Jeff Durkin referred this story from the Army Times.
It's all about a recent, massive war game exercise, "Millenium Challenge 02". It was purportedly designed to "test a handful of key war-fighting concepts that Joint Forces Command had developed over the last several years."
Unfortunately, according to retired Marine lieutenant general Paul van Riper, who commanded the Opposing ("Red") Force in the exercise, the whole thing was rigged from the start in order to validate the concepts that the Joint Forces Command has come up with, rather than evaluate them in the heat of battle.
van Riper quit midway through the exercise, due to the limitations placed on him and his forces:
“Instead of a free-play, two-sided game as the Joint Forces commander advertised it was going to be, it simply became a scripted exercise. They had a predetermined end, and they scripted the exercise to that end.”
Van Riper, who retired in 1997 as head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, is a frequent player in military war games and is regarded as a Red team specialist. He said the constraints placed on the Opposing Force in Millennium Challenge were the most restrictive he has ever experienced in an ostensibly free-play experiment.
Exercise officials denied him the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against Blue, and on several occasions directed the Opposing Force not to use certain weapons systems against Blue. It even ordered him to reveal the location of Red units, he said
“We were directed … to move air defenses so that the Army and Marine units could successfully land,” he said. “We were simply directed to turn [the air-defense systems] off or move them. … So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be.”
Vice Adm. Marty Mayer, the deputy commander of Joint Forces Command, replied that:
the war game’s complexity precluded it being a completely free-play exercise.
“In anything this size, certain things are scripted, and you have to execute in a certain way, or you’ll never be able to bring it all together,” he said. “Gen. Van Riper apparently feels he was too constrained. I can only say there were certain parts where he was not constrained, and then there were parts where he was in order to facilitate the conduct of the experiment and certain exercise pieces that were being done.”
Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to force potential real world adversaries to adhere to Admiral Mayer's scripts. If we are forced to go to war, our enemies will not reveal positions of their units because we ask them to, and we will not be able to order them to move air defenses in order to let our troops land.
And that's not all that was wrong with the exercise, according to General von Riper:
several days into the exercise, Van Riper realized his orders weren’t being followed.
“I was giving (his subordinate, retired Army Colonel George Utter) directions on how I thought the OPFOR ought to perform, and those directions were being countermanded by the exercise director,” Van Riper said. The exercise director was Air Force Brig. Gen. Jim Smith, Utter’s real-life boss at Joint Forces Command.
Matters came to a head July 29. “That morning I’d given my guidance for what was to happen, and I found that [Utter] had assembled the staff and was giving them a different set [of instructions] based on the exercise director’s instructions to him.”
To save Utter from having to choose between following the orders of his commander in the war game and obeying those of Smith, Van Riper stepped down as the Opposing Force commander.
Again, sadly, if and when we are compelled to go to war for real, there won't be an "exercise director".
Of course, none of this bothers the Joint Forces Command:
Navy Capt. John Carman, Joint Forces Command spokesman, said the experiment had properly validated all the major concepts. The command already was drafting recommendations based on the experiment’s results in such areas as doctrine, training and procurement that would be forwarded to Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Wonderful. We're going to base our military policies and strategies on concepts that have been "validated" by a scripted exercise in which the Opposing Force was completely hobbled. That is certainly reassuring.
Van Riper’s single-mindedness can sometimes rub other experiment participants the wrong way, said a retired Army officer who has played in several war games with the Marine.
“What he’s done is he’s made himself an expert in playing Red, and he’s real obnoxious about it,” the retired officer said. “He will insist on being able to play Red as freely as possible and as imaginatively and creatively within the bounds of the framework of the game and the technology horizons and all that as possible.
“He can be a real pain in the ass, but that’s good. But a lot of people don’t like to sign up for that sort of agitation. But he’s a great guy, and he’s a great patriot and he’s doing all those things for the right reasons.”
Well, you know what? Better some "agitation" and "being rubbed the wrong way" than losing 10,000 men because an enemy did something that our new doctrines couldn't cope with. Better to learn now, in the exercises. Better to let men like General von riper go nuts, and come up with every kind of strategy they can.
We already know that our enemies are thinking along those same lines. It took them ten men and some box cutters to kill 2,800 people and cause billions of dollars of damage in New York City. It took two men, an inflatable boat, and a couple of hundred pounds of explosives to cripple a billion dollar warship.
Maybe we ought to worry more about how to think like our enemies, and how to counter such tactics, then about whose feelings are getting hurt, or about whose careers will or won't be advanced by bureaucratic infighting.
Just a thought...