ITEC leadership reported on their initiatives to shape ITEC 2015 and beyond to meet the S&T community’s needs. MS&T’s Europe Editor Dim Jones attended the I/ITSEC briefing.
In MS&T Issue 5-2014, in an interview with Tess Butler, the conference chair for 2015, we looked forward to ITEC in Prague at the end of April, and considered what changes there might be from previous iterations. I/ITSEC, of course, is a major opportunity for Clarion Defence & Security, the organisers of ITEC, to communicate with the defence S&T community to persuade exhibitors to exhibit, delegates to attend, and those with innovative ideas or issues of import to present and discuss them in conference. It also gives them an opportunity to gauge the mood of industry and their customers, and suggest how the one might better serve the other. To this end, Butler and RAdm Simon Williams, chairman of Clarion Defence and Security, gave a briefing during I/ITSEC 2014, during which Williams reminded us that the key drivers in training and education are: our people, and specifically the turnover of new personnel, and the balance between manpower and technology; new equipment and the pace of change; and the effective use of resources, including cash.
A main aim was to convince industry that, despite the budgetary constraints that have affected the military and defence industry worldwide, Europe remains an important, and potentially lucrative, market. To this end, and notwithstanding that the US is rightly regarded as the most important single-country defence market, Williams used some statistics to set the scene. In terms of military manpower, North America provides 1.44m and Europe 1.93m, aggregated, of course, by many more small slices of the pie. Within the European defence community, and reflecting individual defence budgets and the manpower/equipment balance, there is a wide variation in the percentage of the defence budget each nation spends on its personnel, ranging from around 35% in the case of the UK to over 70% for some countries such as Portugal and Italy.
In terms of defence spending, the US, at $735bn dwarfs the rest of NATO ($290bn), reflected in the % of GDP spent on defence – 4.3% in the US, whereas in the rest of NATO, only the UK and – remarkably, given its current financial woes – Greece spent more than the agreed 2%. However, although defence spending in North America and Europe shows a downward trend over the past 3 years, this is counterbalanced by significant rises in Russia, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Of the top 15 defence budgets in 2013, 10 are outside NATO, although it has to be said that the US total is not far short of the other 14 put together.
Following on from this, Butler outlined a new approach to ITEC content and direction, in pursuit of which she had formed 3 advisory panels, military, medical and academic, through which it was intended that the customers should be able to communicate their requirements to industry. The Military Advisory Panel (MAP), consisting of representatives from 8 nations and all services, met at the UK Defence Academy Shrivenham in July 2014; prior to this, there had been 82 inputs from 20 countries around the world. Panel members were reminded that the aim of ITEC is to provide a forum for those involved in, primarily military, training and education, to exchange ideas and to view new developments from industry and the R&D community on an annual basis.
Modelling and simulation (M&S) represents a key technology in the delivery of training and education, and the M&S element is critical in the presentation of ITEC, although it is not the only element. The purpose of the MAP would be to provide the guidance as to the “Ends” that the military are seeking in the development of training and education in the coming decade, and their perspective on the “Ways” in which this might be achieved in partnership with industry. The “Means”, in terms of the fiscal, technical, or human resources lies outside the purview of ITEC, except as a discussion of the likely constraints that will need to be challenged in delivering future solutions, and ITEC’s role as an advocacy body within the Training and Education sphere. The success of the MAP would be defined in terms of the ideas the discussion generated and the manner in which these could be harnessed to develop the ITEC agenda. The most important outcome would be: the development of the key topics the military user audience wished to have within the ITEC programme; who they would wish to have involved in the discussion of these topics; and how they would perceive a successful outcome for ITEC over the next 2 to 3 years. The agenda kicked off with an open group discussion about training and operational issues facing the Armed Forces, then narrowing the focus on key topics and themes, leading to the identification of potential conference sessions.
Unsurprisingly, the perceived ‘ends’ varied between nations, with differences of opinion on: what should be done nationally, and what could be done internationally; whether the ends would be applied ‘pan-defence’, through the application of ‘joint’ solutions, or whether there were sufficient differences between the land, sea and air environments to warrant individual; treatment; how openly would, or could, data be shared between nations; and what new challenges should ITEC be addressing – Cyber being an obvious example. As regards ‘ways’, the MAP considered how they perceived the Ends being achieved, and the role of industry and the R&D community. Which technologies would shape the future training environment, how did the MAP see such technology being applied, who did the MAP believe should be involved in articulating the military case at ITEC, and which segments of industry would they like to hear from? Discussion of ‘means was limited to the role of ITEC as a forum for the advocacy of the needs of the training and education community, but specifically considering how ITEC could continue to attract senior military engagement in order to promote the role or training and education, and whether there were key procurement agencies which ITEC should include within its community.
Issues identified within the MAP discussions included the perceived lack of coherent policy or technology delivery strategy accompanying the delivery of training, and the need to address shortfalls in M&S capability, for instance by a closer focus on serious games. Delegates felt that there needed to be better policy integration between air, land and sea in order to enable training integration, not only inter-arm, but also international and inter-agency; the existing interface between policymakers, R&D and the training delivery authorities was generally felt to be insufficient. Work is currently under way within NATO to reduce duplication in M&S capability. A recurrent theme was that of ‘innovation’, and the need to identify opportunities and nurture them within the user, R&D and industry communities. It was recognised that budget cuts drive innovation, but also that the innovators at the moment were the training delivery authorities; a good example was the UK’s Royal School of Artillery (about which I wrote in Issue 5-2011). Panel members felt that perceived risk in innovation was often greater than the reality; Industry wanted and needed ‘pointers’ from the users to improve their contribution.
Unsurprisingly, procurement emerged as an area in which improvement was seen as not only possible but essential, and it was vital that the procurement agencies were represented, engaged and visible at ITEC, in order to inform the debate. EU regulation was identified as a possible barrier to speedy and flexible procurement, and there ought to be a mechanism whereby a member state seeking to acquire a capability already possessed by another could benefit from a cross-reading of regulation. Agility, versatility and flexibility were seen as essential characteristics of armed forces of the future; those same qualities are needed in the procurement system. Open lines of communication, with focus on the delivery of capability, were viewed as the key enabler.
Training for Contingency is a fine buzz-phrase, but what does it mean? Certainly training for ‘a war’ rather than ‘the war’; certainly training for ‘environments other than sand’; and recognising the increasing urbanisation of warfare (which is the most difficult to represent accurately in the virtual world); but also preparing for multi-agency and NGO ops, and achieving a ‘train-to-task’ system which is adaptable enough to cope when the task changes. The word ‘Joint’ embraces a host of meanings – Combined, Multi-National, International, Multi-Agency, Inter-Agency – each has its place, and each its unique training requirements. Multi-national exercises can take years to plan, whereas training between partner countries can be set up much more quickly; distributed synthetic training can overcome geographic challenges, and also provide operational environments which are not achievable in the real world.
Final issues debated were: closer ties with the R&D community, and ways in which the user can more directly drive experimentation; the involvement of academia in the process; and the retention of experienced M&S staff, possibly by the creation of career paths. The underlying message from the MAP was that, despite financial and political constraints, the opportunities are out there to be had; because of them, industry and its customers must find more efficient and innovative ways of doing business.