Wargaming at the Naval Postgraduate School

commentary

(War on the Rocks)

October 9, 2017

Adding Shots on Target: Wargaming Beyond the Game

Wargaming at the Naval Postgraduate School

Photo by U.S. Navy

by Elizabeth M. Bartels

What will the future wars look like? Fiction offers a range of answers—some contradictory. Is the priority urban security as depicted in the dystopian sci-fi world of Judge Dredd, or warfare in space shown in the sci-fi series The Expanse? Will advances in autonomy bring robot overlords like the Terminator or help-mates like Tony Stark's Jarvis? Figuring out what the future may look like—and what concepts and technology we should invest in now to be prepared—is hard. To do it well we need to consider how America might take advantage of different futures. To this end former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff challenged the wargaming community to build a cycle of research to help understand what these paths might be.

But what is the cycle of research? Put simply it's a process for using multiple tools with different strengths and weaknesses to examine the same problem from many angles, which a range of game designers recommend. Like any other method, games have limitations: They produce a specific type of knowledge that is helpful in answering some questions, but not others. Games cannot be expected to provide a credible prediction of the performance of a new weapon or detailed understanding of the cost of acquiring a platform. However, by using gaming in conjunction with modeling and exercises different types of evidence can be gathered that should yield stronger results.…

The remainder of this commentary is available on warontherocks.com.


Elizabeth “Ellie” Bartels is a doctoral candidate at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and an assistant policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

This commentary originally appeared on War on the Rocks on October 9, 2017.