Political-military simulation provides a unique opportunity to inform key decision-makers and future leaders, as well as the broader policy community about existing or emerging security risks, challenges, threats, issues, and opportunities. Simulation has been widely used in the military, civilian government, academic, and business communities. It can help national security policy makers and policy analysts to:
● Pool collective expertise;
● Combine widely disparate military, political, economic, and ideological factors, approaches, and capabilities;
● Expose players to diverse opinions and options;
● Foster competition and interaction in policy analysis;
● Identify and anticipate future national security problems and opportunities;
● Promote understanding and communication among policy makers.
Simulation exercises are “an operating model of reality,” drastically reduced in scope and limited in time. They allow participants to play roles as decision-makers and to experience the problems and processes of managing a crisis or resolving a conflict. This is an opportunity to share an experience not normally available unless of course you already are or become an actual crisis decision-maker.
SIMULEX is designed to illuminate and examine decision-making in crisis situations by simulating the decisions and actions called for within time limits and other constraints imposed by the scenario. There is an opportunity to observe the processes of situation-definition, information-search, risk-taking, group compromise, and policy formulation. Simulation can stimulate learning about the policy planning process. Simulation can demonstrate the importance of communications and the potential for misperception as well as the incomplete and imperfect nature of available information on which important crisis decisions must be made because of factors such as time constraints. Simulation can also sensitize players to the potential for surprise and the need to cope with unanticipated situations. Simulation also offers a great opportunity to learn about the broader context of the scenario, including the culture, history, economies, and politics of the various actors who are part of the exercise.
In addition to the overall objectives of simulation already set forth, in SIMULEX we have several educational goals:
● To gain a greater appreciation of factors underlying national goals, strategies, policies, and to understand options in the presence of a threat to security
● To achieve an awareness of internal and external pressures, relationships, and obstacles in crisis decision-making: i.e., performing under stress
● To experience some of the problems and constraints confronting real world decision-makers in allocating resources to translate national goals into specific policies and courses of action
● To learn about the advantages and limitations of simulation as a learning tool
SIMULEX uses a simulated crisis situation based on a hypothetical scenario, with real countries, current events and historical background. The scenario projects an imaginary crisis environment into the future. A crisis with the expectation of escalation is presented in the scenario. Teams of players are assigned to simulate the principal figures, factors, or forces which could be expected to play a significant role in the crisis. A “Control Team” acts as umpire and information resource as well as the channel of communication for the interaction among the player teams. Roles will be identified; objectives, policies, and contingency plans summarized; and actions taken over successive “move periods.” As much real background information will be used as time allows. Players are expected to immerse themselves in the situation and play their parts as fully and imaginatively as possible. Role-playing does not mean emulation of the policy-making style of known political figures, but rather adapting one’s own optimal strategy for the crisis as it unfolds within the limits of historical plausibility and technical feasibility.
Play develops through reaction to moves and other interaction among the teams, with time-out simulating the actual passage of time thus allowing for the assimilation of information as the basis for new decisions and actions. Control may “steer” events in a given direction to emphasize certain predetermined learning objectives by introducing new information, unrepresented parties, or acts of God. However, as far as possible, Control permits free play to develop in accordance with team interaction. Thus, teams must “live with” and “be responsible” for the results of their decisions.
A strict policy of non-attribution applies to all players’ remarks and comments during a simulation exercise. Adherence to this policy promotes an environment conducive to candid discussion, and fosters the presentation of innovative solutions to complex problems.
Players are encouraged to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by simulation. Scenarios are usually written to be somewhat provocative in order to facilitate discussion of important issues that may have greater or lesser degrees of plausibility and probability in the real world. The scenario is designed to sensitize players to the types of issues, dilemmas, constraints, challenges and opportunities that could arise in an actual crisis.
Players should accept and work within the scenario as set forth in the simulation even though events depicted in the simulation may not resemble those that are familiar to us in the real world. More important for the purposes of the simulation organizers and participants is the opportunity to better understand how participating countries and other actors and their decision makers might cope with the crisis set forth in the scenario.
The role of the Control Team is to keep the exercise moving forward by introducing new issues, challenges, and information in each of the Move periods. Control approves or disapproves proposed player team actions. Control represents governments and other groups not designated as the player teams. Control specifies the outcome of any player team action. For example, if a team orders its armed forces to make a particular move, Control announces to appropriate parties the results of the ordered action. Although the various teams make the policy decisions, Control determines their outcome(s). Control does not judge “right” and “wrong” moves, but may rule out moves on the grounds of their implausibility, or that may counter the pre-determined objectives of the organizers of SIMULEX.
As in the real world of crisis management, communication will be less than perfect and immediate. Desired information or assistance will not always be available—this will test your ability to “make do” in a crisis and to face the unforeseen with perhaps inadequate information and capabilities. This is a crucially important part of the crisis setting that Control will attempt to simulate.
1. General: Decisions are made by each team during the specified move periods, and transmitted to the Control team which will communicate results to all parties concerned. Move periods will commence with a current summary of latest events that includes inputs from Control. The Move periods and game time flow may be discontinuous, depending partially on results of the interaction of teams, as determined by Control. There will be at least two such periods, with breaks in between. A Move period will usually extend over an evening, morning, or afternoon.
2. Playing Teams: In SIMULEX the participants are divided into teams representing the major states and other units who are direct participants in the crisis described in the scenario.
3. Each team should immediately organize itself for crisis decision-making, including diplomatic, military, economic and other key components of crisis strategy and capabilities. This may include a president/prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister, etc.
4. The members of playing teams are expected to share as equitably and fully as possible the responsibility for preparation of team strategy and actions. All team members should be actively engaged. With only a relatively short time available for teams to analyze their problems and reach consensus, it may not be possible achieve unanimity. This of course parallels real-life decision-making. If an individual team member feels strongly about his or her own position, a “dissent” may be filed with Control (see a controller if this becomes an issue). Again, they should be prepared to defend their position in the wrap-up critique.
5. Strategy Development and Action Move Periods: All playing teams are free to choose the general strategies they wish to follow, within the constraints imposed by the scenario and the requirement of plausibility. Teams are free to change or adopt a “deviant” strategy if necessary, and are not confined to actual past strategies of their assigned countries, but must communicate changes to Control before implementation.
6. Communications: All communications will be channeled through Control. This is necessary for the orderly development of the game, to avoid duplication and chaos, and to enable Control to be kept informed. Approval will be expedited by Control to the maximum extent possible. However, communications “delays” are also realistic and may be introduced by Control to simulate decision-making problems encountered in the real world.
7. Intelligence: Understandably, not all the detail required will necessarily be available about the crisis. Lacking information or knowledge, you may use your imagination to make reasonable and adequate assumptions. You may also request by message specific information from Control. Control will use its best judgment in making available intelligence, which might reasonably be expected to be available to the media or others, which might be expected to be leaked. Players should refrain from seeking “unofficial” information; i.e., by eavesdropping or rifling a rival team’s documents between moves. Only members of Control are trusted agents and may observe team discussions.
8. World Media: Members of Control will be designated as “World Media Representatives.” They may be treated as reporters would be—granted access and information when to your advantage, and denied it if believed harmful. They will prepare brief “news items” to be issued as Control sees fit (usually at the start of each period) listing events and stated positions or intentions of teams (not necessarily truthful). (Control’s scenario additions will be separately identified and will be accepted as fact.) The “Media” will exercise its own initiative to dig out stories on what is happening and why, and seek interviews as well as briefings. Their views and analyses will form a separate part of the record and a basis for evaluation and comment in the critique.
9. Critique: After the end of play is announced by Control, there will be a critique and evaluation session, which is a very important part of the exercise. It will be a time for full disclosure and discussion of team strategies, actions, and reasoning. It may include comments by or about Control, and recommendations for the administration of future exercises.
Framing Simulation Strategy
After organizing itself as a crisis decision-making unit, the team has the immediate task of framing strategy to cope with the crisis. The essential steps are as follows:
1. Identify the problem, including the threat and the vital or major interests at risk. What do you know about the threat and what do you not know that you need to find out more about? (The known knowns, the known unknowns.)
2. Set forth your goals, including immediate as well as longer term. How will achieving immediate goals affect the longer term goals? How do you want to come out of the crisis?
3. As you do the above, include what you know (or need to know) about the enemy’s interests and goals.
4. What are the capabilities (including military and non-military) that you presently have available or mobilizable in time to shape the outcome of the crisis?
5. What additional capabilities are needed and how can you get them? How quickly? Allies/coalition partners?
6. What do you know (or need to know) about the enemy’s capabilities?
7. What are the major alternative strategies that might help you to achieve your goals? What do you know (or need to know) about the enemy’s strategy and basic strategic options?
8. What is the role of escalation in your strategy?
9. What are the escalatory options/opportunities available to you? To your opponent?
10. What is the message that you wish to convey (to enemies and allies) by escalation?
11. From the foregoing, set forth succinctly a strategy that does the following:
● States what your interests are, prioritizing the most important interests
● Sets forth your goals in order of importance
● Mobilizes your capabilities
● Prioritizes action to be taken, including escalation
● Makes decisions necessary to implement strategy
● Communicates decisions to those who can implement them
Your strategy should be updated as SIMULEX proceeds. The unfolding scenario will present new challenges, dangers, and opportunities that will need to be considered in your unfolding strategy.