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Wargame offers insight into future

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 24, 2003) -- An Air Force-sponsored wargame promises to be not only leaner than similar events in the past, but more dynamic and efficient as well.

The 2004 Future Capabilities Game is scheduled for Jan. 11 to 16 at the Air Force Wargaming Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. It will test four future Air Force capabilities, said Col. Allison Hickey, the director of the future concepts and transformation division at the Pentagon.

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"In the past, these games were often monolithic and very expensive events, with up to 500 people participating," Hickey said. "We are trying to make wargaming, from a strategic-planning perspective, more dynamic and responsive. Our games in the future, to include this one, will be leaner and faster. They will also require less spin-up time but generate better results."

The Air Force's futures wargame is held every other year, Hickey said. The wargame is a tabletop activity where war-planning strategists from the Air Force, sister services and U.S. allies come together to play out wartime scenarios as they might occur in 2020. In doing this, they use future concepts and technology.

In the first scenario, the blue team, which represents U.S. allies, is given "baseline" capabilities the Air Force predicts it will have by 2020 based on the most current planning and transformation roadmaps. The red team, representing a potential adversary, will be equipped based on the Air Force's best predictions, said Lt. Col. Rand Miller, the director of the wargame.

Miller said the two teams will independently plan their portion of a war scenario, using only the capabilities they were assigned. Afterward, they come together to do battle.

After planning, the teams come face to face," Miller said. "The blue team will brief red on what they plan on doing. The red team will brief blue. It goes back and forth. What we are looking to get out of that is the discussion itself. When the scenario assessor has heard enough discussion, he will tell them how he saw that portion play out."

The second scenario is much like the first. The exception is that the blue team will be equipped with "forward-leaning" capabilities the Air Force does not currently have implemented, but may have in some stage of development. For the 2004 wargame, that will include network-centric operations, unmanned vehicles, persistence area dominance and directed energy, Miller said.

Comparing the outcome of the first scenario to the outcome of the second scenario is really the purpose of the futures wargame. By studying the "what ifs" generated by an outcome based on possible future capabilities, Air Force officials can decide if they need to rethink their plans on how to invest their money, Miller said.

"The futures wargame is about 'what ifs,'" Miller said. "What if we invested our money differently and came up with one force as opposed to another? What if we really leaned forward and did some forward-reaching things that changed the way we look in 2020? How would the enemy play against us then?

“If one concept plays much stronger, then maybe we need to reconsider it -- or maybe not. That's what the wargame is for," he said.

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