Change is afoot within the training and simulation procurement community in reaction to budget constraints and evolving training requirements. MS&T’s Chuck Weirauch reports on the event.
The somber news that the US Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) has withdrawn the draft RFP for its $6 billion Train, Educate and Teach (TEACH) omnibus contract left more than 700 conference attendees at the 2014 Training & Simulation Industry Symposium (TSIS) hoping for something less somber at the June 11-12 event in Orlando. Fortunately, there was some better news, in part from positive reports from the leadership of the Navy's Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) and in the news that while TEACH was dead, the requirements live on – so far.
The format of the TSIS was changed for this year, allowing for more time for networking, military / industry panel discussions and question and answer sessions. While that interaction was considered a positive addition to the event, it did reflect the reduction in time spent on contract announcements that in past years.
Good News From The Navy
According to NAWCTSD Commanding Officer Captain Steven Nakagawa, his command will be offering more than $1.8 billion in total estimated value of contracts over the next two years. But better than that, he reported that NAWCTSD has not seen a downturn in funding in any significant way, with a possible upturn within the next year. One reason for that positive outlook is that the amount of non-Navy contract work his command is supporting has risen to 24 percent of its total, with that amount expected to grow in the future, Nakagawa explained. He also anticipates more work in support of international navies due to their interest shown at the 2014 International Training and Education Conference (ITEC).
Some of the NAWCTSD contract opportunities of note included the $1 billion Fielded Training Systems Support Multiple Award Contract (MAC) IV with an RFP scheduled for the 3rd quarter of fiscal year 2015. The next highest-value opportunity was the one for the $120 million USMC Aviation Training Systems Contractor Operations and Maintenance Services contract, with an RFP planned for the first quarter of FY 2016.
Also of note were several contract offerings for operator and maintenance courseware for the MQ-4C Triton and MQ-8B/C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles as the service introduces more UAVs into its operations. The Intelligent Tutoring Authoring and Development System contract, which will provide the core for this effort, emphasizes the service's commitment to adopting this technology to enhance its schoolhouse courseware.
Captain Craig Dorrans, Program Manager for the Naval Aviation (NAVAIR) Training Systems and Training Range Program Office (PMA 205), provided a broader view of the overall training goals for the Navy in the future.
"The future of training is integrated training, with the focus on integrating a lot of the existing training systems in the Navy," Dorrans said. "They all need to be integrated in to a training network. We also have to get to LVC as quickly as possible so that we can train as we fight. Within the next two years, just about every single aviation training platform will be tied together through the Navy Integrated Training Environment (NITE)."
As a part of that effort, a prototype Naval Aviation Distributed Training Center will be built in Orlando starting this year, Dorrans said. The Center will serve as a hub for Navy Aviation Simulator Master Plan (NASMP) components that will be networked into the NITE, he noted.
The Army and TEACH
With the TEACH cancellation on everyone's minds incoming, PEO STRI Executive Officer MG Jon Maddux, addressing his first TSIS audience, clearly wanted to reduce some of the anxiety that decision created among simulation and training industry representatives. He stated that his organization's goal is to stabilize its programs of record so that they will have stable funding in the future.
"Don't necessarily be alarmed about cancellation of the TEACH contract," Maddux told the TSIS audience. "It is not our intent to drop any of the requirements that are associated with that RFP. We are in fact bringing them into the Army contracting community and bringing those efforts into multiple contracts to increase more full and open competition, as well as opportunities for small businesses. We are transitioning those requirements to the Army Contracting Command (ACC), with our team in place to assure that nothing falls through the cracks."
Meanwhile, the TEACH training services requirements are still under the Warfighter FOCUS contract, PEO STRI Contracting (formerly Procurement) Center Director Joe Giunta pointed out. The Warfighter FOCUS contract has a period of performance through 2017, and is PEO STRI's primary vehicle to provide Life Cycle Contractor Support (LCCS) for Training Aids, Devices, Simulators and Simulations (TADSS) sustainment.
"We are in the process of assessing those requirements and creating a transition/migration plan for those requirements to the ACC," Giunta said. "We will be working with that command to develop a new strategy over the next few weeks, but we are not planning to create another contracting platform like TEACH. We will remain true to our customers’ requirements and a seamless transition to the ACC to the best of our ability. It will take several weeks to lay out this grand plan, since we decided that we needed to reprioritize the TADSS program."
Maddux added that a key technical strategy of the way ahead is to focus on the incorporation of live, virtual and constructive integration architecture (LVC-IA) into training systems in order to be able to link them together.
Air Force Teleconferences
And again, the Air Force's Training Systems Product Group attended via teleconference due to travel budget considerations. The $98 million A-10 Aircrew Training System was announced, despite the uncertain future of the aircraft, only because at the time no final decision had been made to retire the Warthog. One full-and-open competition announced was the $273 million F-16 Training Systems contract. (see accompanying Contract Opportunities Chart for further information.)