By Theresa Bradley

Immediately following the opening ceremonies at I/ITSEC 2015, a panel of six senior officers representing multiple branches of the military and DoD discussed the necessities for remaining innovative in the face of mounting challenges, including downsizing and reorganizations, continued threats of terrorism across the globe and cyber attacks. They spoke to a standing-room only crowd of an estimated 2,000 – 3,000.

The panel included:

• Frank C. DiGiovanni, SES, Director, Force Readiness and Training, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness)
• Vice Admiral Javier Gonzalez-Huix, ESP N, Deputy Chief of Staff Joint Force Trainer, NATO HQ SACT
• Vice Admiral Paul A. Grosklags, USN, Commander, Naval Air Systems Commander
• Lt. General Michael E. Williamson, USA, Military Deputy/Director, Army Acquisition Corps, Office of Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology)
• Major General James N. Post III, USAF, Director, Current Operations, Headquarters Air Force
• Major General James W. Lukeman, USMC, Commanding General Training and Education Command

Across the board, panelists agreed continued innovation is essential to remaining combat ready and that resource constraints are nothing new. Despite the challenges, they said the military must continue to fund and lead the way in new training technologies, as well as leverage existing technologies in new ways. There was concern that the growing popularity of simulation and training (S&T) in the private sector could draw S&T providers’ attention away from defense and result in the military losing its leadership role.

The birth of S&T is rooted in the U.S. military, which fostered the industry’s growth over the last couple of decades, but in recent years has cut spending in this area and others. As a result, military contractors have looked to industries such as health care, energy and transportation to expand opportunities.

Innovation was defined differently by panelists, but DiGiovanni drew a distinction between “young minds” and “thinking young.” He said that innovation is not in the purview of the young, as he has often heard, but is instead the product of young thinking. He said we must continue to keep our minds young, which means looking at situations with open minds and taking chances.

DiGiovanni explained: “When you are young you are a naturally innovative thinker. What happens between 10 and 60? Innovation is a personality trait, and some of us have that trained or beaten out of us. Some of us are able to hold onto that trait. There’s no reason for someone to stop being an innovative thinker at age 60 if they were an innovative thinker at age 10.”

Panelists discussed the positive impacts that S&T has had on training their respective forces and cited the advantages of being able to train anytime, anywhere.