During the week of November 5, CHDS conducted its NationLab exercise in Mexico City, in conjunction with its Mexican partner institution, the Centro de Estudios Superiores Navales (Center for Advanced Naval Studies – CESNAV). The event was an interactive strategic-level wargame, designed to provide hands-on learning in the formulation of national policy, and the formulation and adaptation of strategy in the shared regional fight against transnational organized crime, including coordination between countries and government ministries.
The exercise was the fifth held between CHDS and its Mexican counterparts, and the fourth held with CESNAV. It comprised more than 150 people from four countries: Mexico, the United States, Canada, and Guatemala, making it the largest, most multinational NationLab event conducted in Mexico to date. Multiple senior leaders were present at the event, including Mexican Secretary of the Navy Admiral Mariano Francisco Saynez Mendoza; US Northern Command Director of Strategy, Policy, and Plans (N-NC/J5) Major General Francis G. Mahon; head of CESNAV Admiral Carlos Federico Quinto Guillen; and CHDS Director Dr. Richard D. Downie, as well as personnel from multiple ministries of the Mexican federal government and admirals representing Mexico’s regional and area commands.
The event leveraged the “system dynamics” methodology to represent transnational organized crime as a complex, multidimensional problem, for the purpose of generating and evaluating coordinated international, whole-of-government solutions; it included both the use of “influence diagraming” in the formulation of appropriate national and sectoral policies, and the use of system dynamics-based simulation software to translate actions taken by participants into results. While focusing on coordination at the strategic level, the exercise also featured select events played at the operational level, designed to teach decisionmaking and international, interagency coordination under the dual pressures of time and uncertainty.
The game was well received by participants as an example of the commitment of the United States to working with Mexico and its other regional partners in an environment of professional respect in the shared struggle against transnational organized crime and other challenges collectively facing the region.