Violent Peace: The War with China and the Aftermath of Armageddon

David Poyer, Violent Peace: The War with China: Aftermath of Armageddon, St. Martin’s Press, 2020, $27.99/hardcover.

By Mike DeBoer

David Poyer’s latest book, Violent Peace (to be released December 8, 2020), is the author’s most sobering work to date. This latest edition to the Dan Lenson Tales of the Modern Navy series finds the United States in the midst of armistice negotiations after a devastating conflict with China. The U.S. is also grappling with domestic unrest and uncertainty against the backdrop of depopulated cities, rampant militias, and nuclear fallout. In short, Poyer’s near-future America bears little resemblance to the 1980s-era prosperity and hegemony fans of the series will remember from The Circle. Though the trajectory of the series has been toward entropy, particularly since 2015’s Tipping Point, Violent Peace presents readers with a new depth of pessimism and despair.

Protagonist Dan Lenson’s daughter has gone missing while attempting to distribute influenza vaccines. (One has to wonder if Poyer retains some Nostradamus-like abilities in that he seemingly predicted a pandemic virus with its origin in China in previous works.) In a subplot with echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Lenson, now on leave after his victory in the South China Sea, attempts to find her in a dystopian ride across America, confronting murderous militias, high background radiation, ghost towns, and the detritus of an unrecognizable American heartland.

Fans of the series will find their favorite characters similarly vexed. Unaware of her husband Dan’s search, Blair continues final negotiations with China, harboring great misgivings about the future implications of harsh peace. Dan’s former Executive Officer, Captain Cheryl Staurulakis, now in command of a small surface group, confronts a predatory Russian surface group with her inferior force in the Sea of Japan. Teddy Oberg, the former SEAL and escapee from a Chinese prisoner of war camp, rejects his previous convictions as a result of an religious encounter at high altitude, electing instead to conduct his own brand of unrestricted jihad against the Chinese rulers of Xinjiang province. Marine Corps infantryman Hektor Ramos, injured badly in his assault on Hainan Island, returns to his home and an ungrateful nation, a devastated economy, and few job prospects.

Violent Peace is a solemn book. In the narrative arc of Poyer’s War with China subseries, Peace displays a depth of pessimism that some readers may find overwhelming. If combat is ultimately a test of human will, it follows that war is a test of national will, and an exhausted, divided America is at the precipice of losing its way. Poyer’s latest illustrates just how dire a destination such a path promises. Peace’s United States is slipping toward one-party rule, even as open revolts occur in the South and Central U.S. Impoverished by the war, the nation has scarce funds to train or employ its veterans, further paupered by the large military forces it had previously created. Forced outwardly to validate such sacrifice to the American people, the administration forces a humbling peace on the Chinese, guaranteed, like Versailles, to instigate national fury and further reckoning.

Poyer’s thesis throughout the series holds, that war with China is closer and more terrible than most would believe. In fact, at one point in the story, Blair, typically the most cerebral character and perhaps somewhat of an author surrogate in her views, states that she believed the outcome inevitable. Indeed, it was the natural outcome of the fear, honor, and interest of rising and established powers as the globe reorders. In Violent Peace, Poyer emphasizes the human costs of such a conflict domestically and to dramatic effect. Insulated from foreign policy’s nastier side effects by its bordering oceans for most of their existence, the U.S. population has so infrequently dealt with the hard hand of great power conflict that they have perhaps assumed immunity. In Peace, readers can glimpse the consequence of such an assumption given a modern, great power conflict with a rising China.

Poyer is at his best when he captures the zeitgeist, and in Violent Peace, the author is undeniably on top of his game. Poyer seems to have pulled from the history of Civil War Reconstruction, modern American political turmoil, and married them with the physical and physiological effects of American nuclear strikes in 1945 to create a picture of the devastation that awaits both parties following nuclear war. He captures and magnifies current American political chaos and divisiveness tearing at the connective tissue of American society ably and affectingly. Peace’s near-future United States is far from united – Poyer’s carefully drawn caricatures of the darker factions of contemporary American society give readers plenty to consider. Pitted against an overgrown security state, with violent, paramilitary federal troops, these factions wage a bloody, protracted campaign. Poyer’s message is effective – internal strife is on par with external factors in terms of destructiveness.

One aspect on which the book might have expanded is the intelligence community’s role. For all his very in-depth thought about future war at sea, Poyer did not describe a similar revolution in how the CIA might run covert action in tomorrow’s conflicts. Instead, his CIA Covert Action Team member uses better drones and in-person meetings, vice any new or transformative technologies. In an area where biotechnology is in its infancy, human tracking is improving dramatically, compression software is improving every hour, and lethal technologies abound, it seemed a little regressive to have a case officer riding a donkey, and visiting a Predator control van in a dust-blown portion of the world. Selective viruses targeting individual DNA, messages left in microprint, drone-delivered arms – all could potentially influence covert action, perhaps the topic of Poyer’s next work.

Readers who enjoy the technical accuracy of Poyer’s books will still find carefully painstakingly rendered naval combat, but Violent Peace is ultimately a national and human tale, focused less on the practical aspects of war than the less tangible costs on individuals and societies. Indeed, Poyer’s trademark fidelity only serves to amplify the greater thesis of Violent Peace – the current level of divisiveness in the United States may not, or perhaps will not, meet first contact with the cataclysm of China. The best of Poyer’s writing borrows from contemporary experience and Violent Peace is no exception. This book is highly recommended to fans of the series and students of modern conflict alike, although it is best enjoyed in the context of the complete narrative arc of the War With China subseries.

Michael DeBoer is a naval officer.

Featured Image: A unitary medium-range ballistic missile target launches from the Pacific missile range facility and flies northwest toward a broad ocean area of the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mathew J. Diendorf/Released)

Bilge Pumps Episode 24: Unaccompanied History Geeks – Air Defense at Sea

By Alex Clarke

Bilge Pumps, Episode 24, Parts 1 and 2. Be afraid, be very afraid…that most terrifying circumstance has come to pass once more, Jamie was busy… and the episode needed to be done. So it is just Alex and Drach for two whole hours on air defense at sea. It is either very good, or should be locked away somewhere with instructions for it only to be opened in the event of major war looming large…

#Bilgepumps is still a newish series and new avenue, which may no longer boast the new car smell, in fact decidedly more of pineapple/irn bru smell with a hint of jaffa cake and the faintest whiff of cork– but we’re getting the impression it’s liked, so we’d very much like any comments, topic suggestions or ideas for artwork to be tweeted to us, the #Bilgepump crew (with #Bilgepumps), at Alex (@AC_NavalHistory), Drach (@Drachinifel), and Jamie (@Armouredcarrier). Or you can comment on our Youtube channels (listed down below).

Download Bilge Pumps Episode 24: Unaccompanied History Geeks – Air Defense at Sea, Part 1

Download Bilge Pumps Episode 24: Unaccompanied History Geeks – Air Defense at Sea, Part 2

Links

1. Dr. Alex Clarke’s Youtube Channel
2. Drachinifel’s Youtube Channel
3. Jamie Seidel’s Youtube Channel

Alex Clarke is the producer of The Bilge Pumps podcast.

Contact the CIMSEC podcast team at Seacontrol@cimsec.org

Unexpected Victory

By Ryan Hilger

            Excerpted from the forthcoming Unexpected Victory: The U.S. Navy in the Sino-American War, 2034-2036 by Fred Goures, to be published by Random House in December 2039.

            …Several Chinese admirals agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity on the following question, among others: “What surprised you most about the war?” Their answers were remarkably similar: the Yukon-class corvettes. Named after American rivers, the Navy built and deployed more than 60 Yukons in three years from 2033-2036. One Chinese admiral’s remarks are typical:

Admiral [redacted]: The Yukons caught me and the PLA leadership completely by surprise. When we started the war in October 2034, we thought we would have the American Navy sunk in a few weeks. We knew the submarine threat would take time, but we did not consider their surface forces much of a threat.

Goures: Why was that?

Admiral [redacted]: It was clear from decades of industrial espionage and intelligence collection that the American Navy had not managed to introduce much in the way of new technologies in decades, despite the focus on innovation. Thus, the introduction of the Yukons did not draw much attention from us.

Goures: Why not?

Admiral [redacted]: They were much smaller and seemed simpler than the American mainstay, the Arleigh Burke-class. We did not see how they could have posed much of a threat to us. We were very wrong on this.

Goures: How so? What made the Yukons different?

Admiral [redacted]: In retrospect, their simplicity was pure elegance. The Americans seemed to be able to upgrade and repair them so rapidly, even while at sea. We never seemed to fight the same ship twice. It may have been the same hull, but each encounter demonstrated new capabilities that we did not anticipate, usually without the ship ever pulling into a port. We could not keep up…

______________________________________

                       Admiral Peter Malone, the Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Ships in 2031, recalled sitting in a meeting with senior Navy leadership when the idea of what would become the Yukon class was born:

Things were not going well at all. The Large Surface Combatant program had not panned out in the 2020s like we thought. Apparently, we did not learn the lessons of the Zumwalt or Littoral Combat Ship programs sufficiently, because we repeated many of the same mistakes. After the fourth year of Congressional cuts to the program and reductions in planned numbers of hulls, the Secretary of the Navy called for a meeting to discuss options.

I had only been in the PEO Ships job for a few months, but I did not see how we could recover. My mind drifted from the conversation to the problems the Navy overcame to deliver both a ballistic missile submarine and a submarine-launched ballistic missile in less than five years in the 1950s – and with an immense amount of new technology to boot. I wondered how we had managed to drift so far from such incredible origins.

I snapped back from my daydream and saw the Chief of Naval Operations glaring at me. “Do you have any ideas, Pete?” I nodded and thought for a moment, but I already knew what I needed to say.

“Kill the program.” There were a lot of shocked expressions.

“Clearly what we have done in the past has not been working. Let’s throw out the playbook and try something completely new. I’ve got some ideas on ship construction, digital engineering, and how to develop products differently. Give me six months and I will come back to you with a proposal for a new ship class and how we will deliver them to the fleet.”

After a few moments of incredulous silence, he looked at Admiral Higgs, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, “Dan, what do you think?”

“Well, I don’t see anything to lose from this. Most of my requested capabilities were dropped in last year’s budget cuts anyway. This at least may get me more ships sooner, which is really what I need to balance against China.”

The CNO let the tension hang in the air before replying. “We have everything to lose if we fail this time. Let’s get it right.” Off we went.

_______________________________________

                     The Yukon-class had a very interesting beginning. It was the first government-designed and built ship in decades. Many questioned the government’s sanity in taking on the challenge of designing a ship after contractors had done it for so many years, but the government was left with little choice. Captain Lucius Walker, the Program Manager of the LSC program, recalls the day their hand was forced. On May 25, 2031, Captain Walker and his team held an Industry Day to discuss the radical new ideas they had.

We thought we had a really awesome set of ideas for industry. My team had spent a lot of time doing futuring exercises, talking with operators, looking at the case studies of Fitzgerald and John McCain from a damage control perspective, reviewing the failures of the Littoral Combat Ship program, and culling the new technologies to see what could meet the mission needs in the threat environment of the 2030s and beyond. The environment was very missile-centric, which amounted to a huge departure from traditional gun damage-tolerant designs. Those had not changed much since World War II.

The shock came right away. Both Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics said that we could not do what our Industry Day proposal requested. Too much of it relied on proprietary information and lead integrator efforts and products. We had a heated discussion in the Gooding Center on the [Washington Navy] Yard, but they weren’t going to budge. I could understand their position. They had spent decades cultivating an integrated set of systems; you simply could not break them apart the way we were talking about. It was then that I knew we had to bring the design in-house.

_______________________________________

            After the collapse of the Industry Day in May 2031, Captain Walker’s Ship Design Manager, Austin Corleone, spoke with Captain Walker outside the Gooding Center:

I decided to go for it. “Do you have a few minutes, Captain?”

“Sure, why not? I don’t really want to go back in there at the moment.”

“Ever since we finalized the Industry Day proposal, I’ve been thinking about different ways to bring the ideas into a ship.”

“Shoot.”

“I think we can design a simple ship in-house.”

“Come again?”

“Bear with me. It doesn’t have to be complex. We can design the hull and space allocations for all the major systems: radars, combat systems, weapons, etc. We work with other program offices to deliver those subsystems to the strict interfaces that we provide. Remember in 2002 when Amazon forced their internal programs to communicate only through certain interfaces or be fired? We don’t need to design the entire ship, just require programs to provide models to fit into the spaces and interfaces we give them. We make the mechanical and electrical systems very simple and easy to replace—no more rats’ nests of cables everywhere. In that way, we can use the digital models to see how all the parts fit together into a coherent whole. Software standards in industry have moved to the extreme in terms of modularity with service mesh architectures, and I see no reason why we can’t do the same with ship designs.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Absolutely. I’ve got a few friends who think along the same lines in other program offices that think it would be feasible. What do you think?”

“Can you get your friends together at our office tomorrow to map out what this might look like? I’m curious.”

“I’ll get it set up.”

            The Yukon program office exploited the fast, inexpensive, restrained, and elegant criteria to the letter in designing the ships. The use of model-based engineering techniques stemming from the Digital Engineering Strategy combined with a confederation of program offices allowed the Yukon program to design a ship in record time. They approached allowed individual program offices to be the experts in their area, freeing the Yukon team to design an overmatch of hull, mechanical, and electrical services for the programs to use. The result was a simple, elegant ship that was easy to build, upgrade, repair, and operate.

_______________________________________

            The Yukon program embraced its new role as a lead systems integrator. Once the hull design and its associated services had been finalized, they contracted to start hull construction, without any of the major subsystems ready. Captain Walker made the key decision to revert to a historical norm: outfitting at the pier. The Navy had gotten away from it as ship designs increased in complexity, but it briefly resurfaced with the Zumwalt-class, though more by accident than planning. Designing the ship for ease of access allowed the pier-side outfitting to be conducted rapidly by both sailors and contractor teams. Ships were commissioned at an unheard of rate with the latest gear that the confederation of program offices could deliver.

            As the ships deployed, the various program offices continued to support the ships by providing for over-the-air delivery of software to give the ships the maximum capability possible against the adversaries. The independence of hardware and software allowed designers to consider sensors in fundamentally new ways, and the surface fleet saw radically new capabilities from the same hardware as a result. The independent, digitally-engineered design allowed for rapid upgrades to the ships while deployed, in some cases with new hardware even being delivered via small drones in the South China Sea. The seamless integration that digital engineering and DevSecOps created allowed the programs supporting Yukons to achieve update and repair speeds that were orders of magnitude faster than the Navy had ever thought possible. As a result of these design decisions, the ships performed remarkably well in combat, earning rave reviews from the sailors operating them to the adversaries fighting against them.

Lieutenant Commander Ryan Hilger is a Navy Engineering Duty Officer stationed in Washington D.C. He has served onboard USS Maine (SSBN 741), as Chief Engineer of USS Springfield (SSN 761), and ashore at the CNO Strategic Studies Group XXXIII and OPNAV N97. He holds a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. His views are his own and do not represent the official views or policies of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Navy.

Featured Image: “Dreadnought 2050” by Rob McPherson (via Artstation)

Revamping Wargaming Education for the U.S. Department of Defense

By Jeff Appleget, Jeff Kline, and Rob Burks

Introduction

The U.S. Department of Defense has failed to educate generations of military officers on the skills of wargaming. Wargaming creates the environment in which uniformed leaders practice decision-making against an active, thinking adversary. Wargaming is also required by the Department of Defense’s planning process to create sound and executable plans, is inherent to designing new doctrine and operational concepts, and is a vital element in the cycle of research.1

For these reasons, military leaders must have the ability to create and conduct wargames. However, the current military education process does not impart this critical knowledge.

Background

Ed McGrady, distinguished Center for Naval Analyses wargamer, opened a recent commentary on wargaming by saying, “There is a widespread misunderstanding of what wargaming is…” and we agree wholeheartedly. Too many in the Department of Defense believe wargames are computer-based combat simulations used to produce quantitative analyses, but they are not. Wargaming is about human decision-making. Joint Publication 5-0 Joint Operation Planning’s wargaming definition makes this clear: “Wargames are representations of conflict or competition in a synthetic environment, in which people make decisions and respond to the consequences of those decisions” (emphasis added).

Most defense wargaming practitioners recognize three purposes for wargames: educational, experiential, and analytic. Educational and experiential wargames are focused on the player. The primary output of these types of wargames is a better educated or experienced player. For example, success might lead to an officer who now knows how a new weapon system is employed or has experienced fighting against a threat in a different region of the world. There are usually no other ‘results’ to demonstrate the wargame’s value.

On the other hand, analytic wargames focus on producing findings and recommendations in response to a sponsor’s tasking. Therefore the product of these wargames is not player-focused but sponsor-focused. Planning wargames, as outlined in Joint Publication 5-0 (Step 4: Course of Action analysis and wargaming), are specific analytic wargames with the task of analyzing courses of action, which then inform the development of a plan. Other analytic wargaming activities include developing new concepts of operations, doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) for emerging and future technologies, and front-end wargaming for experimentation and exercises to ensure that these expensive endeavors are properly focused and can achieve a high return on investment. We can learn much about new technologies and concepts through wargaming without burning a penny’s worth of fuel.

Current Status

Department of Defense wargaming is at a crossroads. It seems self-evident that the Department of Defense should own the responsibility to improve its wargaming. While Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), educational institutions, and defense contractors may have roles to play in wargame improvement, only the Department of Defense can choose to lead and embrace a comprehensive end-to-end cycle of research construct. This construct includes wargaming, computer-based combat simulations, and other quantitative and qualitative analytic techniques that, when properly leveraged, provide quality decision support to the department’s leadership. It must begin by addressing the shortcomings in wargaming education.

The 2015 call to reinvigorate wargaming has inspired the reintroduction of wargaming into some service school classrooms. Hence, a portion of uniformed field grade officers have an appreciation for, and may have actually played, wargames. However, the inability of the Department of Defense’s uniformed members to design and conduct their own wargames still has not been addressed in professional military education. Today, the Department of Defense relies on FFRDCs, educational institutions, and defense contractors to design and conduct wargames on their behalf. While these organizations produce useful wargames, the sheer number of wargames that should be executed across the department cannot all be performed by these organizations—they simply do not have the capacity, nor does the department have the budget.

However, there is a far more fundamental problem on the department’s reliance on these organizations. This reliance is, in effect, outsourcing the intellectual underpinnings of the nation’s defense strategy, officer professional development, and the department’s acquisition process.

Wargaming should become an integral part of the military officer corps’ professional education. The skills required to design and conduct wargames go hand-in-hand with the skills required to plan and execute military operations. 

The lack of wargaming skills and experience in our field grade and senior officers should be a warning to the department’s leadership. Wargaming was once the primary venue for the exchange of ideas, debates on tactics and doctrine, the sharing of lessons learned from previous operations and experiences, and the operational and doctrinal education of junior officers.2 Now it has largely disappeared from officers’ professional development. The 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps’ Commandant’s Planning Guidance states this concern very succinctly:

“In the context of training, wargaming needs to be used more broadly to fill what is arguably our greatest deficiency in the training and education of leaders: practice in decision-making against a thinking enemy. Again, this requirement is inherent in the nature of war. In modern military organizations, it is, along with the fear of violent death, precisely the element of real war that is hardest to replicate under peacetime conditions. Wargaming historically was invented to fill this gap, and we need to make far more aggressive use of it at all levels of training and education to give leaders the necessary ‘reps and sets’ in realistic combat decision-making.”

Phil Pournelle, Senior Operations Analyst and Game Designer at Group W, points out a 2018 National Defense Strategy Commission finding that the military struggles to “link objectives to operational concepts to capabilities to programs.” Linking of objectives to operational concepts to capabilities is basic military planning. Yet our combatant commands and joint task forces struggle to conduct the planning wargames that Joint Publication 5-0 requires.

According to Joint Publication 5-0, each course of action should be wargamed against the enemy’s most likely and most dangerous course of action for a given plan. Assuming a modest number of three friendly courses of action to analyze, that is a requirement for six wargames per plan. And every plan that has sat on a digital shelf for more than a year needs to be dusted off and wargamed again, as the facts and assumptions that underpinned the plan’s development 12-plus months ago have undoubtedly changed, often significantly.

Unfortunately, due to time, staff capability, and capacity constraints, at best there may be one wargame conducted per combatant commander’s plan: the commander’s favorite Course of Action against the enemy’s most likely Course of Action. Insufficient time is allotted to conduct the wargame, resulting in poor design, less thorough execution, and results that fail to illuminate the plan’s operational risks or propose contingencies. This lack of time inspires the quick application of seminar games that devolve into BOGGSATS – a Bunch of Guys and Gals Sitting Around a Table.

As recent commentary from Peter Perla, author of the seminal book The Art of Wargaming, and Phil Pournelle3 have pointed out, wargaming should also be an integral part of analysis, experimentation, exercises, and the broader cycle of research. Far too often this is not the case. Instead, the department relies on analysis methods such as cost-benefit analysis, capabilities-based assessments, and analysis of alternatives that provide technical rationales for procurement decisions. However, in the Department of Defense, these analyses must be tempered with a thinking adversary in mind. Our potential adversaries in the future are concurrently developing new doctrine and concepts, fielding new technologies and force structures, and procuring new systems that increase our risk or limit our military options. Wargaming is necessary to gain an appreciation for our competitors’ capabilities, options, and objectives.

Wargaming has always been an integral part of the Army’s analysis to support their department’s acquisition of new technology and weapons systems. Army analytic organizations, such as the Center for Army Analysis and the Training and Doctrine Command’s Analysis Center, integrated wargaming with their computer-based combat simulations to provide comprehensive qualitative and quantitative analysis to support key acquisition programs several decades ago. Both tools are still used together, productively, today.

This approach’s benefit is two-fold. First, the warfighters brought into the wargame’s concepts of operations (CONOPS) that employs units equipped with new technologies provide input into the analysis process and gain a better appreciation for the quantitative analysis products that the combat simulations could provide. Second, the analysts gain a better understanding of how a new force would fight differently and use that knowledge to inform the instantiation of the schemes of maneuver required by their combat simulations, which in turn improves their quantitative analysis products. To do this properly, operations research analysts must create the wargaming environment, conduct the wargames, and determine how to best integrate the wargame’s qualitative output into the computer-based combat simulations so that the study produces both qualitative and quantitative analysis.

Unfortunately, some of the department’s more senior analysts that cut their analytical teeth using computer-based combat simulations believe that wargames provide little or no analytic value. This view completely misses the fact that counterinsurgency, hybrid warfare, the gray zone of conflict, and competition short of war are not well addressed by the millions of dollars the department invests in the maintenance, staffing, and running of kinetic-focused combat simulations and the organizations that support them.

In a recent Naval War College Review article, Capt. Robert Rubel (ret.), professor emeritus of the U.S. Naval War College and former chair of its Wargaming Department, stated, “Two-sided gaming should be a widespread and essential part of the professional education process from pre-commissioning through senior service colleges and even flag level courses.” He went on to describe several virtues of wargaming:

  • “A routine diet of two-sided gaming can generate and hone the ability to reason competitively.”
  • “Making two-sided gaming the default PME vehicle will help to re-create a sandbox in which innovative reflexes can be developed.”
  • “Repeated struggling in competitive situations is more likely to produce new ideas and insights, especially if such experience is widespread in the officer corps.”

Rubel also goes on to caution: “Two-sided gaming is not easy. The design of such games must take care to channel competitive instincts properly.”

In summary, the Department of Defense’s need for increased capacity to conduct quality wargaming starts by educating its officer corps on how to design, conduct, and assess analytical, educational, and experiential wargames.

The Way Ahead

We propose jumpstarting wargaming education in the Department of Defense with a two-pronged approach. First, the Department of Defense needs wargame designers at an apprentice level. Any officer who is a candidate to serve on a general or flag staff (most field grade line officers) should complete a basic analytic wargaming course to enable them to bring value to a wargaming design team. We do not advocate for a specialty track for wargamers. Instead, all military leaders should be wargamers (such as the Navy’s flag ranks at the onset of WWII). The Army and Marine Corps do a decent job of introducing their young officers to some of the building blocks of wargaming. While sand table discussions, table-top exercises, and rehearsal of concept drills incorporate several of the elements of wargaming, they are typically missing the conflict or competition that a thinking adversary produces. These events provide a wargaming-like basis from which to build. A logical place for such a course is in the command and general staff college level of Joint Professional Military Education. 

Second, there needs to be an executive-level wargaming course for senior leaders. Senior officers who supervise and consume the results of wargaming today, such as primary staff officers on Combatant Command or other flag officer commanded staffs, need to understand what wargames are, how they are different from computer-based combat simulations, what to expect from well-designed wargames, and the level of resource investment required from them and their staff to obtain quality wargaming results. They also need to realize that their younger charges must couple their wargaming education with playing and designing wargames to become proficient wargamers. They must give their subordinates enough time to game. Moreover, senior leaders should lead by example, participating in and encouraging wargaming activities in their commands.

Over time, the wargaming apprentices, through playing, designing, and conducting wargames, will mature in their wargaming skills and take on wargaming leadership roles. Note that the goal is not to identify a pipeline to create wargaming masters. Such masters are rare individuals, and some may emerge from the ranks of military wargamers produced. But, just as most officers will never achieve flag rank, most uniformed wargamers will never become wargaming masters. The FFRDCs, educational institutions, and Department of Defense contractors have wargaming masters, and their expertise will still be needed to support the department. However, many good wargames can be designed without requiring the supervision of a wargaming master.

Since 2009, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Operations Research Department has offered an 11-week Wargaming Applications course to its resident students that focuses on the design, conduct, and analysis of wargames for Department of Defense, allied, and partner sponsors.4 The faculty designed the course recognizing that the Naval Postgraduate School’s Operations Research graduates – our military’s newest Operations Research analysts–needed to be able to design, conduct, and analyze a wargame. Acquiring these skills enables them to participate in, lead, and eventually supervise the end-to-end campaign analysis that incorporates wargaming, computer simulations, and other qualitative and quantitative analytic tools as future analytic assignments will require. The course organizers did not fully recognize the added benefit of this education until some of the Operations Research graduates started serving at Combatant Commands. These graduates, now staff officers, reached back to the Naval Postgraduate School to report how useful their wargaming design skills were in helping the Combatant Command staffs design and conduct useful planning wargames. They asked if the Wargaming Applications instructors could come to their location and teach a cadre of the Combatant Command personnel the same basic wargaming design skills they had internalized at the Naval Postgraduate School.

In response, NPS developed the week-long Mobile Education Team Basic Analytic Wargaming Course around the same philosophy as our resident wargaming course: learn by doing. The objectives for this course were two-fold.

First, it builds a cadre of personnel who can initiate, design, develop, conduct, and analyze a wargame. Unified Combatant Commands have leveraged this opportunity by having personnel from their operational planning teams and staff sections attend the course and work in teams to learn how to design, develop, and execute a wargame.

Second, since the sponsoring organization chooses the wargaming topic used in the course’s practical exercises, the organization can have the core foundation of a wargame created and demonstrated that can then be further built out and used by the organization to meet other organizational wargaming requirements. NPS has conducted over 20 week-long Mobile Education Team Basic Analytic Wargaming Courses around the world, including five at Combatant Commands. Today, NPS conducts 6-8 Mobile Education Team events annually, and demand remains high.

The philosophy in teaching wargaming is that it requires a hands-on, learn-by-doing approach. Both the resident and Mobile Education Team courses are over 70 percent practical exercises, where the students are applying the techniques that we illustrate in the lectures. In both courses, a Department of Defense, ally, or partner sponsor provides the wargaming topic that serves as the impetus behind the practical exercises. Student groups design, conduct, and then analyze wargames for their sponsors as the course’s graduation exercise. Since 2009, the Naval Postgraduate School resident student wargaming teams have conducted over 70 wargames for 35 Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Joint, International, and Industry sponsors. NPS views the wargaming course graduates as wargaming apprentices. They have enough knowledge and experience to make useful, often significant, contributions to any wargaming effort required in the department. Several recent graduates have actually led wargaming design initiatives at their respective organizations soon after graduation.

Conclusion

If the Department of Defense is serious about improving its wargaming capability, it needs to invest in its people through wargaming education. That education needs to be practical and applied at the company and field grade level, preferably as part of their Joint Professional Military Education or graduate school opportunities. If it is a priority to emphasize wargaming’s role in Department of Defense decision-making, simply “doing more wargames” is insufficient. Preparing warfighters to employ wargaming to the full extent of their purposes must be a necessary element.

Colonel (Retired) Jeff Appleget, Ph.D., spent 20 of his 30 years in the U.S. Army as an Operations Research/Systems analyst where he participated in and supervised acquisition and analysis studies using wargaming and computer-based combat simulations. Since 2009, Jeff has been a Senior Lecturer in the Operations Research Department at the Naval Postgraduate School where he teaches wargaming and combat modeling courses. Jeff has mentored over 70 wargames that have been created, conducted, and analyzed by NPS resident Operations Research and Defense Analysis student teams for DoD, Defense partner and allied nation sponsors, and the defense industry. He has led 20 NPS Mobile Education Teams to teach his week-long Basic Analytic Wargaming course in DoD and around the world, to include STRATCOM, CENTCOM, AFRICOM, MARFORPAC, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (two courses), NATO Special Operations Forces, the Australian Defence Force (four courses), the Canadian Air Force, the Indonesian Navy, the Taiwan Armed Forces, and a Tri-lateral course for the Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish Defence Research Agencies. He holds a Ph.D. in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, an M.S. in Operations Research and Statistics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a B.S. from the United States Military Academy. His major awards include the 2016 Richard W. Hamming Faculty Award for Interdisciplinary Achievement, the 2011 Army Modeling and Simulation Team Award (Analysis), 2003 Dr. Wilbur B. Payne Memorial Award for Excellence in Analysis, 2003 Simulation and Modeling for Acquisition, Requirements, and Training (SMART) Award, 2001 SMART Award, 1993 Instructor of the Year (At Large), Department of Mathematical Sciences,  U.S. Air Force Academy, 1991 Dr. Wilbur B. Payne Memorial Award for Excellence in Analysis, and 1990 Concepts Analysis Agency Director’s Award for Excellence. Along with Dr. Rob Burks, Jeff directs the activities of the NPS Naval Warfare Studies Institute Wargaming Center.

Colonel (Retired) Robert E. Burks, Jr., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Defense Analysis of the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and with Jeff Appleget, directs the activities of the NPS Naval Warfare Studies Institute Wargaming Center. He holds a Ph.D. in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology, an M.S. in Operations Research from the Florida Institute of Technology. Rob is a retired Army Colonel with more than thirty years of military experience in leadership, advanced analytics, decision modeling, and logistics operations. He spent 17 years in the U.S. Army as an Operations Research/Systems analyst and has led multiple analytical study teams responsible for Army Transformation and organizational restructuring and design efforts using wargaming and computer-based combat simulations. Since 2015, Rob has taught multiple educational, historical, and analytical wargaming courses at NPS. He has taught the NPS week-long Basic Analytic Wargaming Course 14 times to the Department of Defense and other organizations around the world, to include CENTCOM, AFRICOM, MARFORPAC, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (two courses), NATO Special Operations Forces, the Australian Defence Force (four courses), and the Taiwan Armed Forces.

Captain Jeffrey E. Kline (ret.) served 26 years as a naval officer, including two sea commands. Jeff is currently a Professor of Practice in the Naval Postgraduate School Operations Research department. He directs the NPS Naval Warfare Studies Institute. He teaches campaign analysis, systems analysis, and executive programs in strategic planning and risk assessment. Jeff supports applied analytical research in maritime operations and security, tactical analysis, and future force composition studies. He has served on the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations’ Fleet Design Advisory Board and several Naval Study Board Committees of the National Academies. His faculty awards include the Superior Civilian Service Medal, 2019 J. Steinhardt Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Operations Research, 2011 Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS) Award for Teaching of OR Practice, 2009 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Homeland Security Award, 2007 Hamming Award for interdisciplinary research, 2007 Wayne E. Meyers Award for Excellence in Systems Engineering Research, and the 2005 Northrop Grumman Award for Excellence in Systems Engineering. He is a member of the Military Operations Research Society and the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Missouri, a Master of Science in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a Master of Science in National Security Studies from the National Defense University’s National War College.

References

1. Peter Perla et. al, “Rolling the Iron Dice: From Analytical Wargaming to the Cycle of Research” October 21, 2019; https://warontherocks.com/2019/10/rolling-the-iron-dice-from-analytical-wargaming-to-the-cycle-of-research/

2. Matthew B. Caffrey, Jr., “On Wargaming” (2019). The Newport Papers. 43. https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/newport-papers/43

3. Phil Pournelle, “Can the Cycle of Research Save American Military Strategy?” October 18, 2019, WOTR, https://warontherocks.com/2019/10/can-the-cycle-of-research-save-american-military-strategy/

4. Jeffrey Appleget, Robert Burks and Frederick Cameron, “The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts,” Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2020.

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Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.