Third article in the CPAG series

By Dolly Rairigh Glass

Cyber training, the acquisition workforce and the growing world of live, virtual and constructive simulation dominated a gathering of defense leaders in Orlando. This was especially true for a participant who came back to the city to assume his dream job.

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Lt. Col. Walt Yates, PM TRASYS, addresses the attendees at the annual Combined Professional Associations Group Defense Forum breakfast. Yates, along with three other executives from Team Orlando gave an overview of the 2014 year and what they are expecting or planning for 2015.

Lt. Col. Walt Yates, program manager, Training Systems returned to Orlando about six months prior to taking the podium front and center at the Combined Professionals Association Group’s annual Defense Forum Breakfast in January. After a previous assignment at PM TRASYS, Yates said he hoped to return to Orlando one day.

“This is the job I’d hoped to be assigned for a long time,” Yates said. “My previous job in Orlando was a lot of fun and dealt more with how to find uses for new technology to address capability gaps—sort of like being a Disney Imagineer but applied to training systems.”

“The job I have now dictates that I get down to the nuts and bolts of executing the program, which means focusing on getting the funding and contractual vehicles established. These are necessary to the funding and delivery of training systems and services to the operating forces,” Yates said.

PM Training Systems has a broad scope in the type of acquisition contracting it does to develop training systems and live, virtual and constructive simulation domains.

“In addition to acquiring ‘things,’ we also manage contracting for services to support training systems across the Marine Corps, and the construction-like tasks needed for delivery of range training systems,” Yates said.

According to the colonel, range training systems, which include simulated buildings, are challenging to deliver while complying with laws governing military construction and real property.

“If the design of a training range for urban operations ends up consisting of structures that meet the legal definition of real property instead of equipment, then the delivery time is longer,” he said. “We have to obtain a different type of funding appropriation for military construction projects that can only be spent on a contract awarded by Naval Facilities Engineering Command.”

Like his colleagues on the panel, Yates agreed that cyber is a hot topic. He added that every place he’s gone, cyber is the only major operational area not suffering any cutbacks, and it continues to grow.

“Cyber training is coming, and it’s the big priority,” Yates said. “I’ve yet to find any well-defined requirements. What are those skills we’re trying to train and to what standards of proficiency? Is it offense, defense or both?”

Yates also said cyber business operations forms the base of the pyramid in systems engineering for the cyber domain. These are things enabled by network operations that do not directly deal with the enemy or cybersecurity.

“Our networks are how we live and operate, and that’s a very challenging area. You have to figure out how to train people to do things with the tools that we’ve already bought and deployed,” Yates said.

He also addressed the new DoD5000 published Jan. 7.

“I don’t know how many of you are aware it’s been published,” Yates said at the breakfast. “I know Mr. Kendall [Frank Kendall, undersecretary for Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics] uses the term ‘tailor,’ ‘tailoring’ or ‘tailored’ 50 times in the document. That sends a message that nothing is going to cross the finish line with every document and artifact present and every box checked.”

Yates said that in recent comments Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Sean Stackley said leaders should focus on the professional development of the people in the acquisition workforce. Stackley said every successful program has been carried across the finish line by acquisition professionals who understood the obstacles inherent in the system. Yet, they continued to develop the capability and field it within the constraints of cost, schedule and performance.

“Our acquisition workforce is a critical concern of mine with respect to our staffing levels and our ability to access technical expertise from outside the organization,” Yates said. “While we’re not under a hiring freeze and we don’t require review at the department level for every hiring decision, it’s still been a long time since we’ve hired government employees to the PM TRASYS’ staff.

“And we need to get those,” he continued. “If we had a substantial growth in the number of projects and systems under management, as we did in the 2005-2010 time period, we just don’t have the depth of personnel on hand to handle the additional work.”

Turning to live, virtual and constructive simulation, Yates noted a command motto that states, “All but war is simulation.”

“In the Marine Corps there is a cultural bias to prefer live training,” he said. “If Marines are asked if they’ve been trained, they’ll produce an expenditure report and exclaim, ‘Of course I’ve been trained! Look at all the empty shell cases, the fuel we’ve expended and the sweaty cammies.’

“But the expenditure of resources is not a good measure of whether we are training effectively or not,” Yates said. “One of our big challenges at PM TRASYS, which I think we will have nearly completed in the next few years, is to validate the effectiveness of all of our training systems that are programs of record we’ve fielded.”

The colonel said it is essential to get the entire portfolio of training simulations accredited and written into training and readiness manuals.

“Then we can ensure that every new start and capability has verification, validation and an accreditation plan,” Yates said. “That will result in an operational system being fielded with its training capability and the training capability being accredited as the way that we train. It also helps us defend our budget.”

The colonel then turned to the Live, Virtual and Constructive Large Scale Exercise 2014 that spanned the Western Range Complex, the country and everywhere else. He noted the “great teamwork and engineering expertise” of Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, MCSC, PM TRASYS, Training and Education Command and the Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity.

“We trained a lot of Marines and fully stressed the battle staff without putting what would have been literally tens of thousands of Marines in the field,” Yates said. “We learned, while we have disparate systems from a variety of pedigrees, making them talk to each other and interoperate wasn’t trivial, but it wasn’t the hardest thing we did.

“We managed to get them interoperating in the lab and then deploy out to the operating forces,” he said. “The biggest challenge was access to the networks and get the information assurance approvals necessary to conduct the exercise.”

Yates said a big part of what the live, virtual and constructive training environment will become is the resource allocation process. This is needed to get the exercise design and architecture of the simulation control plan built and approved. Then the Marine Corps Enterprise Network can be used to interconnect all of the forces distributed across the various bases and stations for distributed LVC training.

“I don’t think our LVC training environment program of record will be a lot of new hardware,” Yates said. “Most of it will be the processes by how we combine and connect over our existing networks.”