the kind of traditional approach to
education, or the kind of tried-and-
true class setting, may still not be
appropriate for the threats they face,
the situations they are in and the
challenges they have to go through.”
The university attracts a nontra-
ditional student whose average age
is 43. Already it has seen graduates
from 92 countries, 16 U.S. govern-
ment agencies and each of the mili-
tary services, Bell says.
The overall curriculum that
includes this year’s war-gaming elective is an 11-month program—
compressed from what ideally should be
18 months—in which faculty present students with pressing dynamic
problems they attempt to solve, Bell
offers. “As the threat fundamentally
evolves, how do we even understand
the challenge of terrorism, violent
extremism, insurgency, organized
crime, narcotics trafficking—all of
those challenges?” he asks.
War gaming could help produce the
answers. It offers “the squishy side,
the personal perspective” to strategic
planning that is not always embraced
by military brass, Capt. Walker shares.
Because a war game does not always
net the same repeatable results, it is
often difficult for some to accept the
practice as a tangible solution to teach-
ing young leaders strategic approaches.
But war gaming had a prominent place
in history and is making a comeback.
“It takes into account human charac-
teristics, and I would argue that that’s
the strength of war gaming,” she adds.
This is why officials included a
charge to pursue war gaming again
as an integral part of the department’s third offset strategy, addressed
in the Defense Innovation Initiative
announced by then-Defense Secretary
Chuck Hagel in 2014. The endeavor
seeks operational and organizational
constructs that are enabled by new
technology, not solely driven by it.
And acquiring the latest and greatest
high-technology solutions is not the
primary driver of efforts at NDU. “We
don’t necessarily need high technology
to” devise strategic war-game plans,
Capt. Walker says.
Yet the third offset could be an
opportunity to take war gaming to
the next level, she emphasizes. Officials are well aware that the curriculum will need to address the needs
of future students, who are digital
natives. The morphing expectations
of these students present faculty with
a bit of a struggle to stay relevant
and effective, they say. As university
classrooms become filled with these
digital natives, expectations and
requirements for leveraging technology at work, at home and at school
are changing. “We are adapting to
meet those changing needs,” Capt.
Although war gaming is relatively
inexpensive—sometimes all that is
needed is a table for students to talk
out a problem—recent budget cuts
at NDU still sting. University faculty
and students are focused on innovation to challenge the status quo and
set the course for the future, Chancellor Bell offers. “What is the stakeholder’s need?” he asks. “It’s developing strategic leaders. What we do now
may be adequate. But if you think
about it ... the character and conduct
of war really changed from 9/11 to
today. How will it change in 15 more
Coalition members engage in a war
game exercise in 2015 at the U.S. Naval
War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
The students, 66 naval officers from 48
countries, were divided into teams and
tasked with securing the fictitious
“Green Island” during the exercise.
“As the threat fundamentally evolves, how do we even understand
the challenge of terrorism, violent extremism, insurgency,
organized crime, narcotics trafficking—all of those challenges?”
—Michael Bell, chancellor of the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University
TRAINING AND EDUCATION
contact: Sandra Jontz,