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NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Participants wrapped up a four-day "Irregular Challenges 2010" game that helped define maritime obstacles and scrutinize root causes of irregular challenges, July 30, at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC).

NEWPORT, R.I. (July 2010) Participants discuss challenges during "Irregular Challenges 2010," a game that helped define maritime obstacles and scrutinize root causes of irregular challenges. (Photo by Shelby Richardson)Co-sponsored by the U.S. Navy Irregular Warfare Office (NIWO) and NWC, the game's purpose was to explore Navy roles in addressing irregular challenges and review underlying conditions of crises that stress the maritime environment and influence United States national security.

Military participants, federal officials, business representatives and nongovernment agency officials considered challenges, like side effects of globalization and consequences of global warming. A variety of "irregular" global challenges confront the United States and its partners and friends, including terrorism; piracy; the smuggling of people, drugs and weapons; man-made and natural disasters; illegal exploitation of marine resources and environmental degradation in ungoverned global commons; proliferation of dangerous weapons; and regional instability and crisis.

"This is a different kind of game," NWC President Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup said at the event's kick off. "In this game, we're not looking at a specific plan; we're looking at all intellects, thinking through some very complex issues."

NEWPORT, R.I. (July 2010) Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup, Naval War College president, kicks off "Irregular Challenges 2010," a game that helped define maritime obstacles and scrutinize root causes of irregular challenges (Photo by Shelby Richardson)NWC War Gaming Department chairman and game director David DellaVolpe said the "different kind of game" is an example of the Navy adapting to modern challenges.

"The Navy recognizes that there is a lot of potential for instability in the maritime environment out there," said DellaVolpe.

Irregular challenges in a maritime environment differ markedly from irregular threats on land. They are complex and ambiguous, with the seas and littorals serving as highways for a broad spectrum of transnational military and non-military threats.

To look at these challenges, the 60 participants were divided among three teams, or cells, with mixed Navy and Coast Guard officers and civilian academics and planners. Topic experts analyzed game play, and scenarios focused on the implications of maritime instability and consequences of naval actions.

DellaVolpe said the contributions of military, government, policy institutions and business provides for a realistic and highly beneficial environment for "Irregular Challenges 2010." The diverse group of game players brought not only expansive expertise but critical thinking and creativity.

"It's about bringing them together and putting them in an environment that the Navy can really benefit from," he said. "It's about thinking through complex problems and helping the Navy define the risks, the challenges and the unintended consequences of the potential future military environment."

During an opening lecture, NWC Strategy and Policy professor Mike Vlahos gave his audience a new framework for analysis of the game's scenario.

NEWPORT, R.I. (July 2010) Professor Mike Vlahos lectures during "Irregular Challenges 2010," a game that helped define maritime obstacles and scrutinize root causes of irregular challenges (Photo by Shelby Richardson)"I like to think of something like this more like a vision," Vlahos told participants and mentioned a few civilizations that met potentially empire-toppling challenges with varying degrees of success—the Mayans and Vikings were hit by climate change, which neither adapted to.

Today, Vlahos said the world faces overfishing, global warming, low governance of commons and fertilizer dumping, which could lead to huge humanitarian crises, particularly in urban areas which are often on coast lines.

"This is where humanity is clustered; the vulnerability of this littoral world is where the nature of humanity may be decided," Vlahos said. His lecture concluded with an appeal to treat irregular challenges with great priority and significance.

The Navy confronts irregular challenges globally through exercising freedom of navigation, ballistic missile defense, maritime interdiction, preventive security engagement, counter-drug, counter-piracy, and other operations in the littoral maritime domain to include projecting capacity ashore. The NIWO assists in the development of strategies, policies, and operational concepts to confront irregular challenges.
By Tyler Will, NWC Public Affairs