Building a Pipeline of Wargaming Talent: A Two-Track Solution


(War on the Rocks)

Wargaming at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas,  March 9, 2018

Wargaming at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, March 9, 2018

Photo by Capt. Charlie Dietz/U.S. Army photo

by Elizabeth M. Bartels

November 15, 2018

How does the Department of Defense imagine the future of war and make long-term investments to confront the challenges ahead? On issues ranging from potential conflicts with Russia to the future of transportation and logistics, senior leaders have increasingly turned to wargames to imagine potential futures. Wargames bring together military and civilian experts, challenge them to make decisions in a simulated environment, and observe the potential consequences of those decisions. By allowing policymakers to explore potential futures, games provide a unique tool for considering long-term threats, concepts, and investments.

Because wargames are used to analyze a wide variety of problems, they can look very different from one another. Some focus on junior service members and use computerized systems to explore tactics. Others draw on military officers and experts using paper maps and counters representing different forces to explore theater warfare and develop new concepts. Still others draw on senior decision-makers to discuss potential trajectories of emerging strategic crises touching all instruments of national power. Because a game designer may be called to build any or all of these, master designers throughout government and industry work for years to develop the knowledge needed to select the right approach for the problem at hand.…

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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 November 14, 2018. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.