NEWPORT, R.I. – The Naval War College (NWC) hosted this year’s Multilateral War Game (MWG) series involving seven Western Hemisphere countries from September 13 to 17.
The NWC War Gaming Department assisted the game’s sponsor, Commander FOURTH Fleet/Commander Naval Forces, U.S. Southern Command, in conducting an unclassified war game that included more than 50 game participants from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and the United States.
“We were honored to collaborate and interact with our partner nations for this year’s event,” said NWC Professor Shawn Burns, who was game director for the week-long activities. “The overarching goal of the game was to enhance collaboration and mutual understanding among partner navies specifically through examination of the challenges and opportunities associated with multinational command and control structures.”
MWG objectives included planning for the employment of a force of varied capabilities and evaluating national-specific interpretations on the permitted use of force when accomplishing multinational duties.
“It was a one-sided seminar-style war game with both educational and analytical purposes,” Burns explained. “Each day we examined the relationships and impacts of strategic level decisions on operational decision makers, and vice versa.”
MWG was designed a “hybrid game” or a mix between an “open type” game with all players working together in one room, and a “closed type” game, with all players working separately. It featured Military Committee and Multinational Force player cells as well as a control group that ensured successful game execution among the participants.
The scenario for this year’s war game was a hurricane striking two fictitious Caribbean countries—with one suffering far greater damage and in need of immediate emergency assistance. Airports, hospitals and ports were damaged or closed, flooding forced thousands from their homes and law enforcement and the military couldn’t provide adequate protection for its citizens.
“It was designed simulate many of the catastrophic conditions that Haiti endured last year,” Burns said. “Our game cells dealt with the same problems faced by senior military and diplomatic leaders during that emergency. We also introduced a violent extremist organization and “mock” confrontational media into the game to challenge our players to make critical and immediate decisions.”
Participants found that the real-life scenario raised intriguing questions and created challenging decisions for the game cells. Differences in internal domestic laws were found to play a significant role in determining to what extent each country can respond to global emergencies. How the strategic and operational players interacted was also a major aspect of the war game.
“Having people play the role of foreign affairs or state department personnel added a unique perspective during the week,” said Cmdr. Gilberto of the Brazilian Navy. “Observing how these people interacted with the military representatives was an important learning experience for our delegation.”
MWG was conducted over four days and the final day was reserved for briefings, discussions and evaluations of the outcome of the war game among players from the participating countries.
“For me it was about how different countries would perceive the challenges of this war game and what level of participation they would reach in dealing with the various operational scenarios,” said Capt. Brendan Ryan of the Canadian Navy. “It was impressive to see the open exchange of information between countries with respect to their nation’s constitutional and military limitations.”
The MWG also offered a glimpse at the challenges of managing the complexity at the multinational strategic military and political levels in response to an urgent situation.
“We also experienced how determining guidance to forces, specifying command and control arrangements and setting rules of engagement impacts subordinate forces,” Burns said. “It was fortunate to have such a knowledgeable, professional and courteous group of participants—all of which contributed to achievement of all game objectives.”
The Multilateral War Game is an annual event and is hosted on a rotational basis between the seven partner countries. Next year’s event will be held in Brazil.
By David Reese, Naval War College Public Affairs