The December 2018 issue of Phalanx, a periodical journal published by The Military Operations Research Society (MORS), contains an article by Jonathan K. Alt, Christopher Morey, and Larry Larimer, entitled “Perspectives on Combat Modeling.” (the article is paywalled, but limited public access is available via JSTOR).
Their article was written partly as a critical rebuttal to a TDI blog post originally published in April 2017, which discussed an issue of which the combat modeling and simulation community has long been aware but slow to address, known as the “Base of Sand” problem.
In short, because so little is empirically known about the real-world structures of combat processes and the interactions of these processes, modelers have been forced to rely on the judgement of subject matter experts (SMEs) to fill in the blanks. No one really knows if the blend of empirical data and SME judgement accurately represents combat because the modeling community has been reluctant to test its models against data on real world experience, a process known as validation.
TDI President Chris Lawrence subsequently published a series of blog posts responding to the specific comments and criticisms leveled by Alt, Morey, and Larimer.
How are combat models and simulations tested to see if they portray real-world combat accurately? Are they actually tested?
How can we know if combat simulations adhere to strict standards established by the DoD regarding validation? Perhaps the validation reports can be released for peer review.
Some claim that models of complex combat behavior cannot really be tested against real-world operational experience, but this has already been done. Several times.
If only the “physics-based aspects” of combat models are empirically tested, do those models reliably represent real-world combat with humans or only the interactions of weapons systems?
Is real-world historical operational combat experience useful only for demonstrating the capabilities of combat models, or is it something the models should be able to reliably replicate?
If a Subject Matter Expert (SME) can be substituted for a proper combat model validation effort, then could not a SME simply be substituted for the model? Should not all models be considered expert judgement quantified?
What should be done about the “Base of Sand” problem? Here are some suggestions.
Persuading the military operations research community of the importance of research on real-world combat experience in modeling has been an uphill battle with a long history.
And the debate continues…