game-of-interdiction-boardI developed this game to support a five day workshop on border security and to highlight the challenges associated with interdiction. Most personnel involved in border security are not experts in WMD. They are custom and immigration officials, border security guards, law enforcement officials and military officers. The objective of interdiction is to find the “person” with the “thing”, which without the right intelligence is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The challenge of interdiction falls between the related fields of nonproliferation and counterproliferation and counterterrorism. Whereas the fields of nonproliferation and counterproliferation focus on the “stuff” (weapons of mass destruction, weapon-related materials, equipment, technology, delivery systems), counterterrorism focuses on the “people” (terrorists, groups, cells, terrorist networks, groups, people loosely affiliated with terrorist groups). The Game of Interdiction addresses the critical nexus between these two fields and provides students an opportunity to learn about the difficulty of countering the smuggling of WMD and related material, equipment and technology.

The Game of Interdiction borrows concepts from Ravensberger’s Scottland Yard and from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)’s Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS).

Since the mid-1970s, LLNL computer scientists, working at the Conflict Simulation Laboratory, have pioneered increasingly realistic software for the Department of Defense. In 1997, a team of Lawrence Livermore computer scientists unveiled its most powerful combat program to date. JCATS is a computer-driven combat simulation to train officers, rehearse missions, and explore tactics. Unlike computer games, the program takes every aspect of the program takes physics into account. The program typically simulates a battle between two opposing sides (often called red and blue forces).

JCATS realistically simulates the capabilities and limitations of armaments, people, and the environment. Players see only their respective forces and whatever intelligence they acquire about opposing forces by visual or auditory means, including forward scouts, spotter planes, radar, and sensors.

In 2012, I had the opportunity to see a demonstration of a modified version of JCATS developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) specifically designed for evaluating border security tactics and technology and developed a virtual test bed that accurately models individuals, vehicles, movement, observation, sensors, weapons, etc. on the actual terrain with its elevation and vegetation. It is a man against man simulation, where an expert plays the part of the smuggler and employs smuggler tactics, while a border police plays the part of the border police. The model also includes civilians that would normally be active within the border region and help to camouflage the smuggler. The objective of the simulation was to help border security officials improve tactics and select technologies that significantly improve captures.

I have facilitated this game twice in professional settings, both times with good results. In 2012, more than 65 officials (customs, border guard, military, foreign affairs) from 12 Southern African nations played the game. We ran 6 games (red vs. blue teams) simultaneously and played several times with different scenarios and resource situations. After the games concluded, all six groups participated in a plenary debriefing session. In 2015, I played the game with 25 members of NDU’s Program for Emerging Leaders (PEL). We ran four games simultaneously, playing several times again with differen scenarios and resource situations.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.