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Unified Quest pushes future warfighting to breaking point

By Hugh C. Laughlin/TRADOC News Service

CARLISLE BARRACKS, Pa. (TRADOC News Service, May 5, 2005) – The U.S. Army and U.S. Joint Forces Command co-sponsored wargame Unified Quest 05 is actively working future warfighting concepts to the point of breaking this week here at the Army War College.

This is the third iteration of the Unified Quest wargame series, which is a study of future warfighting concepts and capabilities against a future notional adversary in the year 2015 that challenges a U.S.-led coalition force with conventional, irregular, disruptive and catastrophic means.

The Future Warfighting Division at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command was directed by the Army chief of staff to replay the scenario implementing insights and lessons learned from previous UQ exercises to see how it impacts the outcome.

While this year’s exercise is looking at the scenario again, planners are implementing new ideas and concepts to help achieve the game’s objectives. One new idea brought in this year is having senior observers who have recently returned from deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq participate in the exercise “to ensure our view of the operational environment as we project it into the future and the issues we are tackling here line up with their observations today,” according to Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, TRADOC commanding general.

“We are bridging the problems of today with the problems of the future,” Byrnes said. “In our quest to learn, we want to ensure we are not missing some key aspects of warfighting they have observed firsthand.”

According to Byrnes, this intellectual pursuit is asking what Joint concepts and capabilities can meet the challenges and defeat this adversary in the future operational environment. For the scenario, this adversary has weapons of mass destruction and a strategy of protracted, asymmetric operations employing all forms of conventional, unconventional and irregular warfare.

“We are looking at this idea of full-spectrum dominance,” said Bill Rittenhouse, chief of the wargaming division in TRADOC’s Futures Center Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate. “We are exploring all the contingencies we foresee in the future operational environment.”

For the exercise players, full-spectrum dominance brings in all the variables of fighting an adversary that knows it cannot compete head-to-head with a coalition force, but can compete through irregular and unconventional means.

“Our adversaries cannot take us on conventionally and therefore look at different strategies and means to take us on,” Rittenhouse said. “This adversary also uses the element of time – using a protracted strategy.”

Another insight from past exercises is that a coalition force could not sustain operations against an adversary of this size and scale over the period of time the enemy was willing to take the conflict.

“In replaying certain aspects of this scenario, we have been asked to look at the other instruments of power in the diplomatic, information and economic parts of the DIME,” said Rittenhouse.

This brings in another new aspect to this year’s exercise, the implementation of a Joint Inter-Agency Coordination Group. This coordination group is a Joint Forces Command concept being exercised to embed with a regional combatant commander to provide assistance in integrating all the civilian government capabilities into the military planning, according to Michelle Hughes, U.S. Joint Forces Command.

“Having embedded civilian representatives in a commander’s planning staff has fostered better relationships with the other agencies [the Defense Department] has to coordinate with,” said Hughes. “This enables [a commander’s staff] to tap into the specialized expertise outside the core functions of the military planners.”

One of the lessons learned from previous exercises that has been reinforced during this week’s wargame is the concept of concurrent stability operations.

“For this exercise, we are very interested in the concurrent stability operations while the military is conducting major combat operations,” Hughes said. “This is something that has not been experimented with before.”

“My experience is that Soldiers do not have a problem with this idea,” said Brig. Gen. David Fastabend, chief of staff and deputy director of the Army’s Futures Center at TRADOC. “Within the Army, at the junior levels, I think they understand they have to shift their actions according to the environment.

“This is a very complex future operating environment,” said Fastabend. “You want to pose a very difficult scenario that will test your concepts to the breaking point.”

This exercise allows the Army and Joint forces to explore this complexity and take a hard look at the many different aspects of a challenge of this size.

“We have structured an event that goes at this pretty rigorously,” said Fastabend. “We have put some of the brightest people we know to look at this. We are taking a very deliberate approach in looking at these concepts.”

Unified Quest is a two-year wargame exercise where insights from this year will be shared with senior leadership later this month. The exercise will help prepare for the second half of the future warfare study.