This summer it was my privilege to work with Valens Global as an assistant wargaming analyst. Valens Global develops and facilitates simulations that are conducted at a variety of universities, as well as professional organizations such as the non-profit think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Canadian Department of Defense.
I started my internship by studying previous Valens wargames to better understand how they develop their simulations. Each game is designed to force participants to weigh the costs and benefits of their actions while navigating a complex information environment. Valens Global places the simulation players within multi-person teams where they represent a specific entity, such as Google, the U.S Department of Justice, or the Russian Federation. Players are then provided with a team packet that describes the background of the game, the rules and logistics of the game, team victory conditions, team description, and team capabilities and restrictions. Teams are next presented with a number of scenarios to navigate through, making decisions and conducting negotiations with other teams. Throughout the wargames, teams receive updated information via a series of media and secret intelligence briefs. These change as the team makes choices, creating a “fog of war” element to the game.
After familiarizing myself with the wargaming format, Valens assigned me to work as a developer on a new simulation for the University of Calgary and their Canadian Network on Information and Security (CANIS) program. The initiative works across schools at the University to educate students on the varied ways the information environment affects Canadian national security. We met with faculty, and they provided us with general guidance regarding the types of topics they wanted to include in the game. With this information in hand, we began developing the simulation.
We eventually determined that the game should focus on how mis/disinformation could impact U.S.-Canada relations and undermine the coalition supporting Ukraine. We decided that the game would involve three teams: the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the U.S. National Security Council (NSC), and Meta (formerly Facebook). We researched topics that would prove relevant for the war game, ranging from U.S. nuclear posture to the organizational structure of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The wargaming team then took our findings and wove them into a compelling storyline for the students.
We ran the weeklong simulation for the University of Calgary students during the final week of my Valens internship. The teams submitted daily memoranda where they were forced to make choices that would shape the everchanging media environment. The week concluded with a mock joint press conference for the PMO and NSC teams while the Meta students spoke at a mock U.S. Senate hearing. We received terrific feedback from the participants, and I felt very fortunate that I had the opportunity to participate in the wargaming development process from its initial stages through completion.
While I primarily worked on the University of Calgary wargame during my internship, I also assisted with other simulations that Valens will run in the coming year. I learned many valuable lessons by working on multiple wargames and interacting the with the remarkably knowledgeable staff at Valens this summer.
I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities afforded me through the Carlucci Fellowship. My internship at Valens Global gave me new insights into wargaming, and I believe this wider perspective will prove highly beneficial during the next stages of my U.S. Army career.
* The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Army, Department of Defense, or the US Government.