Proliferating anti-access weapons and non-state actors bristling with advanced armaments will complicate U.S. military intervention overseas, according to the results of a major U.S. Army war game.
The “Unified Quest” game, held last week at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., thrust players into dual war games where American troops faced state and non-state actors, as well as a slew of complicated issues ranging from failing states to humanitarian crises and weapons of mass destruction.
“We were able to achieve some success in terms of using different approaches to getting into denied areas,” said Brig. Gen. William Hix, director of the Concept Development and Learning Directorate at the Army Capabilities Integration Center. “But we did find that in order to sustain and build momentum in those operations, we were hindered because we remain dependent or overly reliant on ports and airfields.”
Players were also dismayed by the conflict between the operational imperative to gain access ashore and the need to understand the byzantine human mosaic of political and tribal loyalties in the game.
“Speed matters,” Hix said. “But the other side of time is gaining knowledge. One blue commander struggled with understanding the human dynamics in his area. That takes a lot of time unless you can anticipate where you will be going.”
Another challenge was cyberspace. In one scenario, U.S. forces faced a relatively open society where American troops could remotely penetrate that nation’s network and disrupt its command-and-control apparatus. But the other scenario featured a closed society, so American troops had to maneuver on the ground to access the network. Complicating the matter for field commanders was their authority to disrupt enemy networks.
“We could get into their systems, but often, to have operational effectiveness and the ability to leverage this, we did not have the authority to act outside of our area of operations,” Hix said.