools to collect and centralize data about information accesses to more quickly improve detection of malicious insiders.

- Stepping up internal oversight and assessment programs. The department has established the first Defense Security Oversight and Assessment Program (DSOAP) to conduct on-site interviews and staff assistance visits to determine and proliferate best practices as well as assess security policy affects on components. The effort identifies policy changes and gaps and provides data to the Defense Security Enterprise to effect policy remedies.

- An “Enterprise Approach” to managing Defense Department security. In response to findings of the DoD IG and issues raised during the WikiLeaks investigation, the department is publishing the DoD Directive 5200.LL, Managing the Defense Security Enterprise. This issuance stands up an executive level governance structure aimed at creating strategic management of department investments in security resources. It is the first body to bring the functions of security, counterintelligence, and information assurance together for decision-making and proponency of the security mission and for its workforce.

- Comprehensive Insider Threat Program. The department has now initiated a comprehensive DoD Insider Threat Program which includes elements from Physical Security, Cyber Security, Counterintelligence, Antiterrorism, and Force Protection. A forthcoming DoD directive (2000.rr) will codify this approach to address aspects of the insider threat.

- Unauthorized Disclosure Working Group (UDWG) and Unauthorized Disclosure Action Plan. The Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence has commissioned the UDWG in April 2012 to develop a strategy and plan of action and milestones aimed at improving our ability to prevent accidental and deter intentional public disclosure of classified national security information. The group has its plan in draft and is in the process of overseeing its execution.

By: Brant

21 July 2012

Empty Promises on Canadian Defense Investments?

The Economist has a bleak outlook on plans vs reality in Canadian defense spending.

One of the main ways Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, has sought to distinguish himself from his Liberal predecessors is by building a modern army ready to fight, rather than merely for peacekeeping. In the 2011 election campaign he promised to fulfil a C$15 billion ($15 billion) contract for 65 F-35 fighter aircraft despite a tough economy. In October he announced Canada’s biggest-ever arms order, for naval and coastguard ships costing C$35 billion. The structure of the procurement was widely praised for avoiding political interference.

But the glow has not lasted. In April Canada’s auditor-general found that the government had misled Parliament, deliberately underestimating the price of the F-35s by almost C$10 billion, by excluding replacement aircraft, upgrades and training and maintenance costs. On July 4th Mr Harper named a new junior minister at the defence department as the deal’s spokesman. But procurement remains awkwardly split between the defence and public-works ministries. One result was that last year the military forfeited C$600m allocated for equipment but not spent.

Last month Walter Natynczyk, the outgoing chief of the defence staff, criticised a delay in signing detailed contracts for the shipbuilding scheme. The navy fears it will fall victim to a C$3.5 billion cut in defence spending over the next seven years. On July 11th the armed forces were given new cause to worry, when the army scrapped bidding on a C$800m lorry contract for lack of funds, minutes before the deadline.

By: Brant

20 July 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Flight Leader

Take to the skies and blow up the bad guys! Flight Leader put you in the pilot's seat. There were a lot of expansions and articles around this one. It's odd that there was always a ton of material for it, but you'd have trouble finding it on the table at a convention or game gathering.

Flight Leader is a turn based, hex and counter tactical game of "modern" air combat (Korean War to 1986). Each turn is 30 seconds, each hex is 1 km, and each counter is a single aircraft. It was known as Check Six when first used by the Military for training pilots as part of Project "WARRIOR"

Discuss it over at ConSimWorld!

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

NATO Supply Routes and Why Leaving Will Be Harder Than Going In

Foreign Affairs magazine has a great article about the logistics of the exit from Afghanistan, and this excerpt includes a map that should scare folks who realize how much stuff we have to move.

About halfway between Kabul and Kunduz lies the Salang Pass. NATO trucks have no option but to drive through this tunnel, but, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet, it is a deathtrap. Built in 1964 by the Soviets, it was designed to handle 1,000 vehicles a day. During the recent closure of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, some 10,000 tried to jostle their way through every 24 hours. Some get stalled for days. Carbon monoxide, and gas fumes, fill the air; if one of the fuel trucks were to blow, the others would all go with it. Exactly that happened in 1982, and, reportedly, some 900 Russians and Afghans were killed.

As if fumes and fire weren't enough, the tunnel is also plagued by water and ice. The ceiling and walls were never completed, so they leak. As winter snows come, the tunnel becomes one gigantic mud bath, opening onto a cliff-side ice rink on the other side. Given the extreme weather conditions and the fact that the road carries about four times the weight that a highway is supposed to withstand, it is unlikely that any pavement that Turkey or the United States or any of its allies could lay would last. The patching that ISAF did in 2010 is already long gone. Even so, ISAF is discussing repaving at least part of the road, at the cost of more than $60 million.

By: Brant

19 July 2012

BULLETS! - Stray Leaders

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Leaders need to blend into formations, or else they get shot. Don't roam around in a lone tank or Bradley on the battlefield. Find a platoon and get in it.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: Scots Guards and the Olympic Flame

Olympic fever departed York today, as the torch boards the Scots Guardsman at the National Railway Museum for the final leg of its journey through North Yorkshire. The museum will open its doors early so guests can watch the Olympic torch depart for Thirsk and make its journey through the county passing Northallerton, Aiskew, Bedale, Aysgarth, Leyburn and Richmond. The Catterick-based Scots Guards Regimental Band will be in attendance along with soldiers from 1st Battalion the Scots Guards, who will be wearing their infamous red tunic to support this once in a lifetime event. The Scots Guardsman (train) was built in 1927 and is one of only two remaining of the original 70 LMS Royal Scot Class locomotives built, all of which were named after regiments in the British Army.
img from UK MoD By: Widow 6-7

CIA Outsourcing "Assassinations"?

The problem with calling this "assassination" is that although semantically accurate, it deliberates uses the politically- and socially-charged terminology typically associated with the ideological targeting of major political figures. No one calls administration of a death penalty to a prisoner an "assassination" and no one considers snipers taking aim a key leaders on a battlefield to be an "assassination". This is not to excuse the deliberate hiding of a program from Congress, but it does raise a point about the language we use to describe it.

What are your thoughts?

It was one of the biggest secrets of the post-9/11 era: soon after the attacks, President Bush gave the CIA permission to create a top secret assassination unit to find and kill Al Qaeda operatives. The program was kept from Congress for seven years. And when Leon Panetta told legislators about it in 2009, he revealed that the CIA had hired the private security firm Blackwater to help run it. "The move was historic," says Evan Wright, the two-time National Magazine Award-winning journalist who wrote Generation Kill. "It seems to have marked the first time the U.S. government outsourced a covert assassination service to private enterprise."

The quote is from his e-book How to Get Away With Murder in America, which goes on to note that "in the past, the CIA was subject to oversight, however tenuous, from the president and Congress," but that "President Bush's 2001 executive order severed this line by transferring to the CIA his unique authority to approve assassinations. By removing himself from the decision-making cycle, the president shielded himself -- and all elected authority -- from responsibility should a mission go wrong or be found illegal. When the CIA transferred the assassination unit to Blackwater, it continued the trend. CIA officers would no longer participate in the agency's most violent operations, or witness them. If it practiced any oversight at all, the CIA would rely on Blackwater's self-reporting about missions it conducted. Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible." None of this is new information, though I imagine that many people reading this item are hearing about it for the first time.

Isn't that bizarre?

By: Brant

18 July 2012

GameTalk - Combined Arms

(re-running this in the hopes of generating a comment or two)

What's the lowest echelon in which you expect to find cross-service operations in a wargame? How far down do you go before aircraft are abstracted off the map rather than moved around? At what level are the naval vessels no longer relevant on the board?

Similarly, going up from ship-to-ship combat... how far up do you before Marines & boarding parties are abstracted into more theoretical numbers for taking over other vessels?

At what level does airfield defense become an abstract number rather than specifically-assigned assets for protecting the FARP and runways?

By: Brant

17 July 2012

Sound Off! Digital Dice!

How do you feel about digital dice rollers for tabletop games?

Forget it! I want to see / hear / feel those dice tumble around the table!

Hells yeah! I love that I can just set my smartphone down and let it do all the work without knocking over counters!

Pick a side and defend it below!

By: Brant

16 July 2012

Syrian Civil War Now Officially a... uh... "Civil War"

Red Cross declares Syrian conflict to be civil war - Yahoo! News

Syria's 16-month bloodbath crossed an important symbolic threshold Sunday as the international Red Cross formally declared the conflict a civil war, a status with implications for potential war crimes prosecutions.
The Red Cross statement came as United Nations observers gathered new details on what happened in a village where dozens were reported killed in a regime assault. After a second visit to Tremseh on Sunday, the team said Syrian troops went door-to-door in the small farming community, checking residents' IDs and then killing some and taking others away.
According to the U.N., the attack appeared to target army defectors and activists.
"Pools of blood and brain matter were observed in a number of homes," a U.N. statement said.
Syria denied U.N. claims that government forces had used heavy weapons such as tanks, artillery and helicopters during the attack Thursday.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the violence was not a massacre — as activists and many foreign leaders have alleged — but a military operation targeting armed fighters who had taken control of the village.

By: Brant

13 July 2012

GD Up To Their Roadwheels in Deep Doo-Doo

There's an IG report on General Dynamics "wasting" a metric assload of money on the Stryker program, and apparently never tried not to...

The Army is weighing changes in General Dynamics Corp.’s contract to maintain Stryker armored combat vehicles after the Pentagon’s inspector general found the terms led to excess spending of as much as $336 million, or 23 percent.

The no-bid contract resulted in “little, if any, cost risk for the contractor or incentive to control costs,” the inspector general said in an audit. The Army responded by starting a “business case analysis” of potential changes, according to Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for the service’s Ground Combat Systems.

Under contracts that began in 2002 and were awarded without competition, General Dynamics is paid to perform maintenance and to buy, store and issue spare parts for the Army’s 2,576 Stryker vehicles, which were built by the company.

The 19-ton, eight-wheeled vehicles have driven an estimated 40 million miles (64 million kilometers) during the Iraq and Afghan wars. Seventy-seven Strykers have been destroyed in battle since 2002, and 435 were damaged.

Since the first contract in May 2002, Army officials “have made no progress in converting the high-risk cost-reimbursable contract or portions to a preferred lower risk, firm-fixed contract,” the audit, dated June 18, found. “As a result, the Stryker contract was at a higher risk of misuse, waste and inadequate accountability.”

By: Brant

12 July 2012

Revisiting the C2E2

A long time ago (mid-2010) we introduced the GrogNews C2E2 as the start of an engine for rapidly playing out real-world situations. It sort of withered on the vine for a while as real life got in the way, but a string of recent discussions here has brought it back into play as a concept.
Now, the actual nuts-and-bolts of creating/playing the scenarios will have to wait for a little while until we can get the technology caught up, but it's time to get a lot of jumbled and disjointed thoughts into the blog here and let you guys have at them in dissecting their usefulness and relevance, as well as their playability.

Originally we were looking at:
4 kinetic factors
- Attack: ability to go kill stuff
- Defense: ability to not get killed
- Support: ability to help someone else kill stuff
- Reaction: How quickly can you project over your area of influence? Think of this + Area of Effects = movement + range, but not quite exactly.

Some non-kinetic factors:
Need some sort of multi-faceted system that is more detailed that DIME, though that’s not a bad base to start with. For game purposes, I would like to simplify it to some form of “rock-paper-scissors” mechanic, with a rough cut perhaps being:
local influence/tolerance -> economic/security support -> information ops -> local influence/tolerance

And the support factors, that would apply regardless of mission type:
- Area: How much of a footprint can you influence when you're on the ground. This + reaction determines how quickly you can act, from how far away.
- Deployability: when talking about power projection from some home station or strategic mobility, there will need to be some rating of how quickly someone can move their Area of Effects.
- Logistical Support: at the strategic/operational level, what does it take to keep that unit in the field. One mechanic I do want to experiment with is potentially tying this to current news-tracking polls showing support for varying operations/policies so that as national support for something goes down, the ability to sustain long/large deployments also goes down, and can change scenarios from week to week.

So here's how we're changing this up, and how they might interact with each other.

First off, kinetic factors are dropping to 2:
COMBAT- how well do you fight
REACT(ion)- how quickly do you get to the fight and how quickly do you get inside your opponents' decision cycles. Is this just another way to describe "initiative"? Maybe. But he who reacts best doesn't always act first. It may be that a decisively better C2 system gives you the ability to let the other guy start acting, and then you react to it once you see what he's doing.

We're also adding a non-unit-specific factor: MISSION. Based on what you've tasked the unit to do, they may perform in different ways. While KIN / N-K is an obvious distinction, there are certain types of units that should have certain types of missions, and within certain types of terrain, that might (as a part of the mission profile specs) affect adjustments to their factors.

Support factors aren't changing much
AREA: The space(s) in which you can project your combat power. This plus your reaction allows you to determine the ground you can cover in an operational/tactical sense.
DEPLOY: What does it take to move your unit somewhere else? Think of this as a strategic level movement factor.
LOG: What does it take to keep your unit in the field? This can apply in many ways. It may take a full log cost to redeploy your unit to another location. It may take a full log cost to conduct a full kinetic operation. It may not take any log cost to sit still for a turn within certain boundaries. This one will have to interact with your lines of supply, as well as the "friendliness" of the local environment. Log support is going to be higher for US guys in Uzbekistan than in Kuwait.

Non-kinetic factors:
This one's taken up the most thought, and is still not to the true level of fidelity it should be, but in the interest of playability, we're throwing out a basic rock-paper-scissors model that should cover many of the key concepts, as well as provide some basic meaningful interaction between them.

I/O --> Governance --> Security --> I/O

I/O, the information operations, covers the media, the local mosque preaching to the flock, the home-made flyers handed out, the al-Jazeera broadcasts, and the urban legends of man-eating badgers let loose by the occupying forces. It's the stories told over the pig roast at the cartel wedding and the parent showing the kid the olive grove that once belonged to the great-great-great grandfather.

GOV(ernance)is a continuum, in which units might be rated positive or negatively, as they may contribute to better stability and control of the area, or may contribute to anarchy and lawlessness. Religious militias may seek to stabilize an area, even if their agenda is not in line with the national government. Anti-IMF protesters seeking to loot electronics shops while dodging tear gas and riot police are not contributing to any form of stability.

SEC(urity) is the ways and means of enforcing governance, but fighting corruption, protecting capital investments, and maintaining a safe and hospitable atmosphere for the local population.

Now, I'm not even going to pretend that this is an accurate model of how the real world works. My real question is this: "Are we close enough to start looking at how to model real-world events within a common framework (game rules) without instantly throwing up our hands and screaming about how hopeless this is?"

Some interactions that need to be addressed:
Combat is a mixture of
CBT + TERRAIN = how well can you fight/defend in that area
REACT + the mission you're given = how likely you are to hit something in that area, and how hard you might hit it to roll back into CBT + TERR math
REACT + AREA = who acts first/last, and when are casualties assesed
LOG + DEPLOY = cost and time to move from place to place

Map will need some hex-based areas to cover the operational actions and REACT and AREA factors, with some key strategic centerpoints that provide the LOG / DEPLOY costs to move between and maintain presence.

Some unit types:
- Heavy / Light combat units, with perhaps some different ratings on the N-K factors based on their sourcing. For instance, most US Nat'l Guard units have a lot of pretty useful N-K skills that aren't going to be accounted for in their official KIN missions.
- Civil Support units: PRTs, construction engineers, police, legal assets, trainers, etc. that can all offer significant N-K pluses, with just enough KIN factors to protect themselves.
- SF/SAS/CDO/Chuck Norris: Very low log costs, but very high REACT/AREA values, and CBT almost never affected by terrain. Other than some I/O value, probably not terribly useful in N-K functions.
- (Need a label for) opposition/protest leadership that are capable of organizing protests, demonstrations, strikes, social media events, traditional media events, and the occasional total out-of-control throwdown bar mitzvah jams. These guys can play total havoc with all sorts of N-K factors, and force KIN units to operate in a realm where they really don't belong.

How will the overall model work together? We need some way of tracking the local civilian 'mood' and support for the different sides, through political organized, governance, levels of I/O, etc. We also need a way to keep track of the body count, and what thresholds of dead units start to trigger counter-actions from the dead units' families. How do you know what true effects you have on the local areas, and how do you assess it, and how do you establish the longevity of the effects?

When military forces deploy to a tsunami zone, what are they bringing with them in terms on N-K factors, and how well does that play in affecting the local perception of them? How does training units in certain aspects change what their performance can be on the ground? If you plus up an infantry brigade with a variety of N-K assets and training, are they really more effective on the ground in N-K roles, or have you just degraded their KIN capabilities instead?

Look, this is a lot to digest, and until I can mock up some maps / counters it's hard to visualize. But I also need to think hard about how to track the influences of these unit actions, and the missions they can be assigned, on the local population, that needs to be measured somehow.

By: Brant

BULLETS! - Trust

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Trust your recon, but trust your recon.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: Tanks in BATUS

A Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank is shown being put through its paces at British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS). BATUS is located in Alberta Canada and is one of the largest training areas the British Army use to exercise their armoured battle groups. It covers an area roughly 7 times the size of Salisbury Plain Training Area.

ADMIN NOTE: effective this week, UK In Action will drop to one appearance/week, on Thursdays.

img from UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

11 July 2012

Women in Combat? Women in Combat Arms?

An impassioned plea from a female Marine puts some serious questions on the table about gender integration with combat arms.

First, the author's bonafides. She's the exact sort of candidate that would be first in line for an infantry billet.
As a young lieutenant, I fit the mold of a female who would have had a shot at completing IOC, and I am sure there was a time in my life where I would have volunteered to be an infantryman. I was a star ice hockey player at Bowdoin College, a small elite college in Maine, with a major in government and law. At 5 feet 3 inches I was squatting 200 pounds and benching 145 pounds when I graduated in 2007. I completed Officer Candidates School (OCS) ranked 4 of 52 candidates, graduated 48 of 261 from TBS, and finished second at MOS school. I also repeatedly scored far above average in all female-based physical fitness tests (for example, earning a 292 out of 300 on the Marine physical fitness test). Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we haven’t even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have on females.

However, after a tour in Afghanistan when she was at the front lines, conducting combat missions at the tip of the spear, the toll was too much.
By the fifth month into the deployment, I had muscle atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs to buckle with the slightest grade change. My agility during firefights and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously hindering my response time and overall capability. It was evident that stress and muscular deterioration was affecting everyone regardless of gender; however, the rate of my deterioration was noticeably faster than that of male Marines and further compounded by gender-specific medical conditions. At the end of the 7-month deployment, and the construction of 18 PBs later, I had lost 17 pounds and was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which personally resulted in infertility, but is not a genetic trend in my family), which was brought on by the chemical and physical changes endured during deployment. Regardless of my deteriorating physical stature, I was extremely successful during both of my combat tours, serving beside my infantry brethren and gaining the respect of every unit I supported. Regardless, I can say with 100 percent assurance that despite my accomplishments, there is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside as their combat load and constant deployment cycle would leave me facing medical separation long before the option of retirement. I understand that everyone is affected differently; however, I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females.

Her wrap-up asks some pretty though questions about what's driving the integration agenda.
Which once again leads me, as a ground combat-experienced female Marine Corps officer, to ask, what are we trying to accomplish by attempting to fully integrate women into the infantry? For those who dictate policy, changing the current restrictions associated with women in the infantry may not seem significant to the way the Marine Corps operates. I vehemently disagree; this potential change will rock the foundation of our Corps for the worse and will weaken what has been since 1775 the world’s most lethal fighting force. In the end, for DACOWITS and any other individual or organization looking to increase opportunities for female Marines, I applaud your efforts and say thank you. However, for the long-term health of our female Marines, the Marine Corps, and U.S. national security, steer clear of the Marine infantry community when calling for more opportunities for females. Let’s embrace our differences to further hone in on the Corps’ success instead of dismantling who we are to achieve a political agenda. Regardless of the outcome, we will be “Semper Fidelis” and remain focused on our mission to protect and defend the United States of America.

By: Brant