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Preparing to Fail

A long post derived from Inside the Pentagon (subscription):

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who led a “red team” of notional enemy forces at the outset of JFCOM’s Millennium Challenge 2002 war game, is calling on the command to spell out publicly how the experiment has influenced the Defense Department view of “effects-based operations.” Van Riper — who retired in 1997 as head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, which oversees service training, warfighting doctrine and education — cites Millennium Challenge ‘02 as a prime example of what can go wrong for those focused on creating effects. […]

Early in the game, Van Riper — playing the role of adversary commander — decided to pre-emptively strike a fleet of 16 U.S. Navy warships and Marine amphibious vessels notionally steaming into the Persian Gulf. Using fast patrol boats and converted civilian craft as strike platforms to bombard the U.S. warships with cruise missiles, Van Riper’s red team overwhelmed the Navy’s Aegis radar and sank an entire simulated blue armada in one day. […]

Once the blue ships were sunk, Van Riper says his red team prepared for another iteration in the game. Having previously participated in numerous joint war games, he knew the stage would be “reset” for a fresh confrontation of blue and red forces.

Nothing like winning and then having the losers hit the re-set button.

But this time, he says, JFCOM officials instructed his staff that “no V-22s [would] get shot down” — referring to the Marines’ new troop transport rotorcraft — and the entire blue air force must be allowed to fly unabated.

Parallels to Gunny Highway in Heartbreak Ridge notwithstanding, this is a great illustration of why it doesn’t pay to put all your eggs in one strategy basket, grand or petite. They are not without value, but there are too many monkeys armed with wrenches out there. When you have to cheat to win in a simulation (an all too often occurrence) then you are setting your forces up to fail.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.