MS&T editors reflect on this gathering of the defense training community in Orlando FL in late November. Managing Editor Jeff Loube, with files from Rick Adams, Dim Jones, and Marty Kauchack, writes.
In the immediate post I/ITSEC flush, RADM James Robb, USN (Ret), President, National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA), noted in the NTSA newsletter that he considered the show a success, citing in particular the strong government participation, Operation Blended Warrior’s (OBW) completion of a third year and highlighting the “two powerful keynote addresses by General Perkins from TRADOC and Don Ariel from the Raydon Corporation”.
Now, after some time for reflection, we at MS&T also consider I/ITSEC 2017 to have been a success. Even though the metrics marking success differ for different folk, there were enough positives across the board to make success inclusive.
In the MS&T preview (Issue 5/2017) I stated, “In the past, I/ITSEC has demonstrated that it is the premier event of its kind in the world. There is no reason to think that this year will be any different.” It wasn’t, and the event did not disappoint.
Organizers reported there were over 16,200 total attendees [an 11% increase over last year] including multiple international delegations, and with a significant increase in government and active duty registrations. While still short of 2011’s peak of 20,000, the numbers reflect a year over year upward trend from the nadir of about 14,000 in 2013.
Furthermore organizers noted senior leader participation was significant, led by General David G. Perkins, Commanding General, US Army TRADOC and Admiral Bill Moran, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations. There were over 200 distinguished government visitors and a significant increase in government booths on the exhibit floor.
Organizers reported the total registrant number consisted of 5300 exhibit visitors, 4400 conference delegates, and 6500 exhibit personnel. There were 1780 international delegates, about the same as last year’s 1800, from 50 countries, 10 fewer than 2016.
The number of exhibiting companies has remained constant with 485, not far off last years 490, occupying 378 exhibit spaces.
Keynotes and General/Flag Officers
General Perkins gave an important keynote providing careful listeners with an over the horizon view of the Army’s training and education intent. First up is a drive to reduce the “tyranny of training” that finds its roots in large overheads: the aim, he stated, to approach the expertise afforded by Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours by bringing large chunks of training to home stations. And he noted that it was essential to “redefine training requirements from the very beginning as a convergence of the requirements of all domains.”
Perkins went on to point out “training is a tool – not a task” explaining that it is a tool that enables commanders to achieve their missions and that to make training easier to use the Army needs as “few one-trick ponies as possible”. Finally Perkins stated the line between training and education needs to be blurred bringing experience to contextualize education. The takeaway is that real life needs the skills imparted by both. (MS&T’s Marty Kauchak sat down with General Perkins after the Keynote presentations. Highlights of his interview are on page 12 of this issue).
Don Ariel, the industry keynoter, is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Raydon Corporation. Citing Winston Churchill’s aphorism “Now that we have run out of money, we’ll have to think” he acknowledged fiscal realities. He noted that the community needed to continue to standardize and called on the community to enable and celebrate innovation. And he suggested that the acquisition process be modified accordingly. He outlined the need to improve the professional relationship between the industry and the military acquisition community – strengthening trust, confidence and other attributes among the communities’ stakeholders and participants. “Speaking for all industry,“ he said, “We don’t do this to make money – we make money to do this”. Wise words!
The General/Flag Officer Panel always offers insights into the priorities of the participants. Of note, Fred Drummond, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Education and Training), made an understated plea for those who sought policy change to seek it and expressed his willingness to consider and support change initiatives. VAdm Paul Groslags, Commander Naval Air Systems Command, made a case for capability based acquisition. LTG Michael Lundy emphasized a need for scalability of learning environments, from individual to echelon levels. Realism is important, as explained by MGen Scott Smith. We can “no longer expect to train in a non realistic environment and expect to get results”. USMC MGen Kevin Iiams envisioned LVC as a vehicle to “train all the way down” and reminded the audience “training is a process, not an event”. And NATO’s BGen Henrik Sommer advised the S&T community to “embrace innovation”. The thread throughout the panel was the plea for technologies that would enable effective and efficient training to achieve and maintain capability – at all levels.
I/ITSEC offers everyone in the defence community the opportunity to learn, network and engage. MS&T is no exception. We value the opportunity to speak with industry leadership about horizons, and challenges; here are some nuggets.
Looking ahead to 2018, Dave Buss, Cubic Global Defense president. Courseware encouraged MS&T to be attentive to several technology developments, including data analytics and machine learning. “What I believe we can do, using the right machine learning tools, is we can probably sort and synthesize data to start looking for trends, both at the individual soldier or airman level, or at the collective level, to help our customers make much smarter decisions on how and where they spend their training dollars.”
According to Lenny Genna, President, L3 Link Training & Simulation, their product portfolio is receiving healthy insertions of technologies. At the top of his list was cyber, which he asserted “is critical for everything today, and is just as critical for training.” Indeed, Genna noted the major threat to the military’s efforts to develop its live, virtual, constructive training environment is cyber – hacking into and adversely impacting the system. “It’s a key part of Link’s strategy in making investments and building that capability – upfront in the system from ground up – hardware we’re building, the operating system we’re using and also the software development. This will make those systems resilient and capable of sitting on those networks.”
The MS&T publisher and editorial team had the opportunity to participate in a frank and open roundtable with CAE leadership consisting of Gene Colabatistto, Group President of the Defence & Security Group, Ray Duquette, President and General Manager of CAE USA, and Chuck Morant, the company’s Vice President of Global Strategy and Business Development.
Colabatistto noted while Defence and Security Group’s product business portfolio has been “largely growing” and the services part that corresponds to products (maintenance and upgrades) has also been “largely growing”, the “real growth, about eight percent a year for six years straight, has been in training systems integration.” He punctuated, “We’re going to continue to position ourselves as a training systems integrator. And he emphasized, “Customers are much more interested in buying training solutions – which include the full flight simulators, training devices, part-task trainers, and other materiel, and everyone now realizes everything from the airplane to the desk top is required to optimize the solution.”
The variety of special events and paper presentations were sufficient to satisfy the interests of even the nerdiest of delegates. Big data, AR/VR, and LVC all drew high levels of interest.
The US Navy’s special event “Warfighter Decision Superiority: Superior Human Performance through High Velocity Learning” pretty much spanned the issues and was notable in that the senior panel of Commanders was kicked off by Admiral Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Moran commenced noting that “technology drives the need for training technology”, a seemingly self-evident truth i.e. training should take place in a realistic context. This comment provided the opportunity to segue into a frank discussion of the Navy’s “difficult summer” and the need to get back to the basics, the fundamentals, and what actions Navy leadership was taking. The remainder of the special event saw the participants describe their command initiatives, both technical and organizational, to implement the “high velocity learning“ media and methods that will enable sailors to learn skills as needed, and to do so efficiently.
The dominant activity on the show floor was Operation Blended Warrior (OBW) 2017. According to the OBW playbook, OBW is a collaborative LVC event conducted between DoD and industry to discover and document the challenges in developing and integrating a training LVC virtual environment. OBW is itself an LVC event. Gary Fraas, OBW lead for NTSA, in the OBW recap, noted the event provides both a unique opportunity for units across the Department of Defense to survey the technical solutions available from industry and companies to find unexpected new applications for their products.
"There have been a lot of self-discovered benefits and the companies involved have been able to look at how they can expand their product sets," Fraas explained. "Developers don't always get the opportunity to see how their products are being used. During OBW they get to see their products through the eyes of their military customers. In some cases, things don't work as they should, in others they have been saying 'gee, I wish our product could do this' and finding new applications for things." Organizers are already planning for OBW 2018.
MS&T editors noted that COTS is alive and well. For example, Barco revealed that 78 of their projectors were deployed amongst 17 partners on the floor; DBox, while introducing their “4DoF” motion system in a drifting capable race car device, noted their 3DoF systems were supporting devices in six other exhibits; BISim products were, as usual, ubiquitous including support of OBW.
Overall, the show floor clearly demonstrated the art of the possible, and many exhibits revealed technologies, such as AR that were still feeling their way. The general impression from talking to exhibitors was they were remarkably positive about the immediate future. None of them could put a finger on why, but it seemed that, for whatever reason, there was increased confidence.
Our video team wandered the show floor to capture the many displays and activities across the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, putting together several highlights for this video. If you weren't able to attend this year, we hope this will help you show up next year.