Defense officials were unwilling yesterday to illustrate the scenarios underlying a U.S. Joint Forces Command wargame under way in McLean, VA, so reporters participating in a teleconference about the drill resorted to prodding wargame leaders about general defense themes to see whether they played some role in the one-week event.
Not surprisingly, the theme of hybrid warfare came up, as did cyberspace and command and control.
But JFCOM Deputy Commander Vice Adm. Robert Harward and the command's concept development and experimentation chief, Rear Adm. Dan Davenport, mentioned a few other ideas of note.
Exhibit A: Information operations. The background is, of course, the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, where violent extremists use radio, TV and the Internet to mobilize supporters and intimidate locals. In that context, defense officials use the term "narrative" a lot, and so did Davenport.
"The narrative has been a very major discussion topic so far ((in the wargame)) and one of the key areas of focus," he said.
"There is a recognition of how important that overarching blanket of information operations ((is)), both in the receive mode and in the transmit mode," added Harward. "I would not say that's a surprise, but I would say the emphasis on how we get that right is a major topic in most of the . . . discussions so far through the wargame."
Exhibit B: "Surrogates." The admirals' comments appeared to reflect a trend, or at least DOD's fear of a trend, of adversary nation states secretly employing proxies to do their bidding. The concern is particularly grave when it comes to seemingly ragtag groups plotting attacks with weapons of mass destruction at the behest -- and with the support of -- nation states, according to Harward.
Related theme: What means of deterrence can America use to keep non-state actors in check?
Exhibit C: Seabasing. A reporter asked whether wargame participants believe DOD should ramp up its seabasing capabilities. "I can tell you that's been a big part of the discussion," Harward said. "In several of the scenarios that has been a focal point," he added.
While the context of wargamers' seabasing discussions is unclear, the idea of an off-shore force staging capability comes amid two generally accepted assumptions among defense leaders: For one, the U.S. military will embark on lots of missions -- combat, humanitarian or otherwise -- in the foreseeable future. In addition, adversaries will try to find ways of denying U.S. forces access to faraway trouble spots.
The wargame's unclassified final report is expected at the end of July.
-- Sebastian Sprenger