By Lieutenant Colonel Michael Derksen, German Army, Head of the Scenario Branch, Joint Warfare Centre
The JWC Scenario Branch provides comprehensive and realistic scenario background and supporting documentation to the JWC-directed exercises, tailored to meet both NATO and National requirements, covering the Alliance 360° geographically. The mission of the branch is to support Allied Command Transformation (ACT), one of the two Strategic Commands at the head of NATO's Military Command Structure, in delivering training and exercise programmes to the Alliance. This is accomplished through designing and developing realistic, high-level exercise scenarios, such as SKOLKAN and OCCASUS, based on NATO’s current and future approaches to the changing, complex strategic environment.
The scenarios designed and developed by the JWC provide a credible, fictitious political, military, socio-economic, infrastructure, information and geospatial environment as well as the encompassing narrative on the political, strategic and operational levels of warfare to strengthen readiness and responsiveness and practice crisis management — one of NATO's fundamental security tasks. The narratives are relevant to the particular operational-level exercise programme, as each exercise is based upon a specific scenario. Scenario support is one of the cornerstones of the JWC’s mission portfolio, funded through a multi-million NOK annual budget within the Centre’s overall financial plan, involving contracting solutions, as most of the required non-military resources have to be acquired commercially on a regular basis.
The scope of these scenarios allows for exercises in both Article 5 collective defence and non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operations mode on various levels of effort, from divisional up to multi-corps, and in all domains of the joint spectrum — Land, Sea, Air — as well as the recently added Space and Cyber dimensions. Within this broad spectrum, and in addition to the conventional spectrum of warfare, the JWC scenarios can also accommodate a wide range of modern warfare threads, such as anti-access/area denial (A2/AD); chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN); civil-military interaction, cyber defence, hybrid warfare, state- and non-state actor sponsored terrorism, etc.
Before each exercise, military and civilian subject matter experts, in a wide variety of areas, develop the information and documentation needed to support the Training Audience with the advice and content to replicate key actors and entities during the execution phase. Focus teams for military-political, strategic and operational planning, intelligence, targeting, and geospatial development assist in channeling the information flow in order to create a realistic information environment as the source for the Training Audience’s knowledge development. As a whole, scenario support is coordinated by a small team of scenario managers who provide the interface to other critical elements and branches of the JWC’s overall exercise programme.
Scenario Branch’s first generation of settings and scenarios include two settings, which form the basis for four related scenarios. A setting, in this context, is defined as the geostrategic situation of the respective crisis region and includes a broad spectrum of relevant information on all potential exercise actors. Each setting is capable of "hosting" several scenarios, each of which describes events and circumstances that lead to the respective exercise crisis or conflict. The SKOLKAN setting, for example, is named after a fictitious but peer-level adversary located in Scandinavia, whose activities range from hybrid through low-intensity, up to full-scale, high-intensity combat campaigns. Since 2010, the JWC has developed different versions of the SKOLKAN scenario which was first used in 2012. They challenge NATO’s operational level commands in both collective defence operations of Norway and the Baltic region as well as in responding to a non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operation occurring in a fictitious state in southern Scandinavia. As an example, during TRIDENT JAVELIN 2017, SKOLKAN 3 provided the scenario for NATO’s so far largest and most ambitious computer-aided Command Post Exercise during which over 4,000 participants and directing staff exercised command and control in a large-scale conflict spreading from Iceland through the North-Atlantic and Norway to the Baltic States.
The SOROTAN setting, meanwhile, addresses NATO’s capability to conduct operations not only within or adjacent to its territory, but also in austere, conflict and peace-building regions of the world. To enable the required training and exercises in reflection of this ambition, a wide array of fictitious states has been created within the geographic contours of North-Western Africa and the Mediterranean. SOROTAN portrays a combination of state and non-state actors that openly oppose NATO, or states that have failed, or are in the process of dissolving, and states seeking NATO’s assistance. Tailored to the specific requirements of the Training Audience, these elements were combined into SOROTAN 1.0, the first scenario based on this setting, which came to life during the high-visibility, non-Article 5 exercise, TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2015.
Scenario Branch’s next generation of settings and scenarios are designed in response to NATO’s so-called 360° approach to current and future challenges. Until 2024, JWC’s Scenario Branch will develop three major settings in and around Northern and Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic.
The OCCASUS setting, for example, assumes a synthetic geostrategic situation in which a fictitious peer-level opponent challenges NATO on a broad front of political, military, information and economic storylines. Geographically, this setting will host multiple scenarios in an arc from the North Atlantic to the Black Sea, allowing the exercising of single, regionally limited scenarios, or a combination of scenarios, adding up to a conflict across and around all of Europe. The scenarios will focus primarily on the operational aspects and level of collective defence operations during all stages of a potential campaign, but they will also support training on the strategic and political levels of the Alliance. OCCASUS scenarios are currently planned to be used in exercises TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018, as well as TRIDENT JUPITER 2019, 2021 and 2022.
In addition, the FIKSO setting will specifically reflect NATO’s approach to strategic challenges from the south, geographically ranging from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. In an approach similar to OCCASUS, the FIKSO setting will include a range of various "hot-spots" that can be combined into scenarios, as required, by the Training Audience. The FIKSO setting will concentrate on non-Article 5 operations and will include specific types of operations, such as counter-terrorism, disaster relief and peace support. FIKSO scenarios are currently planned to be used in exercises TRIDENT JUPITER 2020 and 2023.
Lastly, the North-Atlantic setting will complete the 360° circle of NATO’s approach to current and future challenges. The geographic extent of the North-Atlantic setting encompasses the Atlantic Ocean between the United States of America, North-West Africa and Europe. So far, specific parameters and requirements for the design of the setting, which will be exercised for the first time in 2024, are still being developed.
In summary, by 2024, the JWC’s Scenario Branch will have developed and delivered complex, well-structured and synthetic environments, consisting of both existing NATO and non-NATO actors and of fictitious state and non-state actors that cover most of NATO’s area of responsibility. Within this environment, the variety and design of challenging "problem sets" and the ability to combine them to create a multitude of different scenarios is critical to the flexible tailoring of Major Level Exercises in accordance with existing and emerging requirements. As a key facilitator in this, the JWC’s Scenario Branch continues to follow closely geostrategic developments and prognoses in order to allow NATO to exercise not recent, but future conflicts.
Originally published in Joint Warfare Centre's 15th Anniversary Book, "Celebrating 15 Years: 2003-2018" produced by the Public Affairs Office
By Peter M. Hutson, Capability Integration and Experimentation Analyst, Concepts, Capability Integration and Experimentation Branch, Joint Warfare Centre
NATO operates in an environment of continuous change, requiring the Alliance to rethink, reprioritise and reform in response to new risks and the evolving security landscape. As NATO has adapted its strategy, concepts, and Military Command and Force Structures over the last 15 years, Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation (HQ SACT) has been leading the Military Transformation process, within which the JWC and its Concepts, Capability Integration and Experimentation (CCI&E) Branch have been instrumental.
Over this time of rapid, and sometimes, unpredictable change, CCI&E’s core function has been to plan and carry out Transformational Activities through the integration of new concepts, maturing capabilities, and other experimentation events into the JWC-hosted exercises. Coordinating and teaming closely with key stakeholders — such as capability developers and programme management at HQ SACT, requirement owners and operators at HQ SHAPE and the Joint Force Commands as well as from nations, industry and academia — the JWC and its CCI&E Branch have ensured that training and exercises deliver Transformation in its Programme of Work.
It is useful to consider the challenges of Transformation at the operational level in the context of the strategies and mandates laid out in the Alliance’s Strategic Concepts, Strategic Foresight Analysis (SFA) and the Framework for Future Alliance Operations (FFAO). As put forth in the 1999 Strategic Concept and the military implementation strategies, the Alliance is facing new risks since those of the Cold War. These risks consist of, amongst others, terrorism, complex ethnic conflicts, and proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery. In addition, the fundamental tasks of crisis response operations, building partnerships, and peace support missions were added to those of security, consultation, deterrence and defence. Furthermore, the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States brought terrorism to the fore and drove major internal reforms to adapt military structures and capabilities to conform with the new tasks, which led to the setting up of the UN-mandated International Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
Such new strategies and missions then required HQ SACT and, consequently, the JWC, to rapidly analyse and translate the new guidance into tasks that the defence planners, capability developers, and the education and training communities could act upon. For JWC, this meant adapting the Centre’s training environment, exercise scenarios and exercise and training objectives, as well as integrating new or maturing concepts and capabilities, such as the Comprehensive Approach, the Effects-Based Approach to Operations, Knowledge Development, System of Systems Analysis, Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Operations, and the Comprehensive Operations Planning Directive (COPD). Thus, for both JWC and its Training Audiences, the introduction of new concepts, experiments and capabilities also meant "changing" and adopting a different mindset — one that involved accepting risks and opportunities and recognising that Transformation requires action as a "present activity", and not as a future event.
At the 2010 Lisbon Summit, NATO revised its overarching Strategic Concept (as well as the SFA and the FFAO), and thereby endorsed an updated understanding of its core purpose in line with the evolving geopolitical and strategic landscape. Collective defence remained a core task for NATO, but crisis management and cooperative security were also elevated to core tasks to stress the fact that NATO must not only protect and defend Alliance territory but also against global, transnational, or non-traditional threats that transcend fixed, conventional boundaries.
Guided by this revised strategy, as well as the military perspectives of the SFA and the FFAO, HQ SACT and the JWC promptly shifted gears to address new major themes and initiatives to adapt and transform. One example was experimentation and scrutiny of NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence capability, and its integration into multiple exercises to inform doctrine development and operational frameworks. Another example was cyberspace, which also received much attention with the recognition of Cyber as a new domain. With the requirement for resilient, robust and secure cyber systems, NATO developed its Cyber Defence Concept and the JWC launched a multi-year Cyber Capability Integration Campaign within its collective exercise programme. The aim was to challenge the operational level of command with simulated real-world threats, as well as to facilitate the development of the DOTMLPFI (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership, Personnel, Facilities, Interoperability) for Cyber.
NATO’s Strategic Communications, or StratCom, also quickly evolved as a core function in NATO policies and operations. Derived from lessons identified from the ISAF mission and the Ukraine crisis, particular challenges consisted of how to integrate the concept of "strategic narratives" at the operational level and how to adapt to new technologies and the global increase in the use of social media within the information environment.
"Transformation and warfare development will remain central to maintaining Alliance readiness, relevance and credibility."
Addressing Future Challenges
NATO and HQ SACT continue to monitor a dynamic geopolitical landscape through the SFA and the FFAO, which have identified complex and uncertain future challenges with both risks and opportunities. Besides the continued development of the Cyber capability, HQ SACT is also focusing on the NATO operational dependencies in the Space domain and developed a highly successful and transformational three-year Space Campaign within major JWC-directed exercises. In coordination with NATO’s Space-faring nations, this high-visibility project has yielded rapid doctrinal, organisational, training and interoperability developments for NATO.
Hybrid threats are another area that the JWC integrates into its warfare development and training processes. After the Ukraine crisis and increased tensions with Russia, NATO had to rapidly confront and counter the challenges of hybrid threats and asymmetric warfare including propaganda, disinformation, cyber-attacks, economic and energy threats, and blurring of distinctions between civilians and combatants. In the JWC exercises, Training Audiences are actively challenged with such threats, while offered the opportunity to adapt doctrine, develop capabilities, and apply operational countermeasures.
Other high-visibility projects that HQ SACT and the JWC have supported over the years relate to Disablement of Weapons of Mass Destruction; Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) experimentation with the tasking and employment of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force (NAGSF), Operations Logistics Chain Management (OLCM) capability development, information environment studies, and numerous technology projects to assist with the development of medical, logistical, and operational information systems.
Transformation is difficult, yet the potential consequences of stagnating far exceed the disruption associated with change. For the last 15 years, HQ SACT, the JWC and its CCI&E Branch have been committed to supporting and delivering change. As NATO continues to evolve in response to both complex threats and a dynamic geopolitical landscape, Transformation and warfare development will remain central to maintaining Alliance readiness, relevance and credibility.
Originally published in Joint Warfare Centre's 15th Anniversary Book, "Celebrating 15 Years: 2003-2018" produced by the Public Affairs Office
By Colonel Neil Wright, British Army, Deputy Chief of Staff Exercise, Training and Innovation Directorate, Joint Warfare Centre
Nobody could have predicted world events in the fifteen years since the JWC’s early days of 2003. The unfolding geopolitical circumstances seem remarkable and just as fascinating is the Centre’s leading role in transforming NATO’s warfare development agenda to meet global challenges. Reflecting on that history, and with the benefit of hindsight, it is notable how swift and significant change has been. Such evolution has required an innovative and adaptable attitude by our teams towards warfare development. For instance, the seismic shift brought by the Wales and Warsaw Summits of 2014 and 2016 initiated a change in emphasis from crisis management and cooperative security back to assurance, deterrence and collective defence as well as the challenges of facing a large and capable opponent.
Relevance of Our History to the Contemporary Operating Environment
Despite a return to collective defence, there is much in our past fifteen years’ experience that remains relevant. So it is as well that we continue to reflect on those elements of the “war on terror” years that persist in the character of warfare; complex networks, insurgency to achieve political ends and the continuing need for capacity building, to name only three aspects which endure, albeit with marked evolution.
To that end, the focus on “conventional” major combat operations acknowledges that asymmetric warfare is very much alive and well, only its character continues to morph and change. So our analysis considers not just what has changed, but also looks for the continuities; where traditional rivals employ new tactics, honed through study of conflict in the early years of the twenty first century.
Consider for a moment real-world hybrid strategies employed by our adversaries with a complex and adaptive mix of conventional and unconventional means, designed to complicate and delay decision making — this is what our Scenario Branch writers seek to reflect in their work. Think of the prevalence of narrative distortion, cyber threats, organized crime, corruption, denial, deception, the use of proxies as well as conventional forces — this is what occupies our Content Branch. Asymmetric threats presented by those “little green men” in Ukraine, or Wagner Group mercenaries in Syria, or manipulation through social media, to shape attitudes and behaviour, are what we present in operational dilemmas to exercise NATO’s Joint Headquarters in operational level planning and decision making.
Such realistic and credible scenario and content material is vital to exercise delivery and warfare development work, not to mention deterrent messaging by the Alliance.
"Training and warfare development are inextricably linked."
Challenges for the Joint Operational Level
In the present day, to paraphrase Mark Twain, if history is not exactly repeating itself, it certainly is rhyming. At the Joint Headquarters level, we find ourselves addressing once familiar aspects of major combat operations, like how to integrate joint actions to overcome layered defences associated with anti-access/area denial, anti-submarine warfare, operating in contested airspace, massing logistics, speed of assembly, freedom of movement, deception, concealment, electronic warfare and emissions control, to name only a few challenges resurfacing from the Cold War era.
Still, newer considerations have arisen, such as the extent to which military commanders should wage information war to counter an adversary’s narrative, thrusting leaders into far more public roles, not to mention highlighting contentious normative, ethical and legal considerations. These are the challenges faced by staff in the Exercises, Training and Innovation Directorate. Our exercises are helping to frame and conceptualise this new era of Major Joint Operations. If scenario opens the door to interoperability, then our developing suite of sophisticated Article 5 scenarios represents a quantum step forward to ensure Alliance preparedness for collective defence.
Seizing Opportunities in Joint Warfare Development
So whilst the JWC delivers higher command and staff collective training for three- and four-star NATO headquarters, we can also harvest a huge dividend in warfare development and innovation. Exercises may be the most conspicuous aspect of what we do, yet it is our role in joint and combined warfare development at the operational level that offers enduring benefit to the Alliance. Indeed, our role in this is greater than ever as we refocus NATO’s agenda for experimentation, interoperability and doctrine development against collective defence and Article 5 scenarios. There can be no better example than Exercise TRIDENT JAVELIN 2017, which was a vast Major Joint Command Post Exercise, involving, for the first time, in more than two decades, all levels of the NATO Command Structure and a considerable proportion of the Force Structure. The exercise content and simulation stretched commanders to confront a peer adversary that was not bound by Western ethical norms and with capabilities that matched, and sometimes overmatched, those of NATO. Analysis and lessons from TRIDENT JAVELIN 2017 have contributed to Allied Joint Doctrine development in a most positive and constructive way, not to mention shaping future requirements in experimentation and transformational activity. Judging by present security dilemmas and trends in geopolitics, this will be the trajectory of our work for the foreseeable future, whilst maintaining capacity to conduct Small Joint Operations and out-of-area operations.
To the Next Fifteen Years
Analysts view this fast-changing geopolitical landscape as perhaps the most consequential for European security since the end of the Cold War. This makes for challenging and interesting warfare development work in NATO’s “Warfare Centre”. Our exercises give us a unique and privileged view of Generalship, and how higher commanders and staff within NATO practice operational art.
We see talented commanders and staff operating in challenging and stressful conditions and it would be impossible not to be humbled and impressed by this. Yet the privilege comes with responsibility, which is to offer valid observations from training back into warfare development; the raison d’être of training and innovation in NATO. That linkage plays to the very heart of interdependence and interoperability within the Alliance.
So it is safe to assume that the next fifteen years will be just as unpredictable as those that have passed. In these accelerated times there seems little prospect of respite or let up, and our history and experience are likely to offer the best handrail to the future. Those first fifteen years in exercises, training and innovation have been of huge importance in shaping our approach to warfare development and have ensured we are well poised to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
The role of the JWC’s Exercise, Training and Innovation Directorate is to harness innovation and transformational thinking in our people and shape NATO’s approach to future challenges. As the articles that follow demonstrate, we have talented and capable people working within the Directorate, at the forefront of innovation, adaptation and warfare development — and the team works! Professional life continues to be just as fascinating, varied and rewarding as ever and we are limited only by our own imagination.
Originally published in Joint Warfare Centre's 15th Anniversary Book, "Celebrating 15 Years: 2003-2018" produced by the Public Affairs Office
By Commander Shannon Wells, United States Navy, Staff Officer, Doctrine Support Branch, Joint Warfare Centre
Throughout history, doctrine has provided an operational foundation for governments and organisations. NATO is no different in this regard. Without well-conceived doctrine, no organisation can effectively achieve its objectives.
NATO defines doctrine as, "Fundamental principles by which military forces guide their actions in support of objectives. It is authoritative, but requires judgement in application."
Well-respected military leaders throughout history understood the value of having guiding principles during times of conflict. Carl von Clausewitz famously said, "Principles and rules are intended to provide a thinking man with a frame of reference."
Doctrine provides the modern military commander with guidance on the "how", but not the "what" or "why" for virtually every aspect of military operations. In this manner, doctrine provides an ever-evolving structural framework that allows for flexibility of action in a dynamic combat environment.
NATO doctrine, as a common language for operations, is essential to interoperability. Doctrine establishes the fundamentals and guidance for employing NATO assets to achieve strategic aims.
The JWC's Doctrine Support Branch is tasked to evaluate doctrine and raise doctrine lessons identified captured during the planning and execution phases of operational-level exercises hosted and directed by the Centre.
Doctrine lessons identified take the form of doctrinal gaps and shortfalls, outdated doctrine, and contradictions between various pieces of doctrine. This work in the doctrine domain supports the mission of the JWC to ensure warfare development outputs are incorporated into collective training events and exercises. This is achieved by integrating new concepts and doctrine through the support of experimentation in joint operational-level training programmes that enhance interoperability and operational effectiveness.
Additionally, the Doctrine Support Branch routinely provides subject matter experts in support of other JWC branches during periods of high-intensity exercises. The branch also works with outside entities that use JWC facilities to conduct third-party events and workshops.
The principles of doctrine are defined by traditional, enduring capabilities proven by best practices while incorporating contemporary insights on how these principles are applied. Although doctrine has enduring principles, it is constantly reviewed for relevance and is, therefore, evolutionary in nature.
The Doctrine Support Branch has existed in one form or another over the entire lifetime of the JWC, and during this time, the branch has sought to develop, improve, and validate doctrine as a cost-effective means of maximising interoperability between Alliance Members.
As warfare continues to evolve, so must the doctrine that guides it.
The Doctrine Support Branch will remain heavily involved in the development of future doctrine, covering areas such as Hybrid Warfare, Space Warfare, Cyber and Electronic Warfare, and Strategic Communications. These are but a few of the areas developing at a rapid pace that will shape the battlefield of the future.
Establishing and maintaining relationships with Allied doctrine custodians will ensure the JWC Doctrine Support Branch has access to the “keepers” of NATO doctrine through our ongoing effort to enhance custodian involvement in every phase of the exercise lifecycle.
This relationship building includes our involvement in doctrine writing workshops in addition to custodian involvement in exercise planning.
Additionally, the Doctrine Support Branch participates in Allied Command Transformation events that develop products such as the Strategic Foresight Analysis (SFA) and the Framework for Future Alliance Operations (FFAO).
These documents inform the Transformation of NATO’s military forces and provide the Alliance, national leaders and defence planners with an informed perspective of the challenges and opportunities facing the Alliance forces in the decades to come. The FFAO is a key document that supports the long-term military Transformation efforts of the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and places this long-term future into an Alliance-specific context to present NATO Bilateral Strategic Command (Bi-SC) proposals on how the Alliance might transform over the next 15 years.
Clearly, for the foreseeable future, doctrine will continue to represent the binding element that allows individual, multinational military units to come together and operate as a single force to guarantee the collective security of the Alliance.