Monday, March 1, 2010

War Games and Their $250,000,000 Budget

A television show, “The Unit,” has an episode where military units form various countries around the world participate in a global war game. The game mimics a real war, and is seen as the military olympics. It also serves as practice for combat.

Although this scenario played out in the fantasy-world of television, war games are also apparently played out in real life. Read the following book excerpt [SIDEBAR: It’s a bid of a long read. However, if you are in to analyzing situations; you will have a field day reading it...$250,000,000 spent on a “war game”...Smh.]:

“The Pentagon was in the earliest stages of planning for a war game that they were calling Millennium Challenge ‘02. It was the largest and most expensive war game thus far in history. By the time the exercise was finally staged- in July and early August of 2002, two and a half years later- it would end up costing a quarter of a billion dollars, which is more than some countries spend on their entire defense budget. According to the Millennium Challenge scenario, a rogue military commander had broken away from his government somewhere in the Persian Gulf and was threatening to engulf the entire region in war...

The group that runs war games for the U.S. military is called the Joint Forces Command, or, as it is better known, JFCOM. JFCOM occupies two rather nondescript low-slung concrete buildings at the end of a curving driveway in Suffolk, Virginia, a few hours’ drive south and east of Washington, D.C. Just before the entrance to the parking lot, hidden from the street, is a small guard hut. A chain-link fence rings the perimeter. There is a Wal-Mart across the street. Inside, JFCOM looks like a very ordinary office building, with conference rooms and rows of cubicles and long, brightly lit carpetless corridors. The business of JFCOM, however, is anything but ordinary. JFCOM is where the Pentagon tests new ideas about military organization and experiments with new military strategies.

Planning for the war game began in earnest in the summer of 2000. JFCOM brought together hundreds of military analysts and specialists and software experts. In war game parlance, the United States and its allies are always known as Blue Team, and the enemy is always known as Red Team, and JFCOM generated comprehensive portfolios for each team, covering everything they would be expected to know about their own forces and their adversary’s forces. For several weeks leading up to the game, the Red and Blue forces took part in a series of ‘spiral’ exercises that set the stage for the showdown. The rogue commander was getting more and more belligerent, the United States more and more concerned.

In late July, both sides came to Suffolk and set up shop in the huge, windowless rooms known as test bays on the first floor of the main JFCOM building. Marine Corps, air force, army, and navy units at various military bases around the country stood by to enact the commands of Red and Blue Team brass. Sometimes when Blue Team fired a missile or launched a plane, a missile actually fired or a plane actually took off, and whenever it didn’t, one of forty-two separate computer models simulated each of these actions so precisely that the people in the war room often couldn’t tell it wasn’t real. The game lasted for two and a half weeks. For future analysis, a team of JFCOM specialists monitored and recorded every conversation, and a computer kept track of every bullet fired and missile launched and tank deployed. This was more than an experiment. As became clear less than a year later- when the United States invaded a Middle Eastern state with a rogue commander who had a strong ethnic power base and was thought to be harboring terrorists- this was a full dress rehearsal for war.

The stated purpose of Millennium Challenge was for the Pentagon to test a set of new and quite radical ideas about how to go to battle. In Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the United States had routed the forces of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait. But that was an utterly conventional kind of war: two heavily armed and organized forces meeting and fighting in an open battlefield. In the wake of Desert Storm, the Pentagon became convinced that that kind of warfare would soon be an anachronism: no one would be foolish enough to challenge the United States head-to-head in pure military combat. Conflict in the future would be diffuse. It would take place in cities as often as on battlefields, be fueled by ideas as much as by weapons, and engage cultures and economies as much as armies. As one JFCOM analyst puts it: ‘The next war is not just going to be military on military. The deciding factor is not going to be how many tanks you kill, how many ships you sink, and how many planes you shoot down. The decisive factor is how you take apart your adversary’s system. Instead of going after war-fighting capability, we have to go after war-making capability. The military is connected to the economic system, which is connected to their cultural system, to their personal relationships. We have to understand the links between all those systems.’

With Millennium Challenge, then, Blue Team was given greater intellectual resources than perhaps any army in history. JFCOM devised something called Operational Net Assessment, which was a formal decision-making tool that broke the enemy down into a series of systems- military, economic, social, political- and created a matrix showing how all those systems were interrelated and which of the links among the systems were the most vulnerable. Blue Team’s commanders were also given a tool called Effects-Based Operations, which directed them to think beyond the conventional military method of targeting and destroying an adversary’s military assets. They were given a comprehensive, real-time map of the combat situation called the Common Relevant Operational Picture (CROP). They were given a tool for joint interactive planning. They were given an unprecedented amount of information and intelligence from every corner of the U.S. government and a methodology that was logical and systematic and rational and rigorous. They had every toy in the Pentagon’s arsenal.

‘We looked at the full array of what we could do to affect our adversary’s environment- political, military, economic, societal, cultural, institutional. All those things we looked at very comprehensively,’ the commander of JFCOM, General William F. Kernan, told reporters in a Pentagon press briefing after the war game was over, ‘There are things that the agencies have right now that can interrupt people’s capabilities. There are things that you can do to disrupt their ability to communicate, to provide power to their people, to influence their national take out power grids.’ Two centuries ago, Napoleon wrote that ‘a general never knows anything with certainty, never sees his enemy clearly, and never knows positively where he is.’ War was shrouded in fog. The point of Millennium Challenge was to show that, with the full benefit of high-powered satellites and sensors and super-computers, that fog could be lifted...

On the opening day of the war game, Blue Team poured tens of thousands of troops into the Persian Gulf. They parked an aircraft carrier battle group just offshore of Red Team’s home country...With the full weight of its military power in evidence.” - From, “Blink” By: Malcolm Gladwell

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