STAVANGER, Norway – NATO Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) Commander, Rear Admiral Jan C. Kaack, opened the execution phase for the Centre’s new wargame capability development initiative on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.
“The idea for this wargame initiative is to optimize and expand the Joint Warfare Centre’s capabilities as they relate to planning and delivery of exercises,” Rear Admiral Kaack said.
“We play a central role in the operational level of warfare. Both our staff and Training Audiences can benefit from this innovative capability as we move forward. Well-structured, multi-faceted and objective wargaming can also complement our future Command Post Exercises, particularly with regards to the exploration of complex problems at the operational and strategic levels of warfare.”
The execution phase marked the first time that the JWC conducted a wargame to sharpen future exercise design processes and decision-making skills, while simultaneously providing “a safe space to further the development of doctrine, techniques and Standard Operating Procedures,” according to Rear Admiral Kaack.
Rear Admiral Kaack added: “My ambition is ensuring the build-up of our wargame capability to the point where it is a genuine and valued capability that we offer to the NATO Alliance.”
The execution phase involved a training event for Leader Professional Development and a two-day matrix-style wargame, bringing together members of JWC’s Core Planning Team and military and civilian senior officers across JWC’s various branches and divisions.
Together with Standard Operating Instructions and Lessons Identified Action Plans, JWC’s targeted December 2020 Initial Operating Capability is the first step on the road to achieving a full wargaming capacity.
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Kieser, the Officer of Primary Responsibility for the Wargaming Capability Development Initiative, said: “The training was essential to demonstrate what wargaming is to our Core Planning Team and to allow us to practice conducting a wargame as members of an Exercise Control. Both of these were requirements for us to achieve Initial Operating Capability by December 2020.”
"My ambition is ensuring the build-up of our wargame capability to the point where it is a genuine and valued capability that we offer to the NATO Alliance," Rear Admiral Jan C. Kaack, Commander Joint Warfare Centre
What is wargaming?
According to NATO, wargaming is “a simulation of a military operation involving two or more Opposing Forces, using rules, data, and procedures designed to depict an actual or assumed real life situation”.
To Peter Perla, the author of The Art of Wargaming, the term wargame refers to “warfare modeling, simulation, campaign and systems analysis and exercises”, and it is not a “panacea for learning about or solving the problems of warfare. Its forte is the exploration of the role and potential effects of human decisions.”
Lieutenant Colonel Kieser pointed out that all the above was within the purview of the JWC’s collective training mission at the operational-level, where it plays a vital role in ensuring NATO stands ready; facing global uncertainty and increasing complexity.
Kieser said: “Wargaming’s pliability provides commanders and staffs a tool that they can use in close coordination with the Exercise Planning Process to achieve some goals that don’t fit as nicely into our standard Command Post Exercise packages. Sometimes customers have niche topics that need to be worked by senior leaders. The wargame allows us to tailor an event to better achieve customer’s desired outcomes.”
"Wargaming is a tool that staffs can use to frame specific and less conventional problems and explore PMESII (the whole spectrum of political, military, economic, social, infrastructure and information) variables."
Kieser added: “Additionally, wargaming is a tool that staffs can use to frame specific and less conventional problems and explore PMESII (the whole spectrum of political, military, economic, social, infrastructure and information) variables. Wargaming could be very helpful in understanding issues from the Joint Task Force (JTF) and Exercise Control (EXCON) perspectives to support greater awareness prior to Crisis Response Planning.”
Kieser noted that another function of wargaming was the exceptional focus it placed on organizational structures and Command and Control, especially, “when there are multiple organizations and levels of command.”
“Obviously, this requires a lot of work from the designers, including the Training Audience. From a pure organizational focus, a wargame can help Headquarters’ test continuity of operations plans, interagency or intergovernmental incident response, including non-military roles to represent NATO’s Comprehensive Approach, staff reorganization and development of a task force to address a problem,” Kieser said, adding: "I am very pleased with the efforts of our Core Planning Team and the wider JWC staff during the wargame."
JWC’s role as NATO’s Trusted Advisor
On June 4, the JWC planners convened for a final brief to discuss the way ahead.
“Part of the vision for the project was for the Core Planning Team to define roles and responsibilities, codify them, and train the larger JWC staff. In essence, the Core Planning Team is the ‘train the trainer’ element for our organization. Through this week’s event, they advanced considerably in their ability to serve in this role which, in part, makes the programme sustainable for the long term future,” Kieser explained.
Rear Admiral Jan C. Kaack encouraged staff to keep working towards the Initial Operating Capability in December.
“Continue to ask questions; learn from the experience, and remember that mistakes that aid learning are perfectly acceptable; continue to develop Standard Operating Procedures; explore the operational-level issues that we discussed here, and finally, think about how employing wargames might complement our Command Post Exercises in the future,” Rear Admiral Kaack said.
“It is vitally important for us to develop new ways of thinking and focus on innovation as NATO’s Trusted Advisor bridging the two worlds of Operations and Transformation. Thank you to all who made this wargame training such a success,” Rear Admiral Kaack added.
Photos from the Wargame