Whether it’s a tabletop simulation for cybersecurity, a natural disaster exercise for emergency response teams, or a military drill for defense preparedness, simulation exercises are integral to training and development across various industries.

They offer an invaluable opportunity for personnel to practice their skills, identify gaps, and refine strategies, all in a controlled environment that simulates real-world conditions. 

However, planning and executing a simulation exercise can be a costly affair. The various elements like human resources, technology, and logistics demand substantial financial investment. But cutting corners is not an option, as ineffective simulations can lead to unprepared teams, thereby negating the purpose of the exercise. 

So, how do you maximize the ROI of your simulation exercise budget? Here are four key factors to consider from a buyer’s perspective. 

1. Scope and Objectives for the Simulation Exercise Program Budgeting  

The first step in planning your budget is to outline the scope and objectives of the simulation exercise. Understanding your goals will help you tailor the simulation to your needs and avoid unnecessary expenditures. 

Type of Simulation: The type of simulation you choose, whether a simple tabletop exercise or a full-scale multi-agency drill, will significantly impact the budget. More extensive, complex simulations require more resources, from technology and materials to personnel and time. 

Level of Realism: Realistic settings and scenarios demand higher budgets. For example, if you require specialized equipment, virtual environments, or expert facilitators, these elements will cost extra. 

Target Audience: Who the simulation is for is just as critical. The complexity and size of the participating team will affect everything from the location to the amount of simulation materials needed. 

Knowing the scope will help you allocate resources more effectively and negotiate better with vendors, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck. 

Related: The Business Case for Tailored Crisis and Emergency Preparedness Scenarios

2. Budgeting for Technology and Materials  

With advancements in technology, simulation exercises have transcended the limitations of traditional methods, offering an immersive experience that closely resembles real-world conditions. However, high-end technology comes at a cost. 

Software: Specialized software for running the simulation can range from affordable to extremely expensive based on the features you require. 

Hardware: Do you need additional hardware like VR headsets, simulation dummies, or rented locations that mimic real-world environments? 

Be judicious in your technology investment. Sometimes, more straightforward, less expensive options can achieve your objectives just as effectively. 

3. Human Resources to Delivery the Simulation Exercise Program  

The expertise and time of the people involved are often one of the most significant expenses in any simulation exercise. 

Facilitators: Experienced facilitators can guide the exercise, ensuring it stays on track and meets its objectives. Their fees can be a significant part of the budget. 

Participants: If your organization must halt certain operations to free up staff for the exercise, this downtime is a cost to consider. 

Observers and Evaluators: Qualified people who can observe, evaluate, and later debrief the participants are essential for the success of any simulation. 

4. Miscellaneous Costs When Budgeting for Simulation Exercises  

While the above categories comprise the bulk of the budget, numerous smaller costs can add up. 

Logistics: Transporting people and materials to the simulation site and providing meals and accommodation can be expensive. 

Administrative Costs: Preparing documents, permissions, or even additional insurance coverage could add to the budget. 

Contingency Funds: Always set aside a portion of the budget for unforeseen costs. 

Related: The Value Proposition: Investing in Professionally Designed Tabletop Crisis Management Workshops


Planning your budget for a simulation exercise is a balancing act. You need to achieve your objectives without unnecessary expenditures, all while maintaining the quality and effectiveness of the exercise. By focusing on the scope and objectives, carefully selecting the technology and materials, allocating sufficient funds for human resources, and accounting for miscellaneous costs, you can plan a successful simulation exercise that offers a high return on investment. 

Rob Burton
Rob Burton

Rob is a Principal at PreparedEx where he manages a team of crisis preparedness professionals and has over 20 years of experience preparing for and responding to crises. Part of his leadership role includes assisting PreparedEx clients in designing, implementing and evaluating crisis, emergency, security and business continuity management programs. During his career Rob has worked for the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, as a crisis management consultant in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he negotiated with the UN and Pashtun tribal warlords and he served with the United Kingdom Special Forces where he operated internationally under hazardous covert and confidential conditions. Rob was also part of a disciplined and prestigious unit The Grenadier Guards where he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Palaces in London. Rob was a highly trained and experienced infantryman serving in Desert Storm and commanded covert operational teams and was a sniper. Rob has keynoted disaster recovery conferences and participated in live debates on FOX News regarding complex security requirements and terrorism. Rob has a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.