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Strategic decision-making in uncertain and adversarial environments is crucial for the security of modern systems and infrastructures. A salient feature of many optimal decision-making policies is a level of unpredictability, or randomness, which helps to keep an adversary uncertain about the system’s behavior. This paper seeks to explore decision-making policies on the other end of the spectrum – namely, whether there are benefits in revealing one’s strategic intentions to an opponent before engaging in competition.We study these scenarios in a well-studied model of competitive resource allocation problem known as General Lotto games. In the classic formulation, two competing players simultaneously allocate their assets to a set of battlefields, and the resulting payoffs are derived in a zero-sum fashion. Here, we consider a multi-step extension where one of the players has the option to publicly pre-commit assets in a binding fashion to battlefields before play begins. In response, the opponent decides which of these battlefields to secure (or abandon) by matching the pre-commitment with its own assets. They then engage in a General Lotto game over the remaining set of battlefields. Interestingly, this paper highlights many scenarios where strategically revealing intentions can actually significantly improve one’s payoff. This runs contrary to the conventional wisdom that randomness should be a central component of decision-making in adversarial environments.


ESI Working Paper 21-23



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