Future joint leaders wrestle with fictional world crises
By Courtesy, Public Affairs Center of Excellence
/ Published April 11, 2014
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Imagine a "worst case scenario" for the world a decade from now.
What if, almost simultaneously, the major world powers find themselves in situations that could rapidly escalate into military chaos? Terrorist attacks once again rattle North American cities; primary shipping lanes threatened in the eastern and western hemispheres; refugees crossing borders to escape pandemic diseases; and military conflict involving kinetic, cyber and space attacks in the same day. In fact, none of these events are beyond the realm of possibility.
Beginning Sunday, 140 students from five senior-level military colleges and the National Intelligence University will face such a world. The 31st annual Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Exercise, or JLASS-EX, wargame runs through April 17 at the Curtis E. LeMay Wargaming Institute. The event provides future leaders an opportunity to confront such serious issues before becoming decision makers who have to deal with them in reality.
According to Col. Howard Ward, the LeMay Center wargaming director, JLASS-EX is the only major educational wargame that integrates strategic decision making, politico-military theory and international participation across the military's senior-level colleges.
During the five-day exercise, students and faculty from the Air War College, Army War College, Marine Corps War College, Naval War College, National War College and the National Intelligence University will critically analyze key issues at the strategic and operational levels of war. Students from the service-specific colleges generally represent geographic combatant commands, while the National War College students role-play national level policy makers. In addition to the students, more than 80 faculty members, subject matter experts and technical and support staff keep the game focused and on track.
Exercise director Army Col. Jim Muskopf emphasized that not all the simulated problems require a U.S.-only military solution.
"Students will use diplomacy and combined forces to execute national and theater-level strategies, which also helps each school meet their desired learning objectives," he said.
The in-depth fictional scenarios are designed to challenge this select group of future senior leaders to their limits. While addressing more than six global contingencies, this year's students will deliberate on civil support, foreign humanitarian assistance, homeland security, CBRNE consequence management and stability operations, said Muskopf.
Steve Crawford, JLASS-EX senior wargame specialist, explained that the exercise occurs in two phases: a distributed phase at the parent college's home station and an "execution" phase at Maxwell. During the distributed phase, students communicate via web contact, telephone and video teleconferencing to develop theater strategies, select courses of action and request initial force laydowns. Conversely, the five-day execution phase enables face-to-face student interactions, but their collaborative planning occurs in a time-compressed environment.
The exercise environment isn't limited to only adaptive mission planning processes, said Crawford. Students also face simulations of real-world challenges, such as media and public pressures. To set the stage each day, students view a "special report" by the fictional Global News Network, which recaps world events as the wargame progresses. Students are also given a situation briefing and a daily press summary that requires them to employ instruments of national power and intergovernmental agencies to deal with the crises at hand.
"Simulating press coverage exposes students to some of the external pressures they face while responding to complex situations," said Aaron Henninger, director of the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Center of Excellence. "Our goal is to show them the need to be effective public communicators, show them the strategies behind success and identify skills they need to develop in that area."
Maxwell Video Productions and Reserve and National Guard volunteers from Maxwell and across the United States also support the annual exercise by developing realistic news products based on student responses during the event.
Once the students return to their respective schools, the multi-service JLASS-EX steering group immediately begins to plan next year's exercise.
"The steering group is instrumental in synchronizing all the moving parts leading to a successful wargame," explained Ward. "The group meets quarterly, which helps us identify, discuss and adapt processes and details to make the wargame even better the next time and beyond."
JLASS-EX and its earlier iterations have graduated nearly 3,000 senior leaders since the initial exercise in 1983. The long list of graduates includes the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the current AWC commandant, Maj. Gen. Brian Bishop, and at least 30 general officers still on active duty in each of the service branches.
Courtesy Public Affairs Center of Excellence