Second article in the CPAG series featuring AFAMS
By Dolly Rairigh Glass
Stepping in for Col. Bradley Crites, commander of the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation (AFAMS), Dr. Edward J. Degnan began his brief talking about the USAF’s perspective on the Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) environment. Degnan is AFAMS’ LVC Foundations division chief, and currently leading the USAF LVC Integrating Architecture’s efforts through his Agency.
“From a USAF perspective, we cannot have readiness, unless we have an LVC environment,” Degnan said. “It is now being spoken at the highest level, at the highest meetings, because we know that with all the digital systems that support air, space, cyber and other fields like medical, we got to have this right and available on a consistent basis.”
He said that Col. Crites’ priority is to make sure that all Airmen have the right training and be prepared, when going in harm’s way. “LVC is one of the USAF’s game-changing, innovative capabilities that must be fully deployed in order to advance warfighter readiness with the ultimate goal to fly, fight and win,” he added.
“Historically, especially for the flight community, we have done it through live flying. We are now looking at it and changing that approach,” he said. “We have to figure out the right type of capabilities and make the live experience as effective as it can be. To be able to do those things we no longer can do in a live environment.”
However, he warned, “We’re not saying we are going to trade flight hours for dollars. We’re asking, what’s the most efficient way to maintain readiness within the most effective environment?” Degnan then added this will require the USAF change the existing training and business approach to a more corporate, Enterprise level.
He also shared some of the current “big rocks” they are working on, which are all driven top down. “Leadership is saying there are areas, such as Standards, and common data sources we’re going to work, implement, and direct, and we have to get buy-in from the major stakeholders. But at the same time, the time for discussions, the time for more studies, and the time for scientific research projects, just for the sake of research, are over. Resource constraints and the need for maintaining readiness are forcing this.”
A major initiative is the entire concept of the Readiness Training Centers (RTCs) and trying to figure out how certain designated facilities have a broader skillset interest. Currently, there is an implementation plan out for a Two-Star level review. “Basically, the concept is that some RTCs will be focused specifically either on the virtual or constructive, but other will focus on regional training with implications to coalition training, like the Warrior Preparation Center,” Degnan said. “With this approach, the focus is on the USAF as a whole, including the relationships with the Combatant Commanders, other Services, joint communities and coalition partners.”
Another ‘big rock’ is the entire concept of Standards. “Everyone talks about Standards,” Degnan said. “Within the last year, the USAF published the LVC-Operational Training Standards Profile geared toward interoperability and integration of simulations. We are now working to integrate the acquisition language into USAF policies and instruction documents to drive our process and procedures for the ability to enforce Standards. Without this enforcement capability, especially in the area of integration and interoperability, it’s not going to work.”
Degnan also discussed the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) process that started in 2009 and how the USAF is continuing to go through. “It doesn’t mean we are standing down and haven’t done anything about finding LVC solutions,” he said. “The process has been improved, but all the wickets to get it up through the Air Force Requirements Oversight Council (AFROC), and then back up to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, are cumbersome, but we’ll just continue to work.”
With regard to the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) report, Degnan said the USAF is about to move this forward. “We are working with Combatant Commands, the Navy, and the Army regularly, sharing resources to address issues that impact specific Department of Defense’s training areas. It’s a great example of collaboration” he said.
Degnan said that another area the USAF is evaluating is which network option is the best solution for the Nellis Virtual Warfare Center: a closed or open network. “We need to figure out what’s the best construct for the USAF as a whole in order to provide training, specifically for the fighter community, and have acceptable risk due to the cyber threats,” he explained. “We are working with the high-fidelity simulator community trying to get the standardization of databases within those. Currently, there are too many types of databases and scenario generators. At the Enterprise level, the USAF is trying to figure out how we can reduce that number from 20 or 30 options to one or two,” said Degnan.
With regard to cybersecurity, the AFAMS’ subject matter expert stated that, just like everyone else, the USAF is learning. “We are constantly training and getting people qualified,” he said. “We’re also focusing on having leadership and all Airmen able to understand the need, and provide a cybersecurity workforce that understands LVC. This is a ‘front burner’ item for us.”
“The real issue of cybersecurity is when we put ourselves and our high-end simulators on a network; it opens up our vulnerabilities,” he said. “A key factor or assumption is that, given enough time, someone will try and successfully break into your network.”
Degnan also mentioned that currently the USAF is looking forward to bring other elements under their constructive umbrella to incorporate such things as Space and Integrated Missile Defense. “The purpose is cut down the footprint on those types of constructive simulations,” he said. “We cannot afford the large-scale events and the numbers of people it requires to run these events. We need to be able to reduce the resources, time, people and money to deliver it in a cloud environment, and ensure it is secure.”
But like the rest of the panel, the USAF must continue to move forward in this resource-constrained environment – but how? “When we say we can do it cheaper with technology; that’s true,” Degnan said. “But you‘ve got to invest in that technology upfront and go through the acquisition process. And as we have seen, that process is cumbersome. To follow the process is difficult because the technology changes often and fast. In the USAF, it has changed significantly from when we started six years ago.”
“Although Col. Crites was unable to be here, AFAMS definitely wanted to participate in this event,” Degnan told the CPAG’ guests. “Because by getting support from the M&S industry and academia, it is how we are going to solve some of these issues. We must develop a collaborative process that gets industry, academia, defense, and our Nation on the flight path to Readiness thru LVC!”