WASHINGTON — Workers at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, watch as top Marine leaders build a state-of-the-art war-gaming center, while war-gaming in its many forms spreads throughout the force.

It’s coming to Marines and billets of all ranks through exercises, board games, and advanced artificial intelligence options that are being optimized for future use at the unit level.

Those were some of the items presented Wednesday by Col. George Schreffler, director of the war-gaming division at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, at the 2022 Modern Day Marine Expo in Washington.

If a Marine job is touched by Force Design 2030, and that guidance document affects all Marine jobs, then war-gaming has something to do with how the service made that decision and possible future decisions.

For example, in the recently released 2022 update to Force Design, the document states that “extensive wargaming” in the form of the Expeditionary Warrior 21 is being developed with the Navy to inform the service’s distributed maritime logistics operations concept. That game and another called “Enigma” tested concepts for information and contest operations below the level of armed conflict, also known as “gray zone” operations.

The data was fed into the soon-to-be-published Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 8, “Information,” according to Force Design Update.

The center will double the number of war games organized by the military in a year by bringing together staff and visiting leaders in one place with advanced technology.

Schreffler said the center will “increase the realism of the player experience” and “significantly increase the amount of data” it is able to put into scenarios. Those two factors alone will “enable more rigorous analysis” of war-game outcomes and deliver “better and potentially more concrete insights from war games.”

Finally, and perhaps most important, Schreffler and others have provided the center with support on force design and development to “create more defensible positions to support service level decisions.”

That’s important because Marine Corps leadership has publicly criticized some of Force Design 2030’s changes, such as eliminating tanks, reducing conventional artillery and experiments that could fundamentally change the size and composition of infantry.

The center was first announced at the 2017 Modern Day Marine Exposition by then-Commandant General Robert Naylor.

Naylor said he wanted a sort of “holodeck” for Marine war-gaming, a nod to the Star Trek technology that Captain James T. It allowed the character Kirk to step into a virtual reality situation and work through tactical or strategic problems.

The goal at the time was to have a center that could support 20 war-games per year, including two large-scale, 250-participant exercises. Currently, the service conducts about a dozen war-games each year, officials said.

Former head of the Training Systems Command, then-Col. Walt Yates told Marine Corps Times that advanced artificial intelligence could allow the center to run the same scenario 1,000 times to better evaluate the results and better inform decisions on what to deploy and how to deploy Marine assets.

The Navy broke ground on a new war-gaming and analysis center in May 2021. The $79 million center aims to explore the hard issues of what technologies, formation types and even tactics might work in future battles.

Schreffler said the center’s planned opening is in 2024.

At the time, Marine Corps Assistant Commandant General Eric Smith, a three-star heading Combat Development and Integration, gave a compelling reason for how the center would affect even the lowest ranks.

“It’s a big deal for the 19-year-olds here, on Parris Island or in San Diego, because they fight and die,” Smith told Marine Corps Times. “With what we do here, we’re going to make sure they die less.”

The center is located adjacent to the Marine Corps University and not far from several mid- and senior-level Marine office schools and training programs. Its proximity should allow cross-pollination of ideas from schools for concept testing at the centre.

The former head of the War-Combat Laboratory and Marine Corps Systems Command also previously told Marine Corps Times that the center will help them make decisions with deep, evidence-based data, whether on unit employment, unit composition or weapons and equipment development and fielding.

But some of the Centre’s ideology has permeated the Corps.

“The vision of the Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center is to allow us to plug in to a remote location and play a game using a system or systems located in the analysis center,” Schreffler said.

That software is still in development, he said.

“It should be able to connect us to the fleet and components of the training and education command,” he said.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government, and the military for numerous publications since 2004, and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a co-authored project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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