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Experiment To Test Crisis Planning

The simulation will use a hypothetical Afghanistan as its playing field and over the course of two-weeks of active "playing," participants from each country will react to nearly 270 "injects" into the situation, ranging from insurgent attacks to natural disasters.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington DC (UPI) Feb 13, 2006
Military and diplomatic officials from the United States and eight nations will rehearse their crisis planning in late February, an attempt to improve multinational stability operations response before the next major problem presents itself.

While a hypothetical Afghanistan is the focus of Multinational Experiment 4 (MNE-4), the exercise has a broader focus: getting people and organizations who normally encounter one another for the first time on the battlefield to sort out their different strengths and priorities in advance.

"History has shown us that when we wait until we get on the ground to come up with a strategy in real time ... it's too late," said Barbara Stephenson, director of planning in the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

The State Department will play a key role in the experiment, a reflection in part of the Pentagon's growing emphasis on interagency cooperation in stabilization operations like in Afghanistan, Iraq and in places that have experienced natural disasters.

"We are (trying to learn) how to use all elements of national power, not just the military," said Lt. Gen. John Wood, deputy commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command at a Pentagon press briefing Monday.

Getting the State Department to participate in a planning exercise is a cultural challenge, Stephenson said. The State Department is full of civilians who are gifted at reacting to evolving events but less oriented than the military toward strategic planning.

"Strategic planning is not a core part of what our culture is about," she said.

But given that State will play an increasingly large role in stabilization operations, it must integrate itself early into Pentagon and multinational planning so the full weight of its civilian expertise can be brought to bear on a situation.

The Quadrennial Defense Review, released at the beginning of February, discusses the need for interagency, broad-based approaches to stabilization missions. After shouldering almost the entire burden for reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq it has become clear to Pentagon planners that responsibility must be shared, and prepared for in advance.

In November 2005, the Pentagon adopted a directive that envisioned a much larger, collaborative role for the State Department in stability operations.

MNE-4 is the fourth such exercise sponsored by Joint Forces Command and will include participation from the United States, NATO, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Canada and Australia. It will span three weeks, with some 800 participants.

It is meant to "explore the uses of international power (diplomatic, information, military and economic) to influence the behavior of adversaries," according to a Joint Force Command fact sheet.

The simulation will use a hypothetical Afghanistan as its playing field and over the course of two-weeks of active "playing," participants from each country will react to nearly 270 "injects" into the situation, ranging from insurgent attacks to natural disasters.

"We'll be seeing action and reaction," said Wood.

Enabling the exercises is a network of three countries modeling and simulation systems, the first time the American, German and French systems have been tied together.

The players will be far flung: Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom will participate from their own experimentation facilities. Australia, Finland and Sweden will participate from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. NATO will participate from a simulation center in Istanbul, Turkey.

In each case, the participants will run through their own country and office's likely response in policy and materiel and funnel it into the simulation. During the course of the exercise, areas of conflict, missing resources and redundancy are expected to come to light.

More importantly, according to Stephenson, the exercise will force participants to think through novel and stressing situations and determine how they will cooperate and adjust to other participants before there is a crisis.

Stephenson said that in multinational stabilization operations, like in Afghanistan or after a natural disaster, partner nations often have conflicting goals and policies that they do not realize are a problem until operations are already underway. One country may enter a situation thinking the emphasis is on establishing a strong central government, while another thinks its task is to strengthen provincial governments, she said.

"It's inadvertent almost always but it really does take time," Stephenson said.

MNE-4 will begin Feb. 20.

Source: United Press International

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