This paper describes FOX-GA, a genetic algorithm (GA) that generates and evaluates plans in the complex domain of military maneuver planning. FOX-GA's contributions are to demonstrate an effective application of GA technology to a complex real world planning problem, and to provide an understanding of the properties needed in a GA solution to meet the challenges of decision support in complex domains. Previous obstacles to applying GA technology to maneuver planning include the lack of efficient algorithms for determining the fitn ess of plans. Detailed simulations would ideally be used to evaluate these plans, but most such simulations typically require several hours to assess a single plan. Since a GA needs to quickly generate and evaluate thousands of plans, these methods are too slow. To solve this problem we developed an efficient evaluator (wargamer) that uses course-grained representations of this problem domain to allow appropriate yet intelligent trade-offs between computational efficiency and accuracy. An additional challenge was that users needed a diverse set of significantly different plan options from which to choose. Typical GA's tend to develop a group of “best” solutions that may be very similar (or identical) to each other. This may not provide users with sufficient choice. We addressed this problem by adding a niching strategy to the selection mechanism to insure diversity in the solution set, providing users with a more satisfactory range of choices. FOX-GA's impact will be in providing decision support to time constrained and cognitively overloaded battlestaff to help them rapidly explore options, create plans, and better cope with the information demands of modern warfare.

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