In the two years since our founding we have been able to keep our costs to a bare minimum thanks to the hard work of our volunteer officers. As we have grown together as an organization we have reached a point where a small amount of additional funds can provide a substantial boost to our output and the health of our organization. We want to ensure we are able to provide a solid foundation for the future success and growth of CIMSEC by filing for federal non-profit status, along with making several other small investments in capability. We therefore hope that you will consider supporting our efforts by contributing to our Kickstarter campaign.
Your donation will allow us to continue providing an innovative platform for international maritime security discourse without membership dues, or fees for access to our analysis, and – depending on your contribution level – you may get an interesting gift as a thank you. But before diving into the nuances of fundraising, I want to briefly discuss some of CIMSEC’s accomplishments.
• Our NextWar blog has published over 700 articles on various topics ranging from the role that 3D printing can play in defense, the meaning of AirSea Battle, and the search for maritime strategies in the 21st century. Our analysis has been sought and cited in publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Times (of London), Popular Science and Reuters. We have partnered with similar organizations and outlets from Australia to Poland allowing our contributor’s and expansive reach. An article on Somali piracy was even pirated without attribution and re-printed in the Somaliland Sun.
• In addition, our Sea Control podcast has broadcast over 50 episodes from the U.S., U.K., and Australia, bringing together distinguished experts debating complex security-related issues. Past episodes covered such topics as promoting leadership in large institutions, the crisis in Ukraine, counter-piracy off the coasts of Africa, and Indonesia security policy.
• Further, our local chapters have hosted over 30 meet-ups throughout the United States and overseas that give interested individuals the chance to connect and discuss maritime security topics with contributors in person.
All of these accomplishments are a product of our 400+ members. Your passion, enthusiasm, and intellectual curiosity drive CIMSEC towards achieving its mission of furthering international maritime peace and security through the exchange of ideas.
As a result of our expansion, we have reached a stage where we need to develop the infrastructure required to support future growth. Specifically, within the fiscal year, we aim to raise enough funds to file for 503(c)(3) nonprofit status, procure publishing software that would allow us to develop higher quality publications, and set up a PO Box as a corporate address. We also hope to establish an essay contest fund encouraging high school students to engage in the maritime security dialogue.
We have set our funding goal at $900 and are conducting this fundraising campaign on Kickstarter for 21 days. We believe that Kickstarter will not only allow our supporters to be more engaged during the process, but it also allows us to better thank and reward our backers. Members that want to support our fundraising efforts in other ways can reach out directly to the President Scott Cheney-Peters (email@example.com) or myself (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Your support—no matter the amount—makes a difference and will allow us to continue to grow together.
CIMSEC will soon run a series dedicated to expanding the naval canon entitled “Forgotten Naval Strategists”. From September 30 until October 5 (or when we run out of articles), we want to discover and explore the ideas and works of naval strategists whose names remain largely unknown. Articles are due to “Nextwar(at)cimsec.org” by 26 September.
In an article published in July I argued that a founding manuscript of the naval studies lore is absent in the historiography. Oliveira’s 1555 “The Art of War at Sea” remains unknown to many navalists, including some in his own country: Portugal. The larger and unwritten argument in that piece was that many other works remain unmentioned in the debate. Simply put, these are the works that never make it to the syllabi of naval war colleges.
This series aims to raise awareness to these lesser known strategists and their contributions to the theory of maritime power. If we are to grasp the growing complexity of human activities at sea, from the sea, and through the sea, we have a professional as well as moral duty to look beyond the horizon and expand our intellectual toolkit to devise new solutions to deal with maritime problems.
This upcoming quest to expand our knowledge of forgotten naval strategists echoes two previous calls made elsewhere in the blogosphere. First, the good folks at Kings of War had an article a few years ago asking which country had produced the greatest strategists. In the comments section, many people jumped into the discussion and took some liberties to mention unsung heroes. Second, James Holmes’ The Naval Diplomat had a series of controversial articles asking whether America still had any naval strategists. These two articles give us some hints about the way in which a debate about expanding the naval canon should be conducted and we urge you to read them too.
To conclude, submissions must focus on one strategist whose work, for whatever reason, goes unappreciated in current naval debates. As an example, contributions by strategists from Italy, India, China, Brazil, Japan, among other countries, are most welcomed. The challenge is to identify a theoretical contribution, either a specific concept or a broad formulation, that helps us understand maritime strategy. To put it bluntly, we don’t want yet another piece explaining why everyone should read Mahan or Corbett; we know that already. We also don’t want an eulogy for an admiral’s feats in battle. Remember, it’s all about their intellectual contributions to the study of maritime strategy!
Series title: “Forgotten Naval Strategists” Due Date: September 26 Due to: Nextwar(at)cimsec.org Running: September 30 – October 5 Format: 500-2000 words
In both Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I compared various naval counterparts – laying the groundwork for discussing what the U.S. Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer community is getting right, and what areas could use improvement. It is easy to complain. Surface Warfare Officers are notorious for it. I am infamous for it, as my peers and superiors alike will attest. Combine our penchant for complaining and our ingrained inferiority complex and it is no wonder that so many SWOs think that everyone else is “doing it better.” This time, though, it is not typical-SWO wanking: they are doing it better, and we must pull our heads out of the sand and catch up. Royal Navy Warfare Officers, U.S. Naval Aviators and nuclear trained officers are specialists and are unmatched masters of their trade. They must train endlessly and they feverishly adhere to standards written in blood to remain at the top of their respective callings. They are role-models and could teach us a thing or two about being the best. As for Surface Warfare Officers – we aregood, and that is the problem.
Surface Warfare Officers – and the ships we drive, fight, and lead – guarantee the free flow of commerce across the world. We deliver critical readiness to the Geographic Combatant Commanders and we send a powerful message to both overt and would-be enemies. What we do, works. Our ships deploy and our navy projects unparalleled power around the globe. As an inherently expeditionary force, we ply the world’s oceans, go where we please, and influence international events as a matter of course. We conduct prompt and sustained combat operations like no other nation can. Our ships are leaving port and returning safely, they complete the widest variety of operational tasking of any military community, our personnel are advancing, and finally, as one senior community leader put it to me, “We are pretty damn good… I would take our top 50% Department Heads and put them against the top 10% of PWO (RN, Principle Warfare Officers) or Snipes (engineers) and bet on our people.”
It appears that there is nothing wrong here. As a Surface Warfare Officer myself, I can get onboard with most of the above. There is a seedy underbelly to all of this, though. It thrives on a couple of points: that our greatness has not been tested by an opponent in decades, and that the perspective of greatness is naturally skewed from the top down. If not by desire, doctrine, or intent – then surely through practice – the Surface Warfare Officer community accepts mediocracy.
Tom Skerritt’s Viper stood in front of a room filled with the elite – “the best of the best,” and told them deadpan: “we’ll make you better.” In this fictional portrayal, which is representative of the real-life attitudes found in the previously featured communities, good enough, wasn’t. Surface Warfare Officers are undoubtedly the best in our business. Unfortunately, context matters, as the same can be said when a Major League club steps into a Little League park. We need to be better. We have ill-defined core-competencies, which leads us to becoming Jacks-of-all-Trades. Our habit of recoiling in horror at the thought of specialization causes us to become plug-and-play officers; ultimately figure-heads and placeholders with little value added to a respective sub-unit. Finally, we do not deliver professionals to the Fleet. One Surface Warfare Officer with multiple commands under his belt conceded, “We should be more deliberate. Success and mastery occur by happenstance.” Another community leader said, “We have good tacticians, but that is mostly by personal choice, and a little bit about your ship’s schedule and how interested your Commanding Officer was in tactics.” This series is not about career advancement. It is about a profession. It is about war. It is about winning! Our nation does not deserve victory by happenstance. It deserves an ocean-roiling, awe-inspiring, burned-into-the-history-books slam of Thor’s hammer upon our enemies. I do not think we are there yet.
Getting there is not simple. It is not as easy as adopting all of the policies and culture of the Royal Navy or Naval Aviators or nukes. Surface Warfare Officers should be the best because we train to be the best, not because we happen to be a part of the American Navy. We should be the best because we retain the best, not simply because our kit is better than everyone else’s. Under some fantastic leaders, the community is getting the right idea. The introduction of the Basic Division Officer Course, the Advanced Division Officer Course, the Surface Navigator’s Course, the Command Qualification Exam, and rigor added to the Department Head Course are all aimed at developing professionals. Weapons Tactics Instructors – previously a rice-bowl of the aviation community – will invigorate tactical awareness and proficiency throughout the Fleet. The SWO Clock concept – another idea poached from Naval Aviators – which gets “beached SWOs” back to the waterfront, shows a tilt towards valuing production in the upwardly-mobile. We are making good efforts to improve our community in an environment that naturally builds anti-bodies to culture change. That said, we are not doing enough; our profession, our competencies, our reputation, and our retention suffer due to this slow trod down the middle-of-the-channel. As is evidenced by both the Naval Aviation and nuclear communities, it really comes down to what a community accepts in, and for, itself. Do we continue to accept mediocracy, or do we stand up and say that “good enough” is not good enough?
One admiral opined, “I think it is good we SWOs have this institutional ‘inferiority complex,’ as it keeps us from getting complacent…like naval aviation did in Vietnam and later years.” I am not nearly the first to question the level of professionalism in our force. In a 2009 Proceedings article, LT Mitch McGuffie discussed his shock at how much more professional Royal Navy Warfare Officers were than SWOs. This topic and topics like it pop up on Sailor Bob – the definitive forum for SWO discussion – all the time. We do have a questioning attitude and that does make us better. While I readily acknowledge that we are the best Surface Warriors on the block, I am not satisfied with a 10:1 or 50:1 advantage. Like Viper and his pals, and real-life naval professionals who recognize that “there are no points for second place,” I am not satisfied with us being the best – I want us to be the best of the best.
To be the best of the best, we must deliver professionals to the Fleet at all levels. To measure one’s professionalism, we must establish community-recognized core competencies. We must define what it means to be a SWO and prove that our pin is worth more than the money we pay for it. For the sake of brevity, I propose that our core competency be ship-driving. Imagine, if you will, a room full of mid-grade Hornet pilots: 20% of them openly admit to each other that they have no clue how to fly Hornets, and another 30% who are less open about their weakness demonstrate their ineptitude in the simulator. The remaining 50% range from barely capable to superstars. While quality spreads are a reality in any group, this scenario is un-imaginable. Naval Aviators with more than 8 years of service that do not know how to fly? Rubbish! This is a reality for Surface Warfare Officers, though. Lieutenants that do not know how to drive ships are commonplace. They exist because they were never trained, nor tested, much less held to a standard, in the first place. They were never trained, tested, or held to a standard because ship-driving – again, if not due to desire, doctrine, or intent, then through practice – is not recognized as a core-competency of the U.S. Navy’s ship drivers. As is demonstrated in the excellent film, Speed and Angels, Naval Aviators consider carrier operations to be a core-competency – if a student pilot cannot land on the boat, then he will not become a Naval Aviator. Why can’t Surface Warfare Officers take the same approach to our profession?
We need a flight school for Surface Warfare Officers. The name is not important at this point – rather, the purpose ought to be the focus: building ship drivers. We must stop accepting mediocracy in this venue! While the Basic Division Officer course is a fantastic concept meant to bolster our young ensigns, it lacks focus and does not zero in on core-competencies. The lessons taught in the Basic Division Officer course are important – being an effective small-unit leader is vital, and I do not propose that we scrap the current construct. Rather, I propose – nay, I implore – that we first recognize ship-driving as a core-competency, and second, require our officers to be competent ship drivers.
SEALs do not accept sub-par. Neither do Naval Aviators, nor nuclear-trained officers, or Marines. While I applaud our most recent Commander, Naval Surface Forces for his outstanding efforts to instill meaningful training, we are still accepting sub-par, and are using the re-creation of half-way schooling as a security blanket. Under our current system, young SWO candidates are flooded onto ships in an effort to make future retention goals – an indictment of our culture’s impact on retention. They then fiercely compete for time on the bridge to gain experience – and hopefully competency – as ship drivers. On most ships, this is not a recipe for success. The Professional Qualification Standard books, which drive progression, are signed with unpredictable integrity, imparting sometimes-dubious knowledge on young minds. To cap it off, Officer of the Deck and Surface Warfare Officer qualifications, granted by Commanding Officers, are determined using two-hundred some different standards. Some candidates sit for gut-wrenching, rigorous tests of their skills and knowledge, and others chat with their Commanding Officers at local watering holes after a command event. The evidence of the disparity in knowledge is on display in Newport, Rhode Island – home of Surface Warfare Officers School – where junior officers return for the Advanced Division Officer Course, and later, the Department Head Course. Some officers were obviously put to the test during their professional development, and others were obviously not.
I propose that we start a Deck Watch Officer School – our flight school - in Newport, which all ensigns will attend, and must pass, prior to reporting to BDOC and ultimately, the Fleet. As with aviators, this school would not be a second thought or a 60% solution, but rather would be a proving ground for our nation’s future ship drivers. The length of this notional school can be figured out later; what is important is that SWO candidates shall qualify; ashore. We must have one standard, one organization responsible for enforcing that standard, and must require those desiring entrance into our community to meet it – otherwise, seek life elsewhere. We should not be ashamed of upholding a standard and of telling some people that they are not cut out for this business. At this school, candidates would receive in-depth, hands-on instruction in seamanship and navigation, basic-through-advanced ship handling, meteorology, bridge resource management, and a variety of other skills required for the competent mariner.
Integral to this process would be the move of the Yard Patrol Craft fleet – the U.S. Navy’s only training ships – from Annapolis to Newport for the exclusive use of the Surface Warfare Officers School. During the pipeline, ensigns would log hours and prove their skills in simulators and on the water. They would complete classwork, learn from case studies, and would be continually tested, remediated, and attrited, as required. If they successfully made it to the end of this program, they would sit for a SWOS-run and community-sanctioned Officer-of-the-Deck board, ensuring that all ensigns are held to the same standard. Earning one’s OOD letter – like the pilots and their wings – would be a culminating event, and those unable to meet the mark would not be sent to the Basic Division Officer Course or the Fleet. If we could implement this plan, we would then send Captains competent, qualified ship drivers, immediately useful to their commands. Like in the Royal Navy, newly reported officers would then complete their platform endorsement, signifying both their grasp of their new ship and the trust their Commanding Officers have in them.
To be the best of the best, we must be good at our jobs. If Surface Warfare Officers are going to continue to be both professional watch standers, and small unit leaders, we must stop accepting the notion that plug-and-play is an effective way of doing business. Imagine a Naval Aviator spending his junior officer tours flying F/A-18’s, his department head tour in a P-8 squadron, and finally, growing up to command an MH-60 squadron. This progression would never happen in the aviation community because they are not plug-and-play pilots. Yet, a Surface Warfare Officer may indeed spend a tour in Weapons Department, followed by Operations Department, followed by Engineering Department, followed by eventual command. The issue as I see it is that the community views this as a positive – exposing officers to a variety of shipboard functions – but in reality, it ensures that we never become truly good at our jobs. We become personnel and administrative gurus, irrespective of our assigned department, perched to jump into a different role at a moment’s notice.
Instead of our current system, I propose that U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officers matriculate into the community with a billet specialty: engineering, operations, or combat systems. Anathema! Rather than wandering from department to department as figure-heads, I want us to have a vested interest, and subject matter expertise, in the Sailors we lead and the systems we are responsible for. An Infantry Officer leads infantry units. Armor Officers lead armor units. F/A-18 pilots fly Hornets. Today, a Surface Warfare Officer can become a Weapons Officer, and in theory, an Engineer Officer, without prior experience in those respective departments. Imagine, though, the benefits of the following: a new officer enters the community as a Surface Warfare Officer-Engineering, graduates the OOD School and BDOC, completes basic engineer training, serves two division officer tours in Engineering Department, completes shore duty, graduates Department Head School, and returns to the Fleet as an Engineer Officer. This officer has received specialized training along the way and has walked the walk and talked the talk at sea prior to stepping foot into what is acknowledged as the most challenging tour of a SWO’s career. They are no longer a figure-head, but rather: they are an engineer. Or a Combat Systems Officer. Or an Operations Officer. Their title means something. They are good at their job. To ensure preparation for command and to keep some semblance of well-roundedness, Surface Warfare Officers of all flavors would continue to earn the qualifications and stand the watches that the community currently holds dear: on the bridge, in the Combat-Information-Center, and in the engineering plant. Finally, the XO/CO fleet-up model would ensure that specialists are appropriately rounded-out before taking command.
I want Surface Warfare Officers to push ourselves “right to the edge of the envelope.” I want us to be proud of our community. I want our Surface Warfare Officer pin to mean something – to the military, to the service, and most important of all, to us. I want us to be professional watch standers and experts in our respective jobs. The Surface Warfare Officer community is known for being the dumping ground of Unrestricted Line Officers who could not hack it, and this happens because we do not establish, much less uphold, standards. No more! We should honor our heritage, establish a role in our force that is both respected and admired, and strictly and unabashedly police ourselves as consummate professionals who accept nothing less than the best of the best.
Lieutenant Jon Paris is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer. At sea, he has served aboard both a destroyer and cruiser, in both Weapons and Navigation Department. Ashore he has served as a Navigation Instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy and as a Flag Aide. He is a prospective destroyer Operations Officer. His opinions and generalizations are his own and do not reflect official stances or policy of the U.S. Navy.
“Intelligence remains our basic national instrument for anticipating danger—military, political, and economic.”—President George H.W. Bush
In preparation for our first “Challenges to Intelligence Collection” week, our CIMSEC editors observed a surprising lack of published information on intelligence collection, both in the general world of scholarship and here at CIMSEC, despite intelligence collection being one of the most controversial topics in the media in the past year. Furthermore, few organizations have adapted as drastically to institutional and operational changes since September 11th as the intelligence community. Yet the body of knowledge on this subject remains conspicuously sparse.
Recently, John O. Brennan, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, delivered the keynote address at the first annual “Ethos and Profession of Intelligence” conference. In his address, Director Brennan admitted “the Central Intelligence Agency does not hold a lot of public conferences. Our foreign counterparts tend to hold even fewer—as in zero”.  Subsequently, our valiant contributors will attempt to address this uncharted academic terrain. We will publish new articles that address and identify possible operational, procedural, and cultural impediments to efficient intelligence operations.
Georgetown University and the CIA hosted the “Ethos and Profession of Intelligence” conference on June 11th, 2014 in Georgetown’s historic Gaston Hall. Despite the overt anachronism of discussing cyber attacks and geospatial intelligence under Gaston’s neo-Gothic paneling, the elaborate setting emphasized the role of intelligence as a historically significant aspect—and perennial fixture—of the United States’ national defense organization. Conversely, panelists’ discussions addressed pressing concerns for the future of the intelligence community, such as evolutions in cyber technology, the emerging importance of public sector involvement, and the precarious balancing act between domestic transparency and community integrity. 
Ultimately, the conference emphasized the irrevocable tension between meeting the demands of the future while still maintaining the core tenants of the intelligence profession. The mere fact that the CIA was willing to participate in a public conference represents exactly how far the intelligence community has evolved in the past decade. The joint CIA-Georgetown University conference marked the CIA’s first-ever public national security conference, suggesting that as the intelligence community rises to meet the demands of the future, the CIA intends to lead this evolution. At the same time, the careful and intentional inclusion of the word “Ethos” in the conference title involuntarily invokes the Aristotelian appeal for credibility and the enduring need for trustworthy intelligence professionals.  It is also reminiscent of the gravity of the intelligence mission; in the domain of intelligence, the ability to persuade is often a matter of life and death.
In a similar vein, CIMSEC will feature articles this week that connect the intelligence community’s past to its demands for the future. Our contributors will demonstrate how far intelligence collection has evolved since the end of World War II and portend the challenges that will threaten specific intelligence communities in the future. Likewise, form will follow (editorial) function; we will feature previously published articles on Naval intelligence, cryptology, and emerging technology, highlighting the need for continued discourse on this subject and CIMSEC contributors’ willingness to address this significant knowledge gap.
Jillian Danback McGhan is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a former instructor at the United States Naval Academy. She is currently a student at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a research assistant for the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorist Events (CREATE). The views expressed here are her own and do not represent those of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, Georgetown University, or CREATE.
 “Remarks for Central Intelligence Agency Director John O. Brennan as Prepared for Delivery at the Conference on the Ethos and Profession of Intelligence, Georgetown University”, 11 June 2014. https://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/2014-speeches-testimony/remarks-for-cia-director-brennan-at-georgetown-conference.html.
 Video footage of the conference, including all panel discussions and remarks by CIA Director John O. Brennan and former FBI Director Robert Muller, can be found on the CIA’s website: https://www.cia.gov/news-information/blog/2014/cia-georgetown-conference-livestream.html
 For a refresher on Classic rhetorical appeals, see the Purdue Online Writing Laboratory’s summary “Aristotle’s Rhetorical Situation”, https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/625/03/.
During the week of 7-14 July, the Center for International Maritime Security will feature the feature week “Challenges to Intelligence Collection”. We welcome all posts pertaining, but not limited, to:
The history and evolution of intelligence collection, especially but not limited to naval and maritime intelligence
Technology shifts (from shoe phones to drones)
Complications created by changes to the operational environment
Unintended domestic and international consequences of intelligence operations
Managing governmental transparency in covert operations
Opportunities for the private sector to engage with—or potentially disrupt—the Intelligence community
Any other pertinent topics
Please submit all articles to email@example.com by 5 July and feel free to contact associate editors Jillian McGhan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Chris Stockdale-Garbutt (email@example.com) with any questions.
102. In the transition from the era of sail to an era of war in three dimensions, great importance, and often inordinate value, has been attached to material developments. Material represents means and not the end. A nineteenth century sailor would be bewildered in a modern warship, but regardless of the appearance of ships, there is one element, the most important of all, that remains unchanged – the man himself. Human nature in all the changing years has altered but little. It is the human element in warfare which may, if understood by the commander, prove to be the only way of converting impossibility into a successful reality. With trained men and proper materials, the commander’s task is reduced to the preparation of good plans. A force inferior in material potency may, due to the moral resources of its men, prove superior in naval strength. FTP 143(A), War Instructions, 1944
In the recent years of Pax Americana, we have gotten accustomed to the technological superiority of the United States. However, wars are not fought by gadgets, platforms and systems, they are fought by people. The people of the United States have developed this country and built its success not on a foundation of simply inventing new technology, but on innovative and disruptive ways to use it. The carrier and the submarine were not game-changing in their technology alone, but in how they were employed in a systematic campaign of strategic constriction through striking from great distance, island-hopping to secure bases and commerce destruction resulting in decisive victory. RADAR was a technology employed by a number of nations in World War Two, but the British early-warning system employed it through a novel concept of coordinated interception to successfully defend their island. In this same tradition, Fleet Battle School enables players to experiment with various “generations” of technological capability, indicative of what is available today and in the near future to discover not just what technological capabilities are valuable in a given situation, but how it can be used in new ways to be particularly devastating.
To this end, the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) developed a wargame which could be used to experiment with new technologies and innovative tactics. The Fleet Battle School game was intended to be a wargame which would enable the crowd-sourcing of ideas, an idea which project lead Jason Chuma has previously discussed on the CIMSEC website. To reach this end, the team focused on creating a game (based on a design by Paul Vebber) which would abstract a number of the characteristics used in professional wargames to create a system which is both easy to use and would portray general relationships present in a real conflict.
Most professional naval wargames are designed with a high level of fidelity. This fidelity within the “black box” of computer simulation hides the intricate interaction between weapons and targets. While this eases the burden of a steep “learning curve” to play the game and helps staffs exercise the detailed planning required to conduct complex naval operations, the lack of transparency results in little insight into why and how the result of executing the plan emerges. Fleet Battle School is not intended to be one of these games. It is a game designed to focus on the decisions which a commander would make to employ forces and allow players to experiment with how different decisions affect the outcomes of battle in a transparent manner. Thus, while Fleet Battle School has a combat system which is based on general relationships gleaned from naval warfare studies, engagements are resolved through a series of dice rolls based on incremental ‘capability levels’ attributed to the various platforms probability of successful engagement within and between domains represented in the game. Having access to the “combat results table” that indicates general probability of success of interactions between the various “capability levels”, the commander has knowledge of the general risk he accepts by pursuing a given course of action.
1277. While no one can predict with certainty in advance the manner in which an action will be fought, particularly on the part of the enemy, it is imperative, if coordinated action is to take place and if effective results are to be obtained, that the officer in command indicate his intentions and direct the units of his command. He endeavors to impose his plan upon the enemy. He has a definite intention to win by employing a definite method. Indecision on the part of the officer in command creates indecision and inaction in his command and invites disaster. An action begun with the declared intention to bring about an attainable result in a specified way gains the initiative.
FTP 143(A), War Instructions, 1944
Rather than making decisions for individual platforms, the players think at the level of the operational commander and issues orders to his forces as “missions” to perform in a given location, with caveats in the form of “commander’s intent.” These orders are given for each “game day” with the players given opportunities to adapt “the Plan” to emergent events, but at the cost of adding “friction” to the force’s ability to execute ad hoc missions which they are less prepared for than those in “the Plan”. It is assumed that the commanding officers of ships and pilots of the aircraft will execute tactics to try to best accomplish the mission assigned, though this can be affected by assumptions about overall crew proficiency and the aforementioned “friction”. The player isn’t worried about whether the ship should change speed or course, or how aircraft should be maneuvered to avoid an incoming missile – the split second decisions there are better suited for simulations. The player focuses instead on how forces are employed at the operational level, using emissions control, firing doctrine, force maneuver and air power to defeat an adversary, and most importantly, identifying the need to make a decision and what the best choice to make is at that juncture.
This approach creates three effects which make Fleet Battle School a unique wargame. First, it takes much less time to execute a scenario than a professional wargame. When professional wargames take days to play a week or so of real time, a scenario in Fleet Battle School representing several days can be resolved in a few hours or a game representing a few weeks in a few days. (The CRIC had entertained the idea of building a computer version of the game, which would shorten the time for a game to about 10-30 min per game day, depending on scenario complexity.) This makes the game much more accessible to a wide audience, by requiring less of a time investment in playing through a scenario to completion. It also supports a number of swift experiments sequentially – for experiments run over a week, players can try a variety of different decisions to better understand in what circumstances the decision is appropriate, or in the event of an unlucky outcome, how the same decision may still be the best approach.
Second, the game is very accessible to those with a wide background. Fleet Battle School was aimed at enabling junior officers and armchair admirals at home to be able to explore decisions at the operation level of war, but good operational warfare is a skill which takes a professional staff years to learn. By focusing on the decisions of the commander rather than the details of the planning, the game is accessible to people who may not have experience in maritime warfare or naval aviation, and gives them the opportunity to think through the challenges associated with naval warfare. In playtesting, one of the best players was a Marine Corps captain, who used a number of creative strategies to continue to defeat opponents with naval backgrounds.
Third, the approach keeps the game unclassified. While detailed simulation has its place, the difference of a few miles of missile range, or a different flight profile, doesn’t necessarily change decisions about how to employ forces. Basing the combat results on general incremental relationships between “generations” of capability based on unclassified studies of naval combat and operations research provide the game a backbone that keeps the effects of capabilities on decision-making consistent , without requiring details that would excessively limit the intended audience of the game.
In addition to these objectives, it was critical that the CRIC also produce a game which emphasized multiplayer interaction. Frequently, naval officers and operators are not exposed to conflict with an agile and adaptive adversary until late in their career; until then they are expected to follow and execute doctrine. Wargaming can provide a valuable opportunity for officers to develop their ability to think tactically and understand how to think through the sequence of action and counter-action to defeat a clever, creative and adaptable enemy. The ability to think like a naval warrior requires cultivation, and Fleet Battle School provides one way to allow players to do that.
Finally, if you want a wide audience to play your game, you need to make people want to play your game. Fleet Battle School aims at providing a game which flows quickly enough to keep players involved, and gives them enough decision space that they can build a narrative associated with the conflict. In the future, the game is designed to support a campaign of scenarios which would allow players to build their own order of battles and identify new technology investments. By watching how players evolve their own fleets, players develop ownership of their own fleet and are committed to its success, but the game would also provides valuable lessons on which capability and platform mixes are most successful.
New technological advancement themselves do not necessarily change the face of warfare; it is how those advancements are incorporated into new or novel concepts of operation which deliver advantage to a military. Fleet Battle School was designed by the CRIC to be a way to explore and evaluate new concepts across a wide forum to understand how the United States Navy and military forces in general can best leverage emerging technologies or new ideas. At the same time, it also helps to educate a new generation of officers in warfighting, and allow them to build experience in thinking creatively about warfare against an adaptive foe.
The Warfighting Connection blog has more information on the Fleet Battle School game, and the Fleet Power system on which it is based. The Fleet Battle School game is currently in early beta testing; intentions are to provide a playable demonstration of the Fleet Power system at the Connections Wargaming Conference in Quantico, VA, 4-7 August 2014.
Christopher Kona is a warfare analyst at Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, RI. He is a member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), and a former submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. He was project lead for the CRIC’s Fleet Battle School wargame project.
From the entertainment of the risk board to the grand scale of international exercises… war games of varying types and scale inform and misinform us in learning about war and conflict. For the first in a two-part series on wargaming, CIMSEC jumped onboard with Jeff Anderson and the CNO Rapid Innovation Cell Podcast to discuss the CRIC’s Fleet Battle School game as well as a more general group discussion of the benefits, tripfalls, potential and limitations of wargaming. Chris Kona discusses the Fleet Battle School game and some larger wargaming programs. Jeff nerds out on Starcraft, and I talk a bit about the first world war.
Speaking of wargames… remember, CIMSEC is running our “Sacking of Rome” series starting 16 June! Instead of talking about securing the commons, maintaining global security… using historic examples, modern-day developments, or predictions of the future, red-team the global system and develop constructive answers to your campaign. If you were an adversary, how would you seek to subvert or tear down the global system and how could we stop you? Paul Pryce is our editor for the week: (paul.l.pryce -at- gmail.com).