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MASS, a Cohort plc company, has successfully developed and supported delivery of the ‘Ends’ module capstone exercise for the Advanced Command and Staff Course (ACSC) Management of Defence course at the UK Defence Academy in Shrivenham.

The ACSC, which runs for 44 weeks, focuses on ‘Ends’, ‘Ways’ and ‘Means’ modules and aims to help participants develop the skills necessary to solve the complex defence and security problems they will experience as their careers evolve. The ‘Ends’ module explores how policy and strategy is formulated and executed from a practitioner’s perspective. It also aims to deepen participants’ understanding of cross-government working at the national strategic level.

The MASS exercise design concept is based around the challenges of working at cross-government level and allows participants the opportunity to use their strategic decision-making and policy formulation skills to solve complex defence- and security-related problems […] The exercise was set in the real world - as opposed to virtually as is the case with many wargames – and in an environment that highlights a range of issues beyond the traditional confines of defence and security. The key differentiator of the exercise is that it is managed and not choreographed – with exercise staff lightly steering participants, rather than directing, to ensure that the actions of the participants determines the outcome of the course,” commented Head of Training Support at MASS, Steve Townsend.

MASS began planning the extensive exercise eight months in advance, with the company working under ACSC direction to develop robust fictional scenarios able to meet the training requirements of the Management of Defence module. Scenario development involved creating the appropriate ‘catalysts,’ set in a real world near-future context, to generate exercise game play. To accompany these scenarios, MASS produced a wide range of exercise support documentation, including: departmental and country briefs; Wikipedia-pages; national and strategic digests; and guidance for participants on strategic analysis and briefing skills.

Beckett House at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, where the ACSC is administered. (Photo: Crown copyright)

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