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Playing “Wargames”: Military Connection

Military Connection: wargames

By Debbie Gregory.

A two-day “war games” event held in late June in the Washington suburb of Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.

The brainstorming session brought together tech pioneers and computer-science experts with current and former Pentagon officials and military experts from think tanks across Washington. Sponsored by the Defense Department, the event hoped to address the long-term challenges in building a force for the 21st century, and recruiting and retaining the talent it will need in the years ahead.

The newly appointed undersecretary for personnel and readiness, Brad Carson, wants to modernize the Pentagon’s outdated, paper-based personnel system.

Carson said it’s time to change the military’s promotion practices that are based on seniority and stability over performance and innovation. “We should move into a talent-based system with competency-based benchmarks,” he said.

The hypothetical crisis for the “game” took place in the year 2025. With a thriving economy, young Americans have no interest in military service. The Pentagon’s budget is tight, so monetary incentives are few. The Defense Department needs top talent, but can’t find it.

Experts discussed hypothetical databases to track individuals’ skills, strengths, interests and educational backgrounds. An optimal system might include data from performance evaluations, school transcripts, health records and other information.

“If we don’t actually think about what a military should be for in the future, this [event] is just supporting something that is all too much like the Maginot Line, which is like trying defend against the previous war rather than thinking about what the actual situation is going to be in the future,” said Alan Kay, a 75-year-old pioneering computer scientist. Kay has been credited with helping to invent modern computer programming.

Many people may not know that the DoD was more or less responsible for the invention of the Internet. In the 1960s, U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency, funded by the Pentagon, doled out millions of dollars in research grants that resulted in the foundation of the technology that underlies today’s Internet.

Much of that money flowed to Stanford University, to a number of computer scientists who went on to create the modern software and information technology industry.

The war game was organized by retired Air Force pilot Frank DiGiovanni, director of the Pentagon’s Force Readiness and Training office.

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Playing “Wargames”: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory