Marine Wargaming Center, Allowing High-Tech Prep for War, Unveiled at Quantico

Retired Gen. Robert Neller delivers a speech
Retired Gen. Robert Neller delivers a speech in front of the General Robert B. Neller Center for Wargaming and Analysis at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia on May 31, 2024. (Photo by Drew F. Lawrence/

QUANTICO, Virginia -- Retired Gen. Robert Neller ordered the creation of a "secure, centralized" Marine Corps wargaming center in 2017.

Seven years later, his vision is finally coming to fruition -- and the building is named after the former commandant. The center will offer a lower-cost, low-threat chance for Marines and joint forces to prepare for war amid increasingly uncertain global security, according to officials at a dedication ceremony here on Friday.

The war-gaming center, set to fully open in 2025, comes as the Marine Corps is five years into an ambitious reorganization plan called Force Design, intended to make the service more agile and focused on a Pacific conflict with China. A key tenet of that plan includes ardent war-gaming: Marines leaders coming together to game out what that war would look like, refining strategy and organization in the process.

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"The Marine Corps will once again have figured out a way to get ahead of the game, because we've got to stay ahead of the game," Neller said, addressing a crowd of Marines and civilians in front of the center. "Because there's people out there that don't wish us well. We will not be naive about it."

The General Robert B. Neller Center for Wargaming and Analysis is located near the Potomac River at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

    The center, still under construction, covers more than 100,000 square feet and includes several sections for Marines -- and other services -- to practice planning for war scenarios. Its facilities boast a "war-gaming arena" with soundproof walls to allow for different levels of classification, a 350-person auditorium with an interactive floor display, and breakout rooms for leaders to strategize in smaller teams.

    "Modernization has been going rapidly and, if you think it's been going fast, wait until we get this building up and going," said Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and the deputy commandant for combat development and integration.

    The center will give Marines a chance to make mistakes and learn from the uncertain security environment where errors aren't "paid by a cost of Marines in blood," said Gen. Christopher Mahoney, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

    "Here's what's important about this building," Mahoney said. "It buys us something that the security environment is denying us right now, which is uncertainty from the Sahel to the Levant, from Donetsk over to Pyongyang."

    Officials said that one of the advantages of the center is its location -- close enough to Washington, D.C., for convenience, but far enough away from the bureaucratic noise of the city. Neller said that, once the center is up and running, sister services are more than welcome to take advantage of the facility.

    The center is maintained by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and will feature what the service said is "next-generation technology," alluding to the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive data analytics, as previously reported. also reported in 2020 that the service awarded BAE Systems the contract to build a prototype of the war-gaming center for $19 million, though the total cost of the center as it stands today is unclear.

    "It'll buy us a body of evidence that is backed by empirical data, backed by repetition and a level of fidelity," Mahoney said, "Where we set the analytic pace -- we set it -- not the Chinese, not the Russians or anybody else."

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