Small Wars Journal

Six Rules for Wargaming: The Lessons of Millennium Challenge ’02

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 7:26am

Six Rules for Wargaming: The Lessons of Millennium Challenge ’02 by Gary Anderson and Dave Dilegge, War on the Rocks

For over a decade, those of us who teach wargaming and red teaming have used Millennium Challenge ‘02 (MC ‘02) as a poster child for how not to design or run a wargame. Micah Zenko offered the most comprehensive account to date of MC ’02 earlier this week here at War on the Rocks. The game was conducted by the now-defunct Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and the credibility of the command never recovered. One of us (Gary) was a member of the MC ‘02 red team and extensively researched it in preparing his course on alternative analysis at George Washington University. The other (Dave) was a member of DoD’s Defense Adaptive Red Team in support of MC ‘02.

The game was an attempt to test three JFCOM concepts: effects-based operations, rapid decisive operations, and standing Joint Force headquarters. All three were tested in smaller venues and had such significant issues associated with them that independent analysts recommended they be scrapped altogether. JFCOM’s response was to get rid of the independent analysts and have its own give them better answers…

Read on.


I disagree with the comment below -- using that paragraph to equate the Louisiana Maneuvers (and the 1940 maneuvers before them) with MC02 takes it severely out of context. First, Patton didn't "bankroll" any of those efforts, and while his position within the Army gave him some influence to try out new armored organization and tactics, events in Europe influenced those at least as much. The Army in 1940-41 was ill-prepared, but it wasn't stupid. The experimental aspects of both maneuvers -- new anti-tank weapons, use of attack aviation, and new organizational concepts (triangular divisions, massed armored formations) -- were fairly carefully controlled, and the lessons applied afterwards. Where new ideas failed, they were allowed to fail. Where they succeeded, they were allowed to succeed, which is why McNair ended the exercise after the armored sweep in the quoted paragraph, rather than declaring it an aberration and resetting the field.

The Army by mid-1943 owed as much to those maneuvers as to the six months of combat experience in North Africa...the mass mechanization of not only new armored divisions, but the entire Army; logistical power capable of supporting a mobile offensive; elimination of specialist light attack aircraft in favor of building an attack capability into all fighters, creating a much larger, flexible, and survivable force (there's a reason there was no U.S. "Stuka"...and all pursuit aircraft designed after mid-1940 carried a bombload at least as great).

Dave Maxwell

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 9:53pm

In reply to by Bill M.

He is probably referring to the Louisiana Maneuvers. The excerpt below makes MC 02 read like deja vu all over again.

Following his failed breakout from the Red River “beachhead,” Patton was made a commander in Krueger’s Red Army, which would take the offensive during the second set of exercises. In the latter part of September, as McNair watched in amazement, Patton led his armored corps in a massed flanking attack against the Blue Army’s defense in depth. Patton’s 2nd Armored Division advanced 200 miles through northern Louisiana and East Texas in three days, enveloping Lear’s flank. It was a brilliant maneuver. Lear’s army thus surrounded, McNair suspended the exercise.

Bill M.

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 5:14pm

In reply to by Mark Pyruz


Please provide a reference that provides more information on Patton's warfare results?

Mark Pyruz

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 3:59pm

Although different in being a live war game, prior to WWII Patton largely bankrolled a live war game that exposed our flawed armored doctrine and related tactics. Unfortunately the war game was ginned up and shelved in not too dissimilar fashion as MC '02.

I lost a great uncle in WWII that was a private in the U.S. Army, ETO. Had we gone to war against Iran in the years following MC '02 and experienced losses due to inadequacies exposed in that war game, it could have been a repeat of what our family member endured in December 1944.