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Red Teaming: A Failure to Communicate

To add to Tim’s excellent rundown of failures in red teaming, another pressing issue is the fact that red teaming that demonstrates weaknesses in operational and strategic concepts is not always accepted by policy-makers. Lt. Gen Paul Van Riper’s performance during the Millennium Challenge 2002 exercises is often cited as a paramount example of red teaming results being ignored by policymakers. Riper used asymmetric tactics to stymie a numerically superior force equipped with top of the line command and control systems, thus demonstrating the weaknesses of many of the military concepts that come to prominence during the late 90’s and early 2000s.
      Central to Brigadier General H.R. McMaster’s Vietnam-era civil-military study Dereliction of Duty (as well as many critical military histories of Vietnam) are the SIGMA series wagames, which predicted numerous problems in the Johnson administration’s Vietnam strategy. In one 1963 game, the end result was 500,000 troops deployed to the country and draft riots at home. Other games suggested that strategic bombing and the deployment of large-scale forces in the South would not compel North Vietnam to back down. Furthermore, participants noted that while BLUE Force had an overwhelmingly short-run and tactical focus while RED focused on long term and strategic objectives–putting less stock in short-term tactical victories.
      What both examples demonstrate is that the success or failure of red teaming exercises is dependent on the policy process. Much is dependent on how the lessons of the red team are received, interpreted, and integrated into tactical, operational, or strategic planning.