SAIC’s Vice President, Training and Simulation, Technical & Engineering Services Group speaks with Group Editor Marty Kauchak

Josh Jackson leads SAIC’s training and simulation service line within the Technical & Engineering Services Group. He is responsible for setting the company’s training and simulation vision, the leadership of approximately 1,000 professionals and overseeing solutions and investments in SAIC's training and simulation business.

Jackson responded to questions for the record on October 29, 2013.

MS&T: How does Simulation & Training (S&T) support SAIC's broader corporate portfolio?      

JJ: In SAIC’s new operating model, eight service lines are charged with supporting SAIC’s customer facing organizations. These organizations are Army/Air Force, Navy/Marine Corps, Federal/Civilian, DoD Agencies and Commands, Defense Logistics Agency, and Emerging Markets. We’re bringing the power of the enterprise to each market by putting all training and simulation capabilities together. We have more than 1,000 professionals supporting SAIC’s training and simulation portfolio that spans the entire training continuum and application areas of simulation. Training and simulation is a key enabler for many programs within SAIC – making our solutions more effective and efficient.

MS&T: Update us on SAIC's current, leading S&T programs.

JJ: I’m proud of the fact that SAIC supports some very critical missions. For example, our work in support of the Army Game Studio and the popular America's Army computer game series has contributed to some of SAIC's most notable recent achievements in the area of advanced training and simulation. This work, in coordination with the Software Engineering Directorate of the U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), uses the America's Army codebase along with gaming strategies and multimedia integration to introduce future warfighters to leadership and teamwork skills, decision making, objective-based problem solving, negotiation skills, and strategy. The baseline capability includes physics based models running scenarios to train soldiers on real system performance.

Another significant program we support is Fleet Synthetic Training. Synthetic training is a key component of the US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Plan. Working in support of the US Fleet Forces Command, SAIC supports subordinate training commands, including schoolhouse curriculum and instruction, exportable team training, schoolhouse war gaming, networked synthetic and simulation driven exercises, and live training.

We also provide support to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) with an SAIC developed simulation and analytic capability called the WILMA Suite. WILMA is an in-depth modeling and analysis environment supporting the quantitative evaluation of Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) end-to-end architecture performance. WILMA supports systems engineering trades, analysis, and concept exploration providing quick-turn, architecture-level analysis capability.

MS&T: What are some of the S&T opportunities SAIC sees beyond the military market?

JJ: Difficult to point to one or two, but the increase in computer power continues to fuel many industries seeking to simulate a larger spectrum of challenges whether that is training applications or analytic applications. Look at the recent advances in simulation speed by Lawrence Livermore Lab’s Sequoia Supercomputer. Simulation is becoming more ubiquitous and sometimes the driving force behind the scenes in industries as diverse as the National Football League as well as the financial markets. As generations shift and adult learning theories evolve, training and education will evolve – we’ll see more immersive game-based training, less instructor lead, and more self-directed. One example in this area is SAICs use of role playing game technology to train first responders for homeland security. Khan Academy is a good example of self-directed, on-demand education that is on the rise. We’ve seen people publishing more of their own training content on YouTube.

MS&T: As a follow up, discuss SAIC's recent, significant S&T efforts in these adjacent sectors.

JJ: We’re investigating ways to leverage the technologies we’ve developed for military markets and apply them to civilian and commercial markets. I believe in the near future, we’ll continue to see a reduction in the perceptible nature of the human machine interface. Right now it is fairly obvious you are taking training, in a trainer, using a simulation for analysis. I see lots of folks trying to reduce this apparentness and soon technology will enable it more fully. With that you can open up doors for more robust training in things like human interaction, culture, etc. We’re also investing in cloud-based training solutions that enable training content to be delivered to an even wider spectrum of training audiences. We’re looking at human, simulation, and training modality interfaces.                                                                                                       

MS&T: Describe the importance of Return on Investment (ROI) to your military S&T customer?

JJ: It’s very important. This is also something the community (government, academia, and industry) has wrestled with for many years – with some tactical answers, but still no overarching rubric to apply. There was a Government Accountability Office report in August [2013] discussing the value of simulation-based training for the Army and Marine Corps which looked at benefits as well as cost avoidance measures. When developing solutions, we always try to balance fidelity with effectiveness and cost. With ever decreasing budgets, military training has to become even more efficient in order to fit within the allocations while delivering the readiness our nation and allies need.

MS&T: As another follow up, tell us some of the ROI SAIC is providing its S&T end users in the military market.

JJ: Repurpose technology for cheaper solutions. I’m continually seeking to change stove-piped development efforts. We as the training and simulation community can do better. We’ve seen documented returns on investment on many of our training and simulation programs through implementing things like process innovations for exercise design, development, execution, and evaluation that allow higher exercise operational tempo with the same team. We’ve also found that many of our game-based training solutions show marked increase in knowledge and skill retention.

MS&T: Any thoughts how the S&T industry will evolve through the next several years of US DoD budget turmoil and other market forces?

JJ: I see two counterbalancing forces in the training domain: more use of simulation-based training to reduce cost (fuel, flying hours, etc.), vs. reduction in training dollars and hours in budgets. I also see more simulation supporting portfolio analysis. Simulation can often cut through complexity and enable more informed decisions, but we as an industry have to prove the return on that upfront investment.