By Dolly Rairigh Glass
Last January, when the four Service leads came together at the annual Combined Professional Associations Group (CPAG) Defense Forum Breakfast to recap 2012 and set the tone for their goals and expectations in 2013, it was mental preparation for those in attendance, mainly industry, to outline what was expected to be a challenging year with budget constraints, continuing resolutions and the beginning of sequestration.
But at this year’s breakfast on Jan. 10, although it’s true that many of those same challenges still exist, there was an optimism stemming from each presentation that left a good number of the attendees believing that 2014 might just be okay for the Modeling, Simulation and Training industry that supports Team Orlando.
The presentations began with Dr. Jim Blake, Program Executive Officer, Simulation, Training and Instrumentation giving an overview of the challenges his organization is facing in the current fiscal environment and how they will overcome them moving forward.
He said the combination of constrained resources and a significant reduction to the Army’s force structure play a major role in positioning their portfolio of training aids and devices to meet the Army’s training needs. He added, though, that a commitment from the Army’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno, to ensure Soldiers are mission ready was encouraging to hear.
“Gen. Odierno has made a commitment to ensure we have what we need to make sure the troops are trained and ready,” Blake said. “That means from a training resource point of view, it doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did two months ago.” What still looks bleak though, he added, is the needed manpower to accomplish the mission.
“From a people point of view, we still have a hiring freeze in place and we are working to get approval for hiring outside of the command,” he said. “We have had a significant loss, mainly through retirements, of senior contracting employees and two additional senior leader positions and filling those slots is a priority for PEO STRI.”
One major area in which he addressed how industry can play a role in meeting the current challenges is through designing more user-friendly training devices so Soldiers can take over the roles of instructor-operator, a task that has been primarily handled by contractors over the past 12 years.
“One of the things we’re going to have to do is build our training devices and our equipment so our Soldiers can operate it throughout the life cycle,” Blake said. “We need to make it simpler and intuitive enough that Soldiers can do it without a book and I need your help with that.”
He closed by sharing the theme of next year’s Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) of which the Army is the lead service – Trained and Mission Ready: Deter, Defend, Defeat.
Like the Army, the Marine Corps is also looking at their growth in the Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) simulation architecture, said Dan Torgler, Program Manager, Training Systems. “We’re going to do our famous R & D, rip off and duplicate what the Army is doing, because we don’t have the funding,” Torgler said.
“We do have money for our current programs, but we have to spend it quickly. To make that happen, we are moving all of our competitions to the left, so second quarter you’ll see a lot of RFPs coming out, as well as multiple site industry days.”
Torgler told the group he just returned from Camp Pendleton where the Marine Corps is looking at how to incorporate their standalone training systems into a LVC simulation architecture. “We are not only looking to do that for the Marine Corps but also looking at tying in with the Army and the Naval forces as well.”
Torgler added that there’s not a lot of money forecasted for 2015, and the money he has access to for 2014 is designated for sustainment and services work.
Capt. Steve “Snak” Nakagawa, Commander, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD), began by recognizing the efforts of the community. “I have not seen other communities that continue to have energy and people that really do, in fact, get together and stay together like this modeling, simulation and training community does,” said Nakagawa. “Thank you for continuing to support these events.”
Nakagawa identified the focus for the Navy in 2014, beginning with cyber security and how they’re looking at ways industry can help lean forward in the cyber security world.
“As Secretary Panetta said, even a while ago, the cyber world is potentially the next Pearl Harbor,” said Nakagawa. “And when we hear Pearl Harbor that means a lot. That’s something that was unexpected, and we didn’t really think about it.”
Furthermore, he noted that with the expectation of connectedness and the openness it brings, it increases our vulnerability. “We have more and more systems that are completely connected and with all those things connected, especially our water and energy systems, those things are very much vulnerable,” said Nakagawa.
He explained that Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) training is a focus area that is still being defined, but that the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has capability in the area and NAWCTSD is working in it. “We’re looking at how to connect the virtual and the constructive intelligently and smoothly while presenting a proper picture, and then displaying that picture to live users,” said Nakagawa.
“But we’re also looking at the science of learning and how much fidelity is the right amount to make sure we hit the training and readiness credits. That’s where the dollars are saved.”
For the constructive piece of LVC, Nakagawa said they have to figure out how to get smart, semi-automated forces to really present the right picture in the mode of adaptive training. “It needs continued research, so the more you can do if you’ve got the dollars to spend in your own companies in those areas, the better off that’s going to be for all of us,” he said. “And that area is going to bloom like crazy.”
Another area that Nakagawa said will be growing very quickly in a big way is intelligent tutoring. “Right now we’re looking at doing a services contract for a short period of time, and then also a contract to do an intelligent tutoring authoring system to create a framework and a set of tools that allows the user to plug in any syllabus,” Nakagawa said.
Finally, he said it was important for him today to ‘debunk the myth’ that surfaced after the last PALT. “There is no requirement for the Navy to go LPTA (lowest price technically acceptable),” said Nakagawa. He explained that recent contract awards were based upon providing “best value” to the government.
The final speaker of the morning was the newest Service lead to come on board, Colonel Franz Plescha, Commander, Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation. “The first 20-some years, you’re at a tactical level and you put you head down and get the job done. This is the first assignment where I’ve been able to see this much support for our military all the time. It makes me proud to be an American and it makes me proud to be in the military.”
Like the other Services, Plescha talked about LVC and how the Air Force feels it has a good idea of what that is and where they need to go to get there.
He continued, “A lot of goodness has been happening with LVC for years, even before it was called ‘LVC’, and in the Air Force for decades. What we have now is more of a transformation because it’s no longer only from the bottom that everybody is trying to do good things. This will be led from the top and we need to get organized to do it, and then dictate this as the way to prepare for readiness in the future.”
Plescha said the transition is more of a change in the thought process. “The goal remains readiness. We all know it refers to training, so yes, every Service is using the term readiness, but it’s really the approach that has changed.”
“It’s no longer about ‘I have to trade live fly because I don’t have the money and I have to go to the simulator.’ It’s about our training squares, and instead of just thinking live, and using the simulator as a back up, it’s putting LVC integration together and having enhanced training environments,” he said. “With the capability that exists out there, you actually couldn’t put together a scenario difficult enough for some of the weapons systems available without using LVC.”
“So what that means is we have to get our stuff consolidated as an organization and make sure we are ready to do this,” Plescha said. “That’s what I’m talking about when I say it’s really a transformation that I see going on.”
And that is the job of AFAMS, he reminded the attendees. They are the implementing organization to ensure the Air Force is properly prepared and resourced to be doing and executing LVC. The goal is to have data level interoperability, training and test analysis where all the communities are using the same data sets, and then eventually all the Services use them as well.
“The full LVC dream is ‘Readiness through LVC’,” Plescha believed. “And that’s what AFAMS is pursuing.”