AFMC Command News

Rapidly deployed digital tool advances energy in wargaming effort

  • Published
  • By Corrie Poland

On an eight hour flight to Hawaii, software engineers raced to program the final updates to a modeling and simulation tool that would host the Joint Forces Energy Wargame (JFEW), the first of its kind to focus primarily on energy and fuel logistics.

Known as JFEW-Standard Wargame Integration Facilitation Toolkit (SWIFT), the tool provided a digital interface to play, present, and analyze the wargame, and allowed players to quickly react to the operational impact of fuel logistics in real-time. The 40-person event, sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and hosted by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), took place over four days in August 2019, at Camp Smith in Honolulu.

With a compressed timeline, engineers from the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office within the OSD successfully built and deployed the application while drastically shortening the execution timeline from two years, to 12 weeks.

Using government off-the-shelf software already created as part of SWIFT, the engineers augmented the tool for JFEW’s unique requirements, allowing players to realistically assess the operational impact of fuel logistics including fuels inventories at operating locations, transport and storage issues, consumption rates, and infrastructure damage.

The tool enabled the team to create custom scenarios (maps, operating locations, and units) and rules (movement, logistics) that ensured the game was effective and flexible enough to program during play.

“I like to think SWIFT as ‘PowerPoint’ for wargaming,” said CAPE’s IMAG task monitor and solutions architect, Harvey Gilbert. “It’s accessible and customizable by analysts; it only needs software developers when new features or complex adjudicators need to be added to the platform.”

“If it weren’t for SWIFT, we would still be standing around a printed game-board and keeping track of player moves with pen and paper,” said William Ellerbe, the project’s lead software architect. “It was a very time consuming process and one move would take more than four hours. Now, we can quickly execute the game and focus on analysis versus recording moves,” he continued.

Throughout each game, the tool recorded and tracked players’ actions for in-depth analysis, modification, and reuse and helped inform senior leaders of strategic and tactical requirements in future forces. Additionally, the tool is designed to integrate with other Department of Defense wargaming and simulation software, such as the Synthetic Theater Operations Model (STORM), which assists in post-game evaluation.

“Analytic wargames benefit from a structured rule-set with clear adjudication logic during execution and subsequent analysis,” said CAPE’s computational social scientist and wargaming expert, Karl Selke, Ph.D. “The result of a sound, well-constructed rule-set is an appropriately realistic and abstracted model of war.”

According to JFEW team-lead and wargaming expert Dominick Wright, Ph.D., JFEW-SWIFT was essential in increasing the visibility of energy risks in multi-domain operations and contested theaters. The office he represents, Air Force Operational Energy, supported the effort with funding and subject matter expertise for development of the software augmentation.  

“The tool helped us identify a few critical energy challenges for the Air Force and Joint Operations, and provided decision-makers with data-driven insight on how we can improve operational plans for increased readiness,” said Wright. Using the data collected in JFEW-SWIFT during the wargame, the team conducted an in-depth analysis of the challenges and lessons learned, culminating in a classified after-action report and high-level briefings to the INDOPACOM leadership and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment.

With a successful demonstration of the software accomplished, the team plans to further enhance its functionality. Currently, JFEW-SWIFT is available to users as a desktop application, but the team is working on developing a web-based application to be distributed across multiple locations for greater use and visibility. Completion of the update is expected by the end of 2020.

 “Wargaming itself, is a tool within a much larger analytic toolkit that should operate in tandem with other analysis methods such as simulation, real-world exercises, and data-driven quantitative techniques,” said Selke. “SWIFT is the key platform to bring [wargaming] to life for community use and it is driving operational and tactical wargame design.”

As the team continues to update and improve the software, they plan to use it for future joint-service wargames and exercises.