By Reginald Harper, LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education
/ Published April 05, 2019
The National Defense Strategy calls for “seamless integration of multiple elements of national power—diplomacy, information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement, and military.”
Wargames are one method the U.S. and allies use to improve their competitive edge against adversaries of freedom and prosperity.
The Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Special Program wargame at Air University’s Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education Wargaming Institute will test the military and diplomatic decision-making skills of 93 senior military students April 8-12. The students come from DoD professional military education schools, and the wargame will challenge their skills with a fictitious, but realistic, scenario.
That scenario, set 10 years into the future, will require the JLASS-SP participants to prioritize strategic and operational resources to best achieve national-level priorities with partner nations in a dynamic world.
The 36th annual JLASS-SP is the culmination of a seven-month elective, designed to provide participants an opportunity to develop and implement their own regional strategies against realistic threats to world order, including military aggression, human suffering, cyber-attacks and satellite disruption. Adding to the decision-makers’ challenges, these issues are continuously occurring across and above the globe in succession, complicating their ability to move and position forces in a resource-constrained world.
The earliest known wargames date back to the 1600s, and were played on game boards. Over the centuries, the wargame play expanded from board games to more realistic battle scenario models.Wargames were used to improve decision-making by the many of the combatant powers in World War I and World War II.
In 1941, the Japanese combined fleet used wargames to test their original attack plans against Pearl Harbor. As a result, they modified their plans to have their fleet approach the harbor from the north instead of from the west to achieve operational surprise. However, the wargame methods they used ultimately failed to accurately predict the strategic implications of a surprise attack against the United States. Wargames and models can’t predict the future or guarantee success; however, they are highly beneficial in training for and promoting discussion of diplomatic, informational, military and economic actions that may arise in the future.
Today, computer technology and cyber connectivity have greatly expanded the application and appeal of wargames for the U.S. military and government agencies. JLASS-SP also has changed through the years to keep up with a more dynamic world that includes rapid information flow and proliferation of kinetic and non-kinetic threats throughout the world.
Since it was first held in 1983, JLASS-SP has graduated nearly 3,000 senior leaders. Among those are Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, a former U.S. Cyber Command commander and a former National Security Agency director; Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, Air University commander; and at least 30 other general and flag officers still on active duty in each of the service branches.