The US DoD budget anticipates continued spending reductions across the services’ portfolios in FY 2014. At the same time the services are protecting their S&T investments by primarily providing incremental advancements and modernization of legacy systems and equipment, yet still funding several new programs. Group Editor Marty Kauchak reports.
The Obama administration’s $526.6 billion fiscal year 2014 defense budget request was delivered to Capitol Hill this April. The draft budget reduces the services’ funding from FY13 levels and keeps the Defense Department on course to reduce expenditures by approximately $487 billion through 2023 as directed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The FY 14 budget document was also sent to Congress under clouds of uncertainty. Given the inability of the Obama administration and Congress to work together to fix other problems created by the 2011 Budget Control Act, including its across-the-board cuts better known as sequestration, additional reductions may be mandated for the upcoming budget year.
While the department’s overall FY14 funding will decrease, the services are eyeing the preservation of important investments in their S&T accounts.
FY 2014 Priorities
The latest Pentagon budget will primarily provide regular, planned enhancements in existing systems and technology, and also support a limited number of new programs.
Kristen McCullough, PEO STRI’s spokesperson, managed expectations quite well for her service when she emphasized the Army is looking to make quality improvements to training programs vice quantity improvements, by modifying existing training technologies so they are relevant and rigorous enough for today’s combat seasoned soldier. “That being said, there will be incremental improvements to current training enablers, like the Engagement Skills Trainer and the Homestation Instrumentation Training System, so that these devices meet the home station training needs of already incredibly proficient soldiers.”
McCullough’s overview is tailored well to budget realities – the Army’s portion of the FY 14 DoD budget request is $129.7 billion. The new base budget request is about $5 billion less than fiscal 2013’s request.
Reductions aside, the new budget request is expected to support the Army’s three top FY14 simulation and training priorities.
At the top of the service’s priority list is the continued development and fielding of the Army’s Live, Virtual and Constructive-Integrating Architecture (LVC-IA). McCullough told MS&T that her service is, “delivering the first version, which enables live, virtual and constructive training assets to interoperate in such a way that commanders and staffs get a bona fide training experience (through constructive training) while the individual soldiers or crews also train in a meaningful way (via live and virtual training). The first version provides the main building blocks for an integrated training environment, and we’re now preparing the second version, which we will unveil in FY15, that includes gaming capabilities and squad-level training through the Dismounted Soldier Training System.”
The LVC-IA Version 1 industry team, led by Cole Engineering Services, Inc. includes Camber, Engineering and Computer Simulations and Intelligent Decision Systems, Inc.
An upgrade to range communication at the Army’s Combat Training Centers remains another priority investment. The current communication equipment, which is the backbone of a training exercise as it provides location information of troops and equipment, and adjudicates between hits and misses, is out of date. McCullough pointed out the Combat Training Center-Instrumentation System program will work in FY14 to provide the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, the range communication upgrade in FY15; the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana, will be upgraded in FY17. “From these upgrades, real-time information will flow to the operation control center in a more effective manner, observer controllers can stitch together a more comprehensive after-action review and the division commander will more easily be able to see what is going on and even throw a curveball into the training exercise,” she added.
The Army’s third priority is one which the S&T industry should keep on its watch list. Work is also well underway in the upcoming award of a major contract vehicle, the Train, Educate and Coach acquisition, which is referred to as the TEACH contract. McCullough explained “TEACH will be a multi-award, services-based contract to increase competition and provide the Army and other military components and agencies with a contract vehicle to procure cost-efficient training services.”
Beyond these near-term priorities, the S&T sector has other opportunities to help its Army customer meet rapidly evolving requirements, much as industry did during more than 10 years of persistent combat operations. “We see a definite need for simulation and training capabilities to support the preparation of our regionally aligned forces, which prepares troops for operations in a particular part of the world by immersing them in the culture, language and landscape for which they will deploy. Regionally aligned forces will also deploy as a joint task force, with multiservice, interagency coalition partners, so simulated training preparation for this level of partnership will be key for future success,” McCullough remarked.
It should also come as no surprise that Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), emphasized during his spring congressional budget testimony appearances, the need for his service’s $155.8 billion share of the new budget to adequately fund flight hours and by extension, preserve training readiness.
But our particular interest in this budget survey was this service’s simulation and training programs beyond the oft-discussed aviation domain, in particular, for the surface warfare community. The fleet’s short list of S&T priorities to support the CNO’s three tenets- Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready - includes “development of surface simulator training systems that accurately reflect the platform tactical capability, the projected operating environment and a doubling of the availability and reliability over current tactical training systems,” a Navy official told MS&T.
The new proposed budget also retains current live training capabilities and at the same time advances the virtual and constructive training domains. Specifically, the budget improves ship and Fleet Synthetic Training capability in areas associated with tactical modernization. Warfare areas include Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), to include Integrated Fire Control and C5I. The service official also cautioned that, “based on cost, schedule and current ship architecture issues, ship modernization rates preclude the rapid fielding of high-fidelity training systems.”
Even with that caveat, the FY14 budget includes a new-start project that supports Foreign Military Sales, and Littoral Combat Ship and Aegis Ashore Team Trainer simulator programs to develop high-fidelity ASW and IAMD Aegis simulators at fleet concentration areas.
General James Amos, the Marine Corps’ Commandant, provided a number of FY14 training priorities to the House Armed Services Committee this April. The S&T community should note the commandant’s emphasis on modernization and enhancements, as opposed to new system procurements, throughout all of the service’s materiel portfolios. In one instance the senior Marine Corps’ officer reiterated that his service’s modernization efforts in ground training simulation systems have capitalized on advancements in technology developed over a decade of preparing Marines for combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Leveraging our success with these programs, we will further enhance combat training to maintain our readiness for the current and future security environments. These critical simulation systems develop combat unit proficiency in core skills such as command and control, leadership decision-making, and combined arms coordination. They develop proficiency in individual skills through combat convoy vehicle operator training, advanced gunnery training, and individual marksmanship,” he added.
Significant, New Program
In another part of the Pentagon E-ring, the Air Force staff is also looking at its $144.4 billion FY14 budget request, down from $154.3 billion in FY 13, to support its leading S&T projects.
Major Matthew Hasson, a spokesperson at the Air Force Press Desk at the Pentagon, emphasized his service made a conscious effort to address shortfalls in full-spectrum readiness as part of its FY14 budget submission. “These efforts include increased investment in flying hours and range support for live training as well as maintaining investments in improved LVC-OT [operational training] devices. The Air Force continues to search for additional means to effectively and efficiently improve LVC-OT capabilities to complement and enhance training conducted in the live training environment,” he explained.
Beyond flight hours and legacy system enhancements, the Air Force budget request fully funds the Air Force’s new KC-46A Aircrew Training Systems (ATS) program. Flight Safety Services Corporation is the prime contractor to deliver an array of devices to support one of the Pentagon’s major new training systems’ contracts. (See sidebar).
As in any budget environment, there are winners and losers. The long-gestating T(X) will again fall into the latter category. Captain Nick Plante, another spokesperson at the Air Force Press Desk, said that while his service recognizes the need to replace its fleet of T-38 trainer aircraft, the current constrained budget environment has made it difficult to fund the T-X program and establish a firm Initial Operational Capability date. “Funding requested in the FY14 President’s Budget Request will sustain the T‑X program office and allow preliminary studies and analyses leading to an eventual acquisition program,” he added.
KC-46A Aircrew Training System Takes Flight
The KC-46 has been identified as one of the US Air Force’s top three investment priorities for the budget out years. The Air Force contracted with Boeing in February 2011 to acquire an attention-getting 179 KC-46 tankers to begin recapitalizing the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet. The initial delivery target is for 18 tankers by 2017. Production will then ramp up to deliver all 179 tankers by 2028.
This May, FlightSafety Services Corporation was awarded the contract to supply the program Aircrew Training System (ATS). The contract includes running the school house at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, developing training curriculum, as well as engineering, manufacturing, delivery and support of multiple flight training devices.
Steve Phillips, Vice President for Communications at FlightSafety International, told MS&T that the contract currently encompasses 13 years (2013- 2026).
FlightSafety will develop the training devices concurrently with the new aircraft. A Systems Integration Lab will be built and maintained at FlightSafety and five device types will be built:
- 17 Weapon Systems Trainers;
- 15 Boom Operator Trainers;
- 5 Pilot Part Task Trainers;
- 2 Boom Operator Part Task Trainers; and
- 11 Fuselage Trainers.
“The Weapon Systems Trainers will feature FlightSafety’s Crewview collimated glass surfaces.
Our VITAL Image Generation System will supply the image generation, databases and sensor channels for the Weapon Systems Trainers and Boom Operator Trainers,” Phillips said.
Boom Operator Trainers will utilize 3-D displays to replicate the air fueling operator station and six degrees-of-freedom electric motion to provide the kinetic cues while coupled with the Weapon Systems Trainers or in a stand-alone mode.
The Flushing, New York-based spokesperson further noted FlightSafety’s engineering staff will use computational fluid dynamics and other predictive data to develop models to simulate real-world reactions for the interaction of tankers and receivers for various aircraft under ARASQ (Aerial Refueling Aircraft Simulator Qualification).
As this issue was published the Air Force-industry team was working toward these remaining major ATS major milestones through the remainder of this year, based on the May 1, 2013 award date:
- System Functional Review: August 2013;
- Preliminary Design Review: September 2013; and
- Critical Design Review: November 2013
“The ready for training date for all of the Engineering and Manufacturing Development training devices, courseware, and Training System Support at the Altus Schoolhouse is February 29, 2016. Production option deliveries are scheduled at eight Main Operating Bases starting in 2016,” Phillips added. – Marty Kauchak