Nearly four years after Marine officials announced the Corps wanted a state-of-the art, advanced wargaming center near the service’s headquarters, the service expects to break ground on the Quantico, Virginia, facility in 2021.

At the 2017 Modern Day Marine Military Exposition then-Lt. Col. Ross Monta, with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said the three- to five-year plan would put Marines on track to have a capability of conducting 20 war games a year, including two, 250-participant exercises.

Advanced simulations at the center, he said, would provide “accurate representation of future operating environments ... simulate friendly and enemy capabilities” and perform “rapid, in-depth analysis of game-derived data or insights.”

The center is expected to be completed by late fiscal year 2023 and reach full operational capability by fiscal year 2025, according to a Marine Corps statement.

Commandant Gen. David Berger has trumpeted the value of wargaming, experimentation and planning as he began major force structure overhauls and redesigns, including shifting away from conventional artillery and disbanding armor formations.

He emphasized the importance of wargaming in his 2019 Commandant’s planning guidance, shortly after assuming his position, calling it, “essential to charting our course in an era of strategic fluidity and rapid change.”

Those decisions have been backed, in part, by wargame analysis of potential future fights against adversaries such as China.

In August, the head of Combat Development and Integration emphasized the importance of the new center for future planning.

“In order to stay ahead of peer competitors, it is vital that the Marine Corps conduct constant wargames,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant, combat development and integration. “The data that comes from such wargames enables us to more rapidly determine which capabilities we will need for future fights.”

The 100,000-square-foot facility project was opened for proposals in summer 2020, and the Corps is expected to award a contract in early 2021, officials said.

The building will have an auditorium, gaming classrooms, conference room and additional spaces to support wargaming needs, according to the statement.

That will allow Marines to run “excursions” that can tinker with various inputs and see what types of weapons platforms and job specialties will be needed in a host of likely warfighting scenarios.

“The true value proposition of wargaming lies in the construction of a competitive framework allowing the thinking enemy to confront and thwart his opponent and thereby challenge concepts, capabilities and force design,” said William J. Lademan, Ph.D., technical director for the wargaming division at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.

While aimed at keeping Marines at the leading edge of tactical and strategic thinking, the center is expected to host other services and international partners for joint exercises and experiments on force structure, engagement.

“The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center will serve the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Headquarters Marine Corps staff, and the Operating Forces,” said Sharleene Prieur, Marine Corps Systems Command deputy program manager for the wargaming capability. “It will also support the Corps’ ability to wargame with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and our [Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational] partners.”

“A wargaming center at Quantico ensures that these wargames take place at the home of Combat Development, the Warfighting Laboratory, Marine Corps University and our Acquisitions Command, and ensures that this purpose-built facility is easily accessible for all those in the National Capitol Region who similarly need this capability,” Smith said.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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