STAVANGER, Norway – Wargame design teams, exercise planners, operational analysts, and modelling and simulation experts from NATO Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), in coordination with the Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence (CIMIC COE), launched a virtual wargame on February 10, 2021, in an effort to provide a collaborative forum for the CIMIC COE to investigate the impact of operational level civil-military interaction (CMI) on national resilience.
With the pilot wargame for CIMIC COE, the JWC’s aim was to demonstrate an initial operational capability (IOC) milestone in wargaming.
The wargame was developed by the JWC over an eight-month period, including a two-week wargame design course delivered by the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in October 2020.
Dubbed “WISE AEGIS”, the wargame was conducted in two distinct parts: First, it provided players an educational training environment to inspect and review the key role of CMI in strengthening national resilience in order to achieve credible deterrence.
The Commander JWC, Rear Admiral Jan C. Kaack, said, “Our goal is to establish a wargame capability for NATO by combining the JWC’s unique exercise expertise with exciting new professional development opportunities in order to build the necessary skills, knowledge, and competence within the JWC wargame designers and team members. This wargame aimed to immerse our training audiences in new experiences that combined history, technology, and realism that will ultimately provide our Alliance with another world-class resource from the Joint Warfare Centre.”
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According to the JWC Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Douglas K. Clark, the result of the Centre’s approach to wargame design is “a tailorable process able to meet customers’ myriad of requirements while creating an environment where senior leaders can learn under pressure and, iteratively, build cognitive resilience.”
WISE AEGIS was delivered via remote, web-based video conferencing and information sharing platforms, bringing together a diverse community of players, a JWC-led wargame control (GAMECON) team, and adjudicators from across NATO, as well as governmental and industry representatives from Latvia and Poland.
The participant locations of WISE AEGIS included Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the United States.
In addition to the core JWC and CIMIC COE staff, military and civilian experts from NATO Headquarters, Joint Force Command Brunssum, and Joint Support and Enabling Command, as well as observers from partner organizations such as the NPS, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, and a variety of NATO centres of excellence took part in the JWC’s inaugural wargame.
“The JWC’s Wargaming Project benefitted from an investment that we made in risk management training,” explained Colonel Darren Denning, JWC Deputy Chief of Staff Exercises, Training and Innovation Directorate. “The ability to speak a common language when discussing risk ensured shared understanding as we were building this new capability at the JWC.”
The two wargames involved four separate rounds of CMI-related problem sets based on complex, real-world challenges.
Lieutenant Colonel Phillip Madsen, the JWC’s Officer of Primary Responsibility (OPR) for the wargame execution, explained that the players were asked to investigate the impact of CMI on national resilience across the full DIME (diplomatic, information, military, and economic) spectrum.
“It has been an adventure, honour, and sincere pleasure to lead a multi-national team of such creative and dedicated professionals from NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre. The opportunity to build a genuine capability for the Alliance, that combines both ‘old’ and ‘new’ from the best of our unique national traditions has been a high-point of my nearly 20 year career. From concept development through product delivery, the JWC team’s successful culmination in the face of the pandemic will be a point of personal pride and positive reflection on the NATO Alliance for years to come.”
Lieutenant Colonel Madsen added: “The next ridgeline for the JWC’s wargaming capability is to future-proof our efforts by securing the requisite funding and programming the critical professional-development opportunities that we need to both strengthen and grow our JWC cadre of wargame designers and contributors.”
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Looking to the future, the JWC aims to develop a wargaming capability, web-based and tabletop alike, where scenarios can be repurposed for different sponsors with different problem sets at the strategic and operational levels.
“Wargaming is a new training tool for the JWC, and it is an exciting boost to our business-as-usual programme-of-work,” said Major Melissa Sawyer, JWC’s Deputy OPR for wargaming, adding: “It meets a need for alternative training methods to address complex operational dilemmas and warfighting issues. Our pilot wargame was a highly diverse and professional team effort. The CIMIC COE was an excellent customer, and I felt proud to be a part of this new initiative throughout the entire process.”
Following the After Action Review on February 12, the next step for the JWC is institutionalizing the capability within the Centre.
- After Action Review
The wargame was capped by an After Action Review (AAR) held at various wargame locations via VTC on February 12, where Rear Admiral Kaack declared the JWC’s wargame design capability as having met IOC.
Lieutenant Colonel Jan Brouwer, Executive Officer to the Department Head, CIMIC COE, said: “This wargaming, which focused on resilience through civil preparedness, was a great team effort from the JWC. It was realistic and it will help future training and education efforts on this topic greatly. We appreciate the cooperation with the JWC. The relationship building accomplished through this wargame is highly important to the way ahead.”
Rear Admiral Kaack concluded that as one of NATO’s keystone warfare development establishments, the JWC was perfectly suited to lead NATO wargaming in the future. “We will offer the Alliance a new training tool that will complement our traditional exercises, and that will ultimately make NATO better.”
Strategic and operational level decision-making tested during two analytic wargaming courses at Joint Warfare Centre