Well, I/ITSEC 2014 is over and it’s time for reflection, - after all, it is in the after action review that the learning takes place. Managing Editor Jeff Loube, with files from Dim Jones, Marty Kauchak, and Chuck Weirauch, reports.
Overall, the tone of the show floor was as expected. Somewhat subdued. There were fewer US uniformed personnel than we have been used to in the past, there was more informal booth side hospitality and the show floor topography was noticeably reduced, reflecting the functional modesty of many booth planners. Nevertheless, there was a sense of cautious optimism.
Organizers report that some 14000 souls registered for the event, of which 3550 were conference delegates; of these, 1850 international delegates represented 60 countries. This is about the same as 2013, and remains at about 70% of the 2011 high of 20000 delegates.
Perhaps another sign of the times was the number of senior officers out shopping. RADM Jim Robb (USN-Ret), president of the NTSA, cited in the 4 Dec Show Daily, stated, “ We had over 50 general and flag officers on the floor, who have been visiting and engaging the booths very aggressively. And I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about that. … I haven’t seen that many in my tenure at NTSA so I think that’s a very positive sign.”
And to welcome those senior officers, some 6000 registrants were on the show floor representing 500 companies in 394 exhibits. The number of companies was down slightly from 526 in 2013, but the number of exhibits held steady at about 395. Organizers were, however, quite excited at the number of new exhibitors – 80 – a number that included Amazon and I/ITSEC's first-ever exhibitor from China.
The Keynotes and Panellists
The future is not what it used to be - Laura Riding and Robert Graves 1937.
While coined by Riding and Graves in 1937, and variously attributed since to Yogi Berra, and others, and even used in song lyrics, keynoters and flag panellist could well have adopted this as their official theme. The future is not what it used to be because we can no longer rely on the comforting assumption that it will resemble the past. Instead we are enjoying a perverse stability founded in complexity and the unknowable.
Services keynote speaker, Gen Mark A. Milley, commander of US Army Forces Command, in a stirring motivational speech, used discomfiting examples of unpreparedness from US Army history to establish the grounds for exploiting simulation and training technology and practices to prepare for an environment in which “future contingencies are unknown, and in fact, unknowable”. The challenge is to win in such a complex environment. Milley emphasized that “there is no second place – winning matters” making combat readiness his number one priority. In an environment where the “velocity of instability is increasing, not decreasing” Milley stated the Army “must build readiness through training”.
Industry keynote speaker, Mr. Anthony Smeraglinolo, president and CEO of Engility Corporation, speaking to the challenge faced by industry noted there has been a “secular shift in budget”. There will be no new money and “constrained budgets are here to stay”. The challenge, he pointed out, is not the constrained budgets, but rather budget uncertainty. He noted the difficulties of operating in levels of high budget uncertainty, and the effects on industry of program postponements. And finally, he noted that with increased competition for fewer opportunities, he expected to see further industry consolidation with an increase in M & A activity.
Frank DiGiovanni, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness), led off the General and Flag Officer panel with a discussion of current initiatives and priorities. Addressing the challenges of readiness, he noted that one of the things most affecting general readiness was the “shock of pop-up missions” complicated by the diversity of those pop-ups. What he needed from industry, he said, was a way to conduct “just-in-time” training for these one-off missions.
All functional areas of the defense budget have taken a budget hit – with one exception: Cyber. Cyber is a growing field, and despite being the only functional area not to have taken cuts, still has a lot off catching up to do. Training at all levels, individual and collective, needs a lot of emphasis.
Blended training, by which Di Giovanni means live and synthetic, remains a priority as does what he characterizes as soft skills, such as; adaptability, critical thinking, agility, resilience, language and culture.
“It’s all about readiness!” Vice Admiral David A. Dunaway, commander of Naval Air Systems Command stated as he made the case for moving from a platform focused approach to a systems of systems approach necessary to achieve and maintain mission proficiency. He cited the need to break down the structural boundaries erected by the funding process – structured in silos – and proprietary data if cost effective proficiency is to be attained. The obstacles are not technical, he noted, but rather organizational and cultural.
Dunaway noted that budgetary pressures are not all bad, “budgetary pressures are exactly what we need to break old paradigms and get innovation”. He gave an example of the NAVAIR proficiency optimization initiative which seeks to track proficiency of aviators in order to fine tune training and performance support. One spin off of this initiative is to use technology to make carrier landing easier to learn and aviators more proficient. The technology (Magic Carpet, briefed by Aptima at their booth) promises to “save about 12 aircraft a year”, according to Dunaway, and that is a significant ROI.
From the Show Floor
MS&T’s editors visit as many exhibitors and participate in as many show floor activities as possible, constrained as we all are by time, space and energy. Here are some observations.
Companies are getting back to basics: examining ROI, entering adjacent business sectors and the like. They are moving beyond the doom and gloom of decreased defense budgets in the US and most of Europe, and are pursuing business elsewhere - Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Value, ROI and service remain the foundation of success – for both vendors and buyers as demonstrated by the story of MASA’s SWORD recounted by Mr. Colin Huston of the New Zealand Army’s Mission Combat Training School. His story spanned a year – initiated at the MASA booth at I/ITSEC 2013, acquisition of SWORD, hosting of the annual 5 nations SUMAN Warrior CPX in September 2014 and this presentation at I/ITSEC 2014. The pre-exercise training period was reduced from two weeks to two days, the personnel required to run the exercise reduced from 55 to 12, and a tailored licensing arrangement was made to cope with a shoe string budget.
COTS has the potential to change the paradigm for training devices. D-BOX demonstrated two training devices – a LAV driver trainer and a helicopter trainer both with D-BOX motion bases, and built with off the shelf COTS products from partners such as Presagis, BISim, VT-MAK, CM Labs, Simthetiq, RAAS, and VRX. There are some challenges – mostly organizational – in implementing COTS solutions. These were outlined in conference paper No. 14115, COTS to Capability: Lessons learnt from UK MOD research programme available for free during 2015 at the new I/ITSEC papers portal http://www.iitsecdocs.com/
And surfing the COTS wave are the ubiquitous VBS2, and VBS3. According to BISim Co-CEO Peter Morrison, VBS3 is the first truly new product since the original VBS. In addition, BISim showcased their new image generator – VBS IG. New partner Fujitsu showcased their secure cloud based service that allows VBS users distributed access in a secure standardized manner.
LVC (live, virtual, constructive) simulation was threaded throughout military and industry domains. Not surprising, since military leaders have not been reticent about their visions of LVC being a major part of achieving and maintaining readiness.
Exhibits and Exhibitors
The US Services exhibits, while downscaled from previous years, nevertheless displayed training technologies and initiatives that provided astute observers insights into service training technologies and goals.
The Army Research Laboratory (ARL)'s Augmented Reality Sandtable (ARS), was located in the US Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) exhibit area. The ARS featured a large sand-filled table, with digital topographic data projected on the sand from overhead to aid shaping of the sand. Primarily a training aid, C2 data can also be projected onto the contoured sand for mission briefings and exercises. This ARS was networked with a second device in the Marine Corps Program Manager for Training Systems (PMTRASYS) exhibit area to demonstrate joint briefing and training exercise capabilities. One ARS is already in place at the Army's West Point Academy.
A number of PEO STRI major training products were located in the exhibits of industry partners that were involved in the development and production of those training devices. For example, the Vehicle Casualty eXtraxtion (V-Xtract) Trainer was located at the Design Interactive, Inc. site, with the latest Call For Fire Trainer (CFFT III) at the Nova Technologies exhibit area, with the Tactical Vehicle System (TVS) and the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) located at the Cubic display area.
In the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) exhibit area, a main attraction was the 3D Multi-Purpose Reconfigurable Training System (MRTS). 3D 60-inch touch screen displays allow immersion into virtual Virginia Class submarine systems. Systems featured at the show were the MRTS 3D Emergency Diesel Generator and AN/BLQ-10 Maintenance Trainer. The MRTS also supports the Weapons Launch Console Team Trainer 3D, and other ship systems. The MRTS system has been deployed to the Naval Submarine Training Center Pacific at Pearl Harbor, HI.
LVC applications were most prominent in the US Air Force's Training Systems Product Group's exhibit area. Here, the service presented its Enterprise Solutions for Infusing Affordable Warfighter Readiness Thru LVC. Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation (AFAMS) personnel demonstrated AF Enterprise initiatives such as Readiness Training Centers, the AF LVC-Operational Training Technical Standards Profile, Cybersecurity and the Air, Space and Cyber Constructive Environment (ASCCE). 309th Software Maintenance Group (SMXG) personnel also showed off the Expert Common Immersive Theater Environment (XCITE) and the Mobility Air Forces Distributed Mission Operations (DMO) programs.
Navy Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) and Office of Naval Research (ONR) exhibited a broad range of initiatives. NAWC personnel demonstrated the Next Generation Threat System (NGTS) synthetic environment generator; the Adaptive Training for Combat Information Center Teams (ATCIC) program; the Network Effects Emulation System (NE2S), Cyber Operational Architecture Training System (COATS) and the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Mariner Skills Simulator (MSS) training system.
ONR’s life-size Human Surrogate Interaction humanoid robot was cautiously fascinating. Controlled by a human operator, the Surrogate humanoid can converse with in native languages and emulate cultural behavior, gestures and facial expressions while dressed in appropriate native garb for cultural training purposes.
Elsewhere on the Floor
Saab rolled out their Gamer Manpack 300 portable (suitcase-sized) training system which allows instrumented exercises to be conducted with, as the name might suggest, up to 300 soldiers, vehicles and entities – to quote Saab ‘almost 3 times as many players as other portable systems on the market.’
Omnifinity's unique Omnideck 6 caught the eye. Delegates viewed urban operations scenarios using the Almhult, Sweden-based company’s motorized 360-degree treadmill, paired with MetaVR’s VRSG driving the visuals in the Oculus Rift DK2 head-mounted display. Omnideck 6 enables trainees to run, roll over, crawl on ground, and walk in any direction in a realistic unconstrained manner.
3D Perception, demonstrated the company’s new WarpLite software warp and blend processing for seamless immersive displays in the simulation and visualization markets. The software package was reported to be capable of “processing any resolutions supported on an end user’s image generator and supporting manual or automatic alignment and color calibration.”
CAE launched its next generation CAE Medallion-6000(TM) image generator with a demonstration in a rotary-wing mission training scenario. The IG is based on the latest commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) graphics processors from NVIDIA Corporation and delivers a range of new features and capabilities for the defense and security market.
And finally, we noted a new entry into the competitive defence projection arena, the first time German exhibitor, eyevis, with their robust LED projectors and LC displays.