Engaging the Phalanx (part 7 of 7)

Hopefully this is my last post on the subject (but I suspect not, as I expect a public response from the three TRADOC authors). This is in response to the article in the December 2018 issue of the Phalanx by Alt, Morey and Larimer (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6). The issue here is the “Base of Sand” problem, which is what the original blog post that “inspired” their article was about:

Wargaming Multi-Domain Battle: The Base Of Sand Problem

While the first paragraph of their article addressed this blog post and they reference Paul Davis’ 1992 Base of Sand paper in their footnotes (but not John Stockfish’s paper, which is an equally valid criticism), they then do not discuss the “Base of Sand” problem further. They do not actually state whether this is a problem or not a problem. I gather by this notable omission that in fact they do understand that it is a problem, but being employees of TRADOC they are limited as to what they can publicly say. I am not.

I do address the “Base of Sand” problem in my book War by Numbers, Chapter 18. It has also been addressed in a few other posts on this blog. We are critics because we do not see significant improvement in the industry. In some cases, we are seeing regression.

In the end, I think the best solution for the DOD modeling and simulation community is not to “circle the wagons” and defend what they are currently doing, but instead acknowledge the limitations and problems they have and undertake a corrective action program. This corrective action program would involve: 1) Properly addressing how to measure and quantify certain aspects of combat (for example: Breakpoints) and 2) Validating these aspects and the combat models these aspects are part of by using real-world combat data. This would be an iterative process, as you develop and then test the model, then further develop it, and then test it again. This moves us forward. It is a more valued approach than just “circling the wagons.” As these models and simulations are being used to analyze processes that may or may not make us fight better, and may or may not save American service members lives, then I think it is important enough to do right. That is what we need to be focused on, not squabbling over a blog post (or seven).

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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