Peace Operations Program Helps Make SENSE in Arlington

Posted: May 17, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jocelyn Rappaport

If you remember the premise of the 1980s movie War Games, now think “Peace Games” or “Post-War Games.” This week, some 60 participants from Iraq and the United States will take part in SENSE—Strategic Economic Needs and Security Simulation Exercise—at a three-day workshop in Arlington facilitated by Allison Frendak-Blume, acting director of the Peace Operations Policy Program for the School of Public Policy.

The Institute of Defense Analyses, a nonprofit corporation that administers federally funded research and development centers, has developed a simulation that provides participants experience in decision-making for a fictitious country that has just emerged from a civil war. The country Akrona is transitioning from a command economy to a market economy, and authoritarian leadership to democratic governance, in accordance with the timing and actions of the player-participants.

The participants receive a playbook that describes their role. The Akrona government, banking sector, business sector, and local nongovernmental organizations are represented, as are bilateral donors, the World Bank, and transnational and international relief agencies. There are no preprogrammed results for the exercise.

Frendak-Blume, who will have assistance of others from George Mason serving as policy advisors and tutor-coaches knowledgeable about the computer software, explains, “Some participants may start the week by assuming many decisions can be made by simply looking at the information provided by the computer. However, they soon realize that groups representing different entities know different amounts and types of information.” For example, the government representatives’ computer screens show more information than the bank or foreign governments’ monitors. Soon people realize that more can be stabilized within the country through negotiation and clearly agreed-upon objectives. Once this happens, individuals leave the computer terminals and begin to interact with others.

“These interactions demonstrate one of the greatest benefits of the simulation. It literally brings together people who may not otherwise associate with one another for cultural or other reasons in their own country, to work toward a common goal,” says Frendak-Blume. Clarence Worrell, a doctoral student in the Operations Research Program and a staff member of the Peace Operations and Policy Program, has participated in a past workshop involving participants from Serbia and Kosovo. Worrell notes, “At the end of a week, participants express a better understanding of the complexity of competing priorities and allocating resources. In addition, a more unified framework of analysis and policy evolves throughout the process of the exercise.”

Frendak-Blume says she is pleased with George Mason’s association with the project. “It continues to be an invigorating learning experience for the participants as well as for the facilitators.”

The final session of the training course takes place June 23-25.

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