The S&T procurement horizon is examined through two prisms – in the US through 2013 TSIS and in Europe through an examination of policy initiatives in France and Austria. Chuck Weirauch and Walter F. Ullrich report.
It was a packed scene at the 2013 Training & Simulation Industry Symposium (TSIS). More than 700 attendees were anxiously waiting for information to assess the impact of US government sequestration and military budget cuts on their business. The good news they heard during the June 12-13 event in Orlando was that although the predictions of funding for future contracts was more speculative than in the past, the major training organizations announced they were not going to be that far off the mark from the yearly overall total value of contracts they have awarded in previous years.
For example, Rob Matthews, the Naval Air Warfare Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD)'s Deputy Technical Director, said that his organization estimates to be awarding contracts in excess of $1.5 billion of total value "over the next couple of years." He explained that 30 percent of those contracts would be offered in full and open competition, while 60 percent fall under major acquisition contracts.
Two areas that will "really take off" for future business are in the surface and undersea fleets, while international contracts for simulation devices are also growing quite rapidly, Matthews pointed out. Dale Whittiker, Director of International Programs, reported there is potentially $200 million in international contracts this year.
However, Tim Cichon, NAWCTSD's Supervisory Contract Specialist, put a bit of a damper on Matthews' report advising that more and more RFPs are going to emphasize "true best value" as a leading factor for proposals. He also pointed to sequestration as the" big elephant in the room" as far as when RFIs and RFPs would actually be issued due the impact of government and civilian employee furloughs.
Mike Merritt, NAWCTSD Director of Aviation Programs, was also cautionary, citing that contractors will find different requirements and cost estimates in RFPs than those seen in last year's TSIS announcements. A $160 million new simulator and refresh contract for the MH-60 helicopter was the highest value contract that he announced, also pointing to more NAWCTSD contracts for Marine Corps aviation and a contract for new MV- 22 Osprey training courseware.
John Freeman, Director of Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Programs, told the TSIS audience that Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Training contracts still make up the basis for growth in the Surface Fleet contract area. He outlined the LCS Mission Bay Trainer contract as a "big deal', as well as the LCS Contractor Operations and Maintenance Services and LCS Virtual Ship Training Systems contracts.
Brian Hicks, Director of Cross Warfare Programs, reported that his division is gaining new customers and more contract opportunities and stated that the Department of Homeland Security is a part of this growing market as is medical simulation and training. There is a focus on incorporating new and emerging technologies, particularly in the area of intelligent tutors. This technology is a "big imperative" across all of the Navy that has "very high-level attention," Hicks emphasized. For example, he cited the Intelligent Tutoring Authoring and Delivery System II contract, which will provide support for all Navy B and C schools.
Air Force Training Product Group
While the Navy only alluded to the impact of tight budgets and sequestration, the Air Force demonstrated the impact. The representatives of the Air Force Training and Simulation Product Group (TSPG) based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio had their travel budget cancelled and could only attend the Orlando TSIS virtually. The Group's separate annual TSIS held in Dayton and scheduled for May had also been scrubbed.
"One of our major challenges is that we are faced with is a diminishing dollar for training solutions," said TSPG Deputy Chief Edward Stanhouse. " In response, we are maximizing competition for our contracts and increasing opportunities for small businesses. We absolutely have to have those training hours."
The biggest news from the Air Force is that the service is "very close" to announcing the RFP for the $20.9 billion five-year renewable Training Systems Acquisition III (TSA III) omnibus contract, with that action thought to be taking place "this Fall." Eight other substantial contracts that will be awarded "over the next few years" were also announced at the event.
According to James Blake, Program Executive Officer for the Army's Simulation, Training and Simulation (PEOSTRI) organization, civilian employee sequestration and beyond will have a significant impact on the agency's procurement activities, resulting in the organization operating at 60 percent capacity during the third quarter of this year. As a result, all contract milestones can be expected to "move to the right" during this time. "This is a fiscal environment like one we have never seen before” he emphasized.
Regardless of that caveat, the PEO still projects that fiscal year 2013 contract obligations will reach $2.25 billion, according to PEOSTRI's Acquisition Center Director Joe Giunta. The FY 2012 total was $2.36 billion, he added. Guinta also stated that planning for the re-issue of the $270 million Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contract which will expire in August 2014 is in the works, while the draft RFP for the estimated $5 billion multiple award Train, Educate and Coach (TEACH) contract is now planned for issue in the first quarter of FY 2014.
Several other PEOSTRI contract areas and areas of further opportunity were highlighted during the 2013 TSIS. Col. Wayne Epps, Project Manager for Constructive Simulation, said that a primary area of concentration will be the Live, Virtual and Constructive Training Environment, with a particular focus for the increasing need for Home Station training. Col. Harry Buhl, Project Manager for Combined Arms Tactical Trainers (PM CATT), said that there would be "a tremendous growth" in the area of medical training systems. One of the opportunities will be in supporting the Air Force Medical Modeling System, while PEOSTRI will continue to grow its strategic partnership to provide training solutions for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Buhl explained.
Col. Mike Flanagan, Project Manager for Training Devices (PM TRADE), said that the Army will be providing more training systems support for the Marine Corps, with "the USMC and the Army doing a lot more together." Another emphasis is being placed on the Service Orientated Architecture (SOA), a service-shared platform that will be essential to the operation of mobile devices throughout the services, he added. Other areas of note include embedded training, the Mobile Instrumented training System, a new procurement contract for the One Tactical Engagement System (OneTESS) and a Tactical Vehicle Training system re-compete.
The European View
Training system procurement in Europe is complex and we sketch the training opportunities in two contrasting countries: France and Austria. In France a well-structured and government-supported organisation has been set up to actively promote the nation’s Simulation & Training sector; progress in neutral Austria largely depends on the improvisation skills and personal initiatives of the acting staff at each level in the military organisation.
In the military sector, France boasts one of the most competitive industries certainly in Europe, and perhaps even worldwide. This strength is a consequence of the great deal of support it receives from the French government, which is reflected in a strong preference for domestic companies when it comes to awarding contracts – just under two thirds of the French Armed Forces’ defence materiel is made in France. When it comes to exports, France is the world’s fourth largest supplier of major conventional weapons. The military-industrial complex is embedded in a framework of multifaceted relations whose main preoccupation is promoting the French armament sector.
DCI – Exporting Capability and Training
Since 1972, the Défense Conseil International (DCI), a mid-sized service company in which the French government is the concurring shareholder, has been enhancing the value of proposals made by the French defence industry by offering additional services to buyers from abroad. Within this scope the DCI does not merely support equipment sales but provides an operational capability, at the core of which stands training engineering in the academic, operational and technical fields, as well as maintenance and support services. The DCI branches, which have privileged contacts with the French Army and Gendarmerie (COFRAS), French Air Force (AIRCO), French Navy (NAVFCO) and French Armament Procurement Agency (DESCO), ensure state-of-the-art operational skills that are finely tuned to the particular needs of the respective service. The DCI and its subsidiaries are endeavouring to extend their activities to European Union countries.
ADIS – Promoting Simulation for Defence
The ADIS Group was created in September 1994 by the DGA, the French MoD’s Procurement Agency, to coordinate all activities related to simulation in the defence sector and to support cooperation between the parties involved. ADIS is the French acronym for Forces-DGA-Industry for Simulation. “From its beginning, it has been the preferred place dedicated to exchanging information between the armed forces, DGA and the defence industry,” said Henri Buenavida, Head of the Modelling, Simulation and Experimentation Division at the DGA and President of the ADIS Group.
The group is recognised by all subordinate organisations of the French MoD that have a say in simulation. It gathers together the Armed Forces, the DGA and defence industry in order to promote, explain and facilitate the use of simulation for the benefit of the French defence community. It also aims to improve the interoperability of simulation applications and tools, as well as the re-use of simulation components. To that end ADIS also carries out technical studies.
Today the ADIS Group comprises 50 industrial companies, 10 organisations of the armed forces, 20 DGA institutions and 200 individual members. ADIS activities also include organising various events, including an annual Military Simulation Symposium (dubbed SimDef), which over the past few years has gained in importance on an international level as well.
All parties involved confirm that the ADIS Group creates a win-win situation all round. Given that is the case it is surprising that even though ADIS is a highly influential institution and probably the most important network for French simulation professionals, it is quite unknown outside the country.
S&T in the French Armed Forces
The top French authority in simulation is the Joint Simulation Organisation co-chaired by both Joint Defence Staff and the DGA. The policy pursued by this high-ranking committee in recent years, namely to provide a great deal of support to simulation, has allowed for the progressive implementation of best practices for interoperability and reusability of components.
Three major projects are currently being studied: ELLIPSE investigates the interoperability of simulations among each other and between simulations and C2 systems. Contracted at the end of 2012, it will be operational in 2014. DIEDRES studies data and models for simulation with the aim of setting up management tools for users. ADIS is participating in the study. Finally, IRIS addresses rationalisation purposes, for instance using common components.
Major simulation projects for the future are linked to the weapon systems that are currently in the procurement process, such as the TIGRE and NH90 helicopters, the A400M transport aircraft, the aerial refuelling tanker MRTT, the multi-mission frigates FREMM, the BARRACUDA nuclear attack submarines, for instance, and the SCORPION, a challenging project intended to define future land equipment. One of the most expensive simulation programmes is the simulator for the French multirole fighter aircraft RAFALE, which will cost around €250m. Overall, the cost of the planned simulation measures is estimated at €1bn.
“These days we are struggling to defend the S&T budget. We argue that simulation is a way to maintain capabilities; and we can rationalise simulation even more to reduce costs,” said Lieutenant Colonel Laurent Tard from the Joint Programmes Division at the French General Staff. And he is optimistic: “Thanks to the steering committee at joint level everything is possible today in France!”
Despite many years of underfunding, the Austrian Armed Forces have always managed to make ends meet by applying sometimes unconventional, though ultimately pragmatic approaches.
MS&T sought out the secret to their success, especially in regard to training and simulation, querying Colonel Wolfgang Kralicek, Head of the Section for Training Equipment & Simulation at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Defence and Sports.
MS&T: Despite a sometimes difficult basic situation, your country has made various achievements in regard to training and simulation in recent years. Where do you see the most significant advances?
Col Kralicek: As far as simulation is concerned, there are three areas in which we have made substantial progress. First, I would have to mention the procurement of live simulation in connection with the construction of an urban training area on the military training area in ALLENTSTEIG; second, the use of low-cost simulation by the Institutes for Armoured Troops and for Artillery on Land Forces School; and, third, the putting into operation of the Eurofighter Training and Simulation Centre in ZELTWEG.
In fact, our financial resources are very limited. That is why I am proud to be able to classify our investments as successful. But this would not be the case if our employees had not shown such ambition and commitment in building up know-how in regard to developing and using simulation. So I want to say “thank you very much” to all of them.
MS&T: Like many other armed forces in the world, the Austrian Army is undergoing tough reforms. Apart from a few ubiquitous problems such as budget restraints, what difficulties are typical for Austria?
Col Kralicek: Austria is a member of the EU, the UN and NATO/PfP and does its best to fulfil mutually agreed tasks. But Austria is a neutral country as well, which influences our room for manoeuvre. All in all, though, I think that our soldiers have for many years been doing a good job in the most diverse deployments.
In recent years, the Austrian Armed Forces have been more and more focussed on missions abroad. In January this year we had a public opinion poll on whether to keep a conscription army or to change to a professional army. Since the population voted for a conscription army, working groups are now assessing how to optimise the duties relating to homeland defence and disaster relief.
MS&T: NATO’s Smart Defence and the European Union’s Pooling and Sharing are seen as means of addressing the impact of the financial crisis on European defence capabilities. What is the significance of this for Austria?
Col Kralicek: Austria has great ambitions to support the processes of “Pooling and Sharing” and NATO’s “Smart Defence”. But there are limitations, and they mean it will take time. Different equipment and, as a result, differed training and views often prevent progress being made more quickly.
In my view, the meaning of “Pooling and Sharing” and NATO’s “Smart Defence” is “give and take”, which implies making investments in certain areas.
MS&T: What projects will the Austrian Armed Forces be addressing in the coming years?
Col Kralicek: As regards simulation, I currently consider investments in our constructive Command & Staff Trainer, in linking our virtual low-cost simulation, in enhancing the capability for flight simulators and in live simulation and, last but not least, the use of simulations for operations research as very worthwhile. We are observing developments in NATO, especially the trend toward storing and providing simulation from a centralised point via the Internet. Changes in regard to that technology will pose a great challenge. Although I see many advantages, it will cause a lot of infrastructural problems.
But one thing is clear, namely that the major projects we will have to master in the coming years very much depend on the ambitions for national and international missions. And whatever these missions will be, I believe we have to support soldiers in their training by providing them with the appropriate training equipment and simulation.