DSF’s premiere program is the Peace Game. DSF has partnered with the U.S. Institute of Peace and the University of Maryland ICONS Project to continue advancing the quality and capacity of the exercise.
What is the Peace Game?
The Peace Game brings together representatives from various U.S. departments and agencies that comprise a country team and challenges them to solve a complex crisis simulation. The simulation scenario centers around Ikhaya, a fictional country created for this initiative that has the national characteristics resembling various African nations. Each Peace Game runs as a two-day exercise in which participants play the country team and are challenged to develop a response to a variety of complications. The participants’ responses must consider all the U.S. government assets available to help mitigate the crises. The exercise also includes participation from senior retired officers who play on the control team, which simulates Washington leadership responses to the country team and dictates the pace at which new plot lines are released to the country team. Overall, the Peace Game allows government officials to confront these complications in a simulation before they are faced with similar challenges at post, ensuring they are better prepared to craft effective solutions.
Why Peace Games?
The United States consistently practices winning wars. For many years, the uniformed services have conducted wargames as an integral part of training their personnel. Unfortunately, there has historically been no equivalent practice of winning the peace. Thus, the Peace Game focuses on building the prevention capabilities of our civilian and military officers working abroad who are facing various, sometimes competing, crises. The exercise also seeks to build the cross-departmental relationships necessary to facilitate long-term resolutions. Overall, U.S. government officials across the various departments and agencies that execute foreign policy and maintain national security rarely train together, hindering proper de-escalation and stabilization of challenges abroad. The Peace Game seeks to fill this detrimental gap.
Specifically, Peace Game participants gain:
Exposure to the stress and uncertainty of an actual crisis;
Practice prioritizing the various demands on officers’ time during a crisis;
Insight into the requirements for planning and executing an all-of-Embassy response to address a rising threat;
Better understanding of the interplay of various Embassy sections and agencies in action, with emphasis on the critical value of interagency collaboration;
Familiarization to the role of Washington in a crisis; the State Department, NSC, Pentagon, USAID, etc.;
An opportunity to form a better network with interagency colleagues; and
Mentorship by retired senior foreign policy leaders who participate in the exercise.
DSF and ICONS launched the first Peace Game in October 2021 and ran a second exercise in April 2022. In September 2022 and June 2023, they ran exercises in partnership with USIP. Representatives from the State Department Bureaus of African Affairs, Conflict and Stabilization Operations, Consular Affairs, and Diplomatic Security, USAID, the intelligence community, and the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade all participated on the country teams. Past control teams have included former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy, Ambassadors (ret.) Dawn Liberi, Thomas Pickering, and Makila James, Major General (ret.) Mark Hicks, former CIA Deputy Director of National Clandestine Service, Charlie Gilbert, and former Senior USAID Mission Directors Jim Bever and Karen Freeman, among others.
State Department Participant
“Bringing together interagency representatives to play country team roles was exceptionally educational for someone with little or no experience working with a country team. The added benefit of having true experts to participate and conduct mentoring made this a very positive experience.”
“All of the USAID players praised the Game as a ‘great learning opportunity’, for exposing them to the USG Interagency at work at an Embassy, for exposing the GS officers to the nuances of a US diplomat’s work politically and bureaucratically in a foreign country and what ‘a day in the life of an FSO—and their families’ looks like."
Intelligence Community Participant
“The exercise offered the opportunity to both witness and practice interagency collaboration. The simulation was very realistic, especially with respect to Africa and the types of likely challenges in the region.”