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Course Of Action Wargaming in complex non-kinetic operations ← Back to Blog index

COA Wargames are just as vital in non-kinetic operations as they are in hi-intensity warfighting.

While the action-reaction-counteraction process and general mechanics remain the same, conducting a COA Wargame in a complex environment requires greater preparation than for a conventional kinetic operation. There are more factors to consider and actors will have widely differing agendas and motivations. Sadly, the preparation required often reinforces the usual objection to holding a COA Wargaming; that there is not enough time available in the planning process. Such objections are groundless. COA Wargaming is one of the most critical parts of the planning process and, when properly done, will not only save time but also operational effort and resources – including lives. The ‘lack of time’ objection is usually raised by staff officers who either have never seen a COA Wargame done well, or are lazy.

The COA Wargame must be thoroughly prepared well in advance of the event. In a complex environment preparation will include nominating individuals or teams to represent the actors and factions identified as key to operational success. Actors represented should include relevant IOs, NGOs and political bodies, international or local.

These representatives should be Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in their faction’s area. They must be given enough time and understanding of the situation to prepare their inputs to the COA Wargame. These inputs could be presented by the SME conventionally or by role-playing their factions’ agenda.

The SMEs must have thought through their faction’s plans to the same degree as the ‘blue’ force planners, including Centre of Gravity (COG) analysis, End-States and so forth. Decisive Conditions and Supporting Effects should have been determined. All of this is obviously done from that actor’s or faction’s perspective. Actions taken by the factions involved could be reactive to ‘blue’ or ‘white’ events or proactive.

As with all doctrinal COA Wargames, both the worst case and most likely case should be wargamed. The aspects of the operation to be wargamed should have been identified by the commander. These become the ‘turns’ of the Wargame and might be phases of the operation, such as the entry, or selected Decisive Conditions. Wargame play should include potential branches (for example the resumption of terrorist attacks following a cease fire) and sequels, and will probably lead to the identification of various contingency plans that will need to be developed.

The aspects of the operation to be wargamed must include the tactical aspects of the plan – see General Hansen’s comment, below. The operational or strategic level commanders have a coordinating role, and will liaise with national politicians and bodies. But the Component Commanders will have a key role to play in the COA Wargame and are the main ‘blue’ participants. Actions at the tactical level must be analysed during the COA Wargame, as General Hansen describes below.

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One Response to “ Course Of Action Wargaming in complex non-kinetic operations ”

Helge Hansen May 3rd, 2011 at 1:11 pm

General Hansen’s response to this blog:
I have only one comment on the war gaming in complex environments. In the last paragraph you are referring to the “action level” to be represented at the tactical level. This statement may be misunderstood. If you conduct the war game at the operational(joint) level the “blue team” needs to represent the two levels: first row the “joint players” introducing the joint effects to be achieved and the joint action (or reaction) initiated, whereas the second row represents the “tactical” level players describing the tactical action (or reaction) generating the joint effects. In any instance the joint level will indicate the objectives (DPs/DCs) to be achieved by joint action and synchronize the actions of the tactical level. Forces are exclusively employed by the tactical level, whereas the joint level is the planning and synchronization level. This is different, of course, in the case of component (tactical) level war gaming where the blue team will only consist of the first row; the tactical actors.