Again, this is just an example. We are not saying MC CBA is the only activity in the Marine Corps requiring wargame support. And we certainly are not saying MC CBA is the only activity in DoD requiring wargame support. But if you have a good example of something requiring wargame support, it is much easier to think about what M&S support to the wargame should look like.
The context of MC CBA helps underscore the fact that wargaming is not an end in itself. Wargaming exists to serve something larger (and M&S also exists to serve something larger).
Before going any further, it is probably a good idea to restate this article’s main thesis: The key to successfully using M&S in support of wargaming is to remain keenly aware of the wargame’s type and purpose.
Having said all that, consider M&S, wargaming, and the MC CBA.
In the Planning, Programming, Budgeting & Execution (PPBE) process, MC CBA is part of the first “P,” which is to say it is the Planning part of the process. The goal, which is important to the Marine Corps as a service, involves reconciling future-focused strategic guidance with the integrated development of capabilities for a given Program Objective Memorandum (POM) cycle. To put all of that in layman’s terms, the recommendations the Marine Corps makes to the Secretary of Defense about spending money need to make sense for the present and for the future.
In the big picture, MC CBA helps the Marine Corps be smart about expenditures, and it helps the Marine Corps think within the time constraints of DoD budget cycles.
Wargaming support to MC CBA needs to subordinate itself to those POM forces, which are both significant and largely inflexible. In turn, M&S support to wargaming needs to accommodate wargaming goals. In this type of situation, specialists cannot behave like prima donnas. They need to get with the program – or more accurately, they need to get with the Program Objective Memorandum.
The MC CBA process is conducted in five phases, and the first phase is guidance development and the POM Capabilities Based Assessment (CBA) Wargame. The guidance to be used during the MC CBA will be developed here and the guidance will have a direct influence on the wargame.
So, if wargames are going to matter, and if M&S support to wargames is going to matter, the customer’s concerns need to shape the wargames and the M&S support. The biennial Marine Corps CBA Wargame must ensure that capability requirements align with the Commandant’s strategic goals for 10 years down the road. Preparation for this biennial wargame runs for 11 months, and the wargame itself occurs in September.
If you want to use M&S to support the biennial Marine Corps CBA Wargame, you need to keep that schedule in mind, and you need to remember that your customer is emphasizing capability requirements. Even if you are not directly involved in the Marine Corps CBA Wargame, you could support inputs to the wargame. In other words, you could support a smaller wargame that supports the larger wargame. That could include assessing operating environments, assisting with experiments, examining concepts, etc.
Again, the point of this article is not to celebrate the MC CBA process as a wargamer’s be-all, end-all. Many, many wargamers could have successful careers without getting anywhere near the MC CBA process. But the point of this article is to emphasize the importance of knowing what type of wargame you are supporting and what that wargame’s purpose is.
If you are supporting a customer working budget issues, if your customer is on a rigid timeline, and if your customer is crafting recommendations that are or will become quantitative, then all of those considerations need to shape how you support a wargame.
Continuing with our MC CBA example, it helps to know what happens after the wargame. After the Marine Corps CBA Wargame comes Phase II in the MC CBA process, which is capabilities analysis. This phase, which lasts three months, involves identifying and refining capability requirements, along with the associated tasks, conditions, and standards. Inputs for this phase include scenarios, concepts of operations, authorized strength levels, and the previous edition of the Marine Corps Capabilities List (MCCL). A new, updated MCCL, by the way, is the output of this phase.
The bottom line for Phase II is capability requirements. So any wargaming during or preceding Phase II should have that purpose in mind. And the type of wargaming should match that purpose, too. If you have a really good training war game, that probably will not do you much good here, as the name of the game is capability requirements. You probably want something more analytical in a situation like this.
Again, to keep beating the drum, the two things to remember with M&S support to wargaming are knowing the wargame’s purpose and knowing the wargame’s type.
Moving on to Phase III of the MC CBA process, we encounter gap analysis. This phase also lasts three months. One input for this phase is the aforementioned MCCL, i.e., the capabilities list. Other inputs include the current programmed force, integrated priority lists from Marine Corps Force commanders, and the previous year’s Marine Corps Gap List (MCGL). An updated MCGL, by the way, is the output of Phase III.
As you can see, whether wargaming precedes this phase or occurs in this phase, the focus is on tighter thinking that addresses gaps between capabilities and requirements. Accordingly, wargaming and any related M&S need to be more focused in order to affect this phase.
Whether it is MC CBA wargaming or other wargaming, if the customer’s purpose is coming more clearly into focus, wargaming is more likely to get away from painting broad strokes, which means there could be greater attention to detail, which means M&S might have an opportunity to crunch numbers or grind through details.
As MC CBA moves to Phase IV, the process centers on solutions analysis. This three-month phase draws from a number of inputs, most notably wargaming.
The purpose of Phase IV is to mitigate or eliminate capability gaps. The gaps could be anywhere across the gamut of military affairs, which is to say, anywhere across the gamut of DOTMLPF-P: Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities and Policy.
Because there is a wide variety of purposes in this phase, there could be many types of wargames to support those purposes – conceptual games, data-crunching games, and games in which there is a balance between the players, the M&S inputs, and the M&S outputs.
Phase IV generates the Marine Corps Solutions Development Directive (MCSDD), which feeds Phase V, the final phase of MC CBA. This three-month phase draws on many materials, including the products from Phases II, III, and IV: MCCL, MCGL, and MCSDD. Phase V, and with it, the MC CBA process, conclude with the Marine Corps Capabilities Investment Plan (MCCIP)
If it seemed a little distracting to examine M&S support to wargaming through the prism of a process such as MC CBA, think for a moment about typical discussions on wargaming. Most discussions about wargaming – never mind M&S support to wargaming – are alarmingly removed from discussions of utility. Most discussions about wargaming (and most discussions about M&S) are discussions in which the specialized means to an end becomes an end in itself.
Far too many discussions about wargaming (and far too many discussions about M&S) are bureaucracy’s equivalent to parlor discussions about art for art’s sake. You hear far too little about what DoD or a particular service achieved, but you hear more than you ever wanted to hear about how some wargamers or M&S experts really wowed their colleagues at some event five or 10 years back.
The thing is, M&S support to wargames is not something we should be doing for the benefit of people like us – analysts, wargamers, M&S experts, and such. Anyone involved with M&S support to wargames needs to orient on the CUSTOMER!
What are the customer’s purposes? What type of M&S support for a wargame would advance those purposes? What levels of time, money, and customer patience are available for the wargame and whatever M&S support goes with it?
If reinvigorated wargaming is supposed to spur innovation and help DoD keep up with emerging challenges, then we need to work backward from that goal. This is not the time to justify ourselves and talk about what a great job we think we have been doing. We need to be talking about the customer’s purposes, and we need to be talking about the type of support that promptly addresses those purposes. And the metric for success should probably be something like this: The customer comes back to us in the near future and asks for more. Much more.