NationLab is an interactive educational event providing hands-on experience in the formulation of strategy and policy with respect to defense and security issue of importance to CHDS partner institutions in Latin America.
Each NationLab event is custom-designed by CHDS, in coordination with a specific partner institution in the region, as well as the U.S. embassy team in the country in which the partner institution is located, to meet the needs and objectives of each of the key stakeholders.
While the content and structure of each event is determined by its stakeholders, a "typical" NationLab is a week-long exercise, conducted in the facilities of the CHDS partner institution in the host country. The exercise generally involves role-playing at the strategic levels, in which ministries and other entities in the defense and security arena are represented by students of the partner institution, senior leaders, and/or actual members of those organizations.
The focus of a NationLab event is typically a challenge of national-level importance for the partner institution, such as narcotrafficking, terrorism, or multinational operations in contexts such as disaster relief. Exercise play involves the formulation and coordination of policy and strategy to respond to the challenge. Depending on the objectives of the partner institution, this may include an analysis of the causes of the challenge, the identification and recommendation of strategic options, and the development of a coordinated multi-sectoral plan, to include measures of effectiveness and required changes in organizations, administrative procedures, as well as new legislation.
A typical NationLab is a unique combination of a "workshop" in strategy and policy development, and a "game" giving participants experience in coordinating and testing strategies and plans, with a scenario that evolves based on the decisions and interactions of the entities represented. In this sense, NationLab provides at least two types of value for the partner institution:
- NationLab provides experience and training to the students and professionals represented as players on defense and security issues relevant to the program of study of the partner institution, and to the national situation of those participants, and
- NationLab provides a vehicle for exploring the opportunities, risks, and consequences of real-world or contemplated strategies and decisions, on issues of importance to the nation.
NationLab is not wedded to a particular exercise design, level of play, or set of technologies. NationLab events conducted by the CHDS team over the past year have spanned the gamut from "strategy and policy development workshops" to interactive scenario-based events focused on multinational and interagency coordination. Similarly, they have spanned from purely "tabletop" style events, to interactions supported by technology-based displays with the use of complex systems simulation models to facilitate the adjudication of the decisions of interacting teams. In each case, the event design not only reflects the objectives of the stakeholders, but the methodologies, techniques and technologies brought to the table by the CHDS team provide value added, passed on to both the individual participants, and "left behind" as an augmented capability of the partner institution.
For more information on NationLab, please contact Dr. Evan Ellis. Assistant Professor of National Security Studies, Modeling, Simulation, & Wargaming. 202-685-4195. Ellisr9@ndu.edu