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date: 28 June 2022

Red Teaming and Crisis Preparednesslocked

Red Teaming and Crisis Preparednesslocked

  • Gary AckermanGary AckermanCollege of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity, SUNY Albany
  •  and Douglas CliffordDouglas CliffordCenter for Advanced Red Teaming, SUNY Albany

Summary

Simulations are an important component of crisis preparedness, because they allow for training responders and testing plans in advance of a crisis materializing. However, traditional simulations can all too easily fall prey to a range of cognitive and organizational distortions that tend to reduce their efficacy. These shortcomings become even more problematic in the increasingly complex, highly dynamic crisis environment of the early 21st century. This situation calls for the incorporation of alternative approaches to crisis simulation, ones that by design incorporate multiple perspectives and explicit challenges to the status quo.

As a distinct approach to formulating, conducting, and analyzing simulations and exercises, the central distinguishing feature of red teaming is the simulation of adversaries or competitors (or at least adopting an adversarial perspective). In this respect, red teaming can be viewed as practices that simulate adversary or adversarial decisions or behaviors, where the purpose is informing or improving defensive capabilities, and outputs are measured. Red teaming, according to this definition, significantly overlaps with but does not directly correspond to related activities such as wargaming, alternative analysis, and risk assessment.

Some of the more important additional benefits provided by red teaming include the following:

▪ The explicit recognition and amelioration of several cognitive biases and other critical thinking shortfalls displayed by crisis decision makers and managers in both their planning processes and their decision-making during a crisis.

▪ The ability to robustly test existing standard operating procedures and plans at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels against emerging threats and hazards by exposing them to the machinations of adaptive, creative adversaries and other potentially problematic actors.

▪ Instilling more flexible, adaptive, and in-depth sense-making and decision-making skills in crisis response personnel at all levels by focusing the training aspects of simulations on iterated, evolving scenarios with high degrees of realism, unpredictability through exploration of nth-order effects, and multiple stakeholders.

▪ The identification of new vulnerabilities, opportunities, and risks that might otherwise remain hidden if relying on traditional, nonadversarial simulation approaches.

Key guidance in conducting red teaming in the crisis preparedness context includes avoiding mirror imaging, having clear objectives and simulation parameters, remaining independent of the organizational unit being served, judicious application in terms of the frequency of red teaming, and the proper recording and presentation of red-teaming simulation outputs. Overall, red teaming—as a specific species of simulation—holds much promise for enhancing crisis preparedness and the crucial decision-making that attends a variety of emerging issues in the crisis management context.

Subjects

  • Contentious Politics and Political Violence
  • Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy
  • Qualitative Political Methodology
  • Quantitative Political Methodology

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