Simulating peacekeeping

Defense Department officials have turned to computer-simulated war games to help quickly test ideas and write policy for increasingly important nation-building military operations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Joint Forces Command and the Marine Corps held the Emerald Express virtual war game last month in Quantico, Va., to study transitioning from warfighting to peacekeeping missions, as Congress debates the Bush administration's $87 billion spending request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the command, based in Suffolk, Va., and the Navy will conduct the Unified Course 2003 computer-assisted war game this week in Newport, R.I., to learn about taking over heavily defended ports.


The Defense Department will conduct four computer-simulated exercises to write doctrine for warfighting operations.

They are:

* Emerald Express: Transitioning from warfighting to peacekeeping, Joint Forces Command and the Marine Corps.

* Unified Course 2003: Taking over heavily defended ports, Joint Forces Command and the Navy.

* Thor's Hammer: Sharing information between government officials, intelligence analysts and warfighters, Joint Forces Command and the National Reconnaissance Office.

* Unified Quest 2004: Conducting global, regional and homeland defense operations with an emphasis on nation-building, Joint Forces Command and the Army.

The combatant command then will scrutinize information learned from Emerald Express, Unified Course and February's Thor's Hammer intelligence-sharing virtual war game during Unified Quest 2004. The May event is the command's largest annual computer-assisted exercise and will include a nation-building vignette for the first time.

"Because of the speed at which we must proceed, experimentation is the best way of rapidly trying out new ideas," said Dave Ozolek, assistant director for experimentation, the command's top official for computer-assisted wargaming.

Iraq and Afghanistan magnified U.S. intelligence-sharing and nation-building weaknesses, said Ozolek, a retired Army colonel. Experimentation can test new ideas and systems to make sure they work before tens of billions of dollars are spent on them, he said.

The impetus behind the command's computer-simulated war games is the Joint Operations Concepts, DOD's warfighting framework for the next 15 to 20 years. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked the Joint Staff in 2002 to develop plans for major wars, stability and support operations for nation-building, homeland security and global defense.

The command oversees policy formulation for major wars and nation- building, Northern Command oversees homeland security and Strategic Command oversees global defense. DOD has published a Joint Operations Concepts draft document, and information learned from the four virtual war games will comprise part of the Joint Operations Concepts official strategy, due late next year.

Government officials need plans for transitioning from warfighting to peacekeeping to nation-building because they had no coherent doctrine in Iraq, said Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke chairman in strategy at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

As media reports trickle out that the U.S. government rushed post-Saddam Hussein planning in Iraq, DOD officials must adjust military thinking, said Cordesman, who has directed intelligence assessment for the Pentagon and advised national security matters for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"Merely defeating the enemy is clearly not winning the war," Cordesman said. "You must win the peace."

Transitioning from warfighting to peacekeeping to nation-building implies that each mission starts when the other ends. This progression is the problem with the government's policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Richard Hart Sinnreich, a retired Army officer who writes on military issues and participates in DOD computer-simulated war games.

Enemies have demonstrated that they can quickly change from conventional military tactics to combat in small units that adopt terrorism, Ozolek said.

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