Leadership: Exporting Wargaming


October 17, 2012: The U.S. exports a lot of things to its allies. One of the little known exports is wargaming. And one of the least expected recipients of this export is the Mexican Navy. But then some Mexican naval officers, who had encountered U.S. Navy wargaming while attending an American military school, realized that those wargaming techniques would have application to some of the unique situations the Mexican Navy has to deal with (South American drug smugglers, local drug cartels, natural and man-made disasters like oil spills). While American naval wargaming has long concentrated on major fleet operations, in the last decade the U.S. Navy has begun to think smaller and this led to brainstorming and training (in basic techniques of creating wargames) between American naval wargame experts and Mexican naval officers seeking to apply wargaming tools to Mexican Navy needs.

While American naval wargaming uses a lot of computers, a lot of the wargame design effort is still manual, as in putting together what looks like a board game. This uses techniques like operations research and systems analysis to build a working model of the forces involved (as in the Mexican Navy and the drug cartels) and the environment both sides operate in. You verify your game by playing out a past situation, to see if the game can accurately reflect the decisions, actions, and outcomes of that situation.

At that point you can use the game to investigate what both sides can do to each other in the present and future. This is very valuable, as the Mexican drug cartels have deployed dozens of submarines and small boats full of armed men as well as thousands of armed men ashore to move cocaine into the United States and billions in cash back to Mexico. The Mexican Navy and Marine Corps are major players in trying to disrupt the drug operations. Navy and marine commanders want to stay one jump ahead of the cartels and the best way to do that is to use an opportunity to look at the situation from the viewpoint of the cartel boss. Wargames let you do that and much more. Once the U.S. Navy showed their Mexican counterparts how it was done, Mexican officers were able to develop their own games and put them to work.





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