Day 1 (30 November) 2020 vIITSEC Highlights. Compiled from reports filed from the conference exhibition floor and briefing rooms by Halldale staff members: Andy Fawkes, MS&T Editor; Rick Adams, CAT Editor, Dim Jones, MS&T Europe Correspondent; and Marty Kauchak, Group Editor. 

As long-standing attendees of I/ITSEC, the organizers of vIITSEC should be congratulated for moving on from cancelling the live event to delivering virtually an extremely professional and effective first day of opening ceremonies and keynotes. The “Future is Now” has certainly been shown to be true and this digital format looks set to continue.

Robert C. Kleinhample, SAIC and vIITSEC 2020 Conference Chair, opens the first ever virtual I/ITSEC.

We also felt that the technology allowed the presenters to be a little less formal and more open. The Congressional M&S Caucus for example, was refreshing in its frank and constructive dialogue. It is a “nice problem to have” but the challenge in future will be to retain the undoubted benefits of the digital which now add to events such as I/ITSEC whilst bringing back the live.

Conference Keynote: M&S for Training and More

Honorable Alan R. Shaffer, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment

DUSD Shaffer opened his keynote with his perspective on the last decade during in which he was the chair of the DOD Modeling and Simulation Steering Group. Reflecting on when he became chair in 2010 “we had what was largely a collection of tribes all largely working on their own applications and developing their own systems” whilst “we are now seeing the evolution from a single platform simulators and single purpose simulations to advance multi-platform virtual systems”. He also pointed to “strong convergence in modeling and simulation capabilities being driven by the technological revolution and the digitization of the world and the promise of open systems”.

The senior Pentagon official went on to speak to the four global trends influencing the future. Firstly, the driving force of the economies of scale. He called attention to the annual sales volume and projected annual growth rate of the commercial gaming and VR industries ($160 billion and 10%-(plus), and $10 billion and 25%, respectively). In comparison to the US military’s annual M&S spending of $4-7.5 billion he asserted that whilst “the commercial industry drives games, modeling, and simulation but defense drives the application of these tools”, the defense sector “must adapt” and scale its products and systems accordingly.

The senior Pentagon official called attention to the annual sales volume and projected annual growth rate of the commercial gaming and VR industries. Image credit: Varjo.

Secondly, he spoke to the “return to great power competition”, in particular with China. Whilst China’s economy is growing fast, the US economy has considerable debt which will “will affect future defense budgets”. To highlight the level of debt he pointed out that “to pay off the debt every single US taxpayer would need to pay $218,789”. Looking to his audience he said “the US needs to continue to look to innovate and modeling and simulation and other high payoff areas” to increase growth and decrease debt.

The next trend was the “challenges to international standards” and that China was considered a threat with its “theft” of intellectual property in areas of innovation and digitization. “This is something we have to pay attention to in the modeling and simulation community” he said.

The fourth and final trend was technology and the “generational shift in what drives growth and capability”. Shaffer was looking to M&S to support acquisition “to really understand what we are going to buy” supported by the “convergence of digital engineering, digital twins, and systems engineering”.

Shaffer issued another message which resonates well with recent MS&T articles – the increased, imminent fiscal pressure on Pentagon budgets. To point, he noted the US national debt was about $27 trillion, or about $218,789 per each US taxpayer. Shaffer issued the imperative for the US military to use M&S “to do things better” throughout the acquisition process. In a follow-on theme that will resonate during this vIITSEC, the DoD executive specified M&S must be used beyond training – in testing, evaluation, and other parts of the acquisition process. In essence, M&S is being viewed to provide “cumulative effects of capability” – providing more capability, more rapidly.

The department senior leader also addressed the Pentagon’s persistent effort to streamline and improve its acquisition process. A key deliverable and “victory” have been DoD’s issuance of its Directive 5000.01, the overarching guidance that focuses on the roles and responsibilities for its acquisition process. The update also includes new tenets implemented by the Adaptive Acquisition Framework, a streamlined set of pathways aimed to help speed up buying and delivering DoD’s needs. Beyond this policy document, the department is reforming DoD 5000 series instructions with a simplified rewrite to improve the process of buying everything from software to services. Indeed, one recently updated document which has the attention of commercial gaming companies doing business with the US DoD is DoD Instruction 5000.87 Operation of the Software Acquisition Pathway.      

Shaffer’s “call to action” for vIITSEC industry “attendees” included developing software capable of supporting acquisition, training, testing and other capabilities simultaneously, and accelerating the delivery timeline for software.

Industry Keynote

Nazzic Keene, Chief Executive Officer, SAIC

The Industry Keynote was delivered by Nazzic Keene, the CEO of the US government services and solutions provider with 26,000 employees. She described how the technology integration and modernization company had responded and transformed its operations over 2020 as a result of the pandemic. She spoke from SAICs “Innovation Factory” which was now operating mostly remotely but with some personal contact. The CEO told the virtual audience that it was her belief that there were three current disruptors that will “accelerate digital transformation and bring change to our industry quicker than we ever anticipated”.

Firstly, the Covid-19 pandemic. “No singular event has touched a global audience as quickly and as broadly as this pandemic” she said, but “even during a pandemic our nation's war fighters could not go on hiatus.” The shift to remote working and training has been a necessity. SAIC are for example, supporting the USAF’s Pilot Training Next program to train faster and deeper and had to quickly pivot to provide remote mandatory flight training. Despite the Covid disruption 96% of trainees completed their training on time.

The CEO’s second disruptor was an increase in virtual and blended training. This would be forced by budget constraints, higher levels of remote working and operations, and technology developments. “Rapid and agile development and solving our customers problems using commercial technologies” was key to the CEO’s strategy and she was driving “the integration of biometrics, analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive performance expertise into end-to-end training tailored to the customer's needs”.

Her third and final disruption was “a changing workforce”. Covid-19 had led to an increased number of the older employees leaving the workforce placing more emphasis on the young. “We must evolve to accommodate this change and create environments that appeal to a new generation of employees” she said. Speaking to the leaders of people-centric organisations the CEO said “we have a responsibility to be courageous and get in the fast lane … we must use innovative technologies to help this younger workforce achieve their training goals and optimize their skill sets for the future”.

At the end of what was an excellent and thought-provoking presentation, Keene said “what could have been a slower evolution has now changed into a revolutionary radical change for our industry and our government partners, and leaders must embrace this change and prioritize virtual training going forward … the future is digital and it's happening now”.

Special Event Presentation

General John M. Murray, Commanding General, United States Army Futures Command

The Army four-star general broadly described his command’s “future” perspective as 2035. The commander also offered this M&S audience projected characteristics of the future operating environment, which, in part, will be much more lethal, resulting in Army formations being much more dispersed than they are today. “And then there is the hyperactivity, the incredible speed of action,” he said, and continued, that the fundamental nature of war will be further be changed by autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence. “It will probably not be any one of those things, but a combination of those three things – that is the path we’re on. Those are pretty good guesses about changing the character of war.” Beyond these capabilities, he provided two underlying enablers for his service’s future operations. While the Army and its joint warfighting partners will need a resilient, redundant, secure network, “we’re going to have to do better on how we treat data – having the correct data architecture, standards in place to enable the previous ‘big three’”.

His embodiment of a successful commander on the future battlefield, is one who will see first, understand first, and decide and act first – providing him or her with a significant tactical and operational advantage. “With new weapons systems, new ways of operating and the increased speed of decision, comes some of the synthetic training that will be a critical enabler in our efforts, to modernize and remain ready to fight in that future operational environment,” he added. The General also emphasized the importance of “Project Convergence”, the Army’s regular “campaign of learning” to bring together now the weapons and capabilities it envisions fighting with in the 2030s and beyond.

The senior Army leader, then provided a “teaser” of sorts, noting that not as widely discussed as hypersonic weapons and such, are the efforts of the command’s Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Team. General Murray continued, “The work that Maj. Gen. Gervais is doing with the STE CFT is absolutely going to be key and critical with everything we are doing in the future, from One World Terrain, which has already been deployed with operational success to reconfigurable trainers to get us out of 1980s technology in terms of how we train our major platforms in terms of the synthetic trainers, to the environment for IVAS [Integrated Visual Augmentation System]. I am sure you are tracking IVAS in terms of the training piece of IVAS, to the weapons the soldiers will use, to the simulators that will go on the soldiers’ primary weapons so they are using their own weapons to train with, to the environment that she is creating.” The Futures Command leader concluded, “When you think about the speed, the complexity, the ranges and in some cases – when you get into hypersonics and such – the cost of these weapons systems, we’re going to be relying more and more, on synthetic training environments.”                   

Senior Leader Panel Snapshots

Vice Admiral Mike Moran, US Navy, Principal Military Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition

A common theme from the afternoon panel was the US military service’s continued efforts to achieve the long-gestating goal of a Live, Virtual, Constructive (LVC) training environment.

In one case, the Navy’s Moran noted IOC (initial operational capability) for one piece of the LVC puzzle, the US Navy’s Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS Inc. II) program, is fiscal year 2022. TCTS II is a collaborative effort to field a next-generation air combat training solution. Developed and built by Collins Aerospace Systems, TCTS Inc. II is a scalable and flexible Multiple Independent Levels of Security (MILS)-based open architecture system that enables highly-secure air combat training between US and international aircraft, including advanced 5th generation platforms. Originally supporting the US Navy and Marine Corps, the US Air Force joined TCTS II this July.

Moran also reported to panel session viewers, that his service is obtaining “good results” from Project Avenger, a prototype syllabus, and part of the overarching Naval Aviation Training Next, designed to train naval aviators to a greater level of proficiency in a shorter period of time than the traditional syllabus to increase fleet aviator availability. The Navy three-star admiral also emphasized that his service is using enablers, including artificial intelligence and data analytics, all familiar to MS&T followers, for emergent and current training programs. In one attention-getting return on investment for data analytics, Moran initially noted that urgent action was needed to increase the 50% readiness rating for his service’s F-18 fleet’s mission readiness. Data analytics, in part, helped “teach maintainers to better improve processes – implement enhanced preventive maintenance procedures and other actions.” The sum-total of actions contributed to increasing the service’s F-18 fleet’s readiness level to more than 80%.    

“Space is hard”, declared Brigadier General Traci Kueker-Murphy, US Space Force, Mobilization Assistant to the Director of Integrated Air, Space, Cyberspace and Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Operations. To that end, the one-star admiral then provided important insights on her newly established service’s nothing less than nascent efforts to stand-up and advance, its training and education activities. To point, she noted “Readiness is where it’s at,” and for US Space Force, it means being at its first I/ITSEC “to come to industry and academia looking for assistance to design those capabilities we need for this warfighting domain.” In one instance, the Space Force general officer noted the command needs simulations and visualization tools to “help us actually understand how combat in space will be different from other domains.” Yet, the service has a number of learning initiatives in progress.

Brig. Gen. Kueker-Murphy continued, “We have enhanced our undergraduate space training and our advanced training against that ‘thinking adversary’. We’ve built space warfighter follow-on courses, some specialized to enhance the expertise of our warfighter. We do distributed wargames which help them think about the problem and look at where we need to adapt to change. And we have stood up a Space Training and Readiness [STAR] Delta [Provisional] – this is a precursor to a Space and Readiness Command, which will focus on all the things we just spoke about, and takes on what AETC [US Air Force Air Education and Training Command] has done for us in the past.”

Congressional M&S Caucus

The US Congressional M&S Caucus was established to be an advocate for analysis, design, testing, and training. Following a trend observed and reported on in recent years, the caucus continues to shift its attention for bringing M&S to bear for training and related missions beyond defense – into civil aviation, and other adjacent high-risk sectors in the US.

Indeed, Rep. Bobby Scott (Virginia), noted that his expanded focus is on using M&S to support a wide range of infrastructure programs and projects, including the wind generation industry, as well as education, defeating the coronavirus pandemic and for advancing other healthcare challenges.

And for her part, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (Florida) added that one role she and her staff fulfill as advocates for M&S on Capitol Hill, is guiding individual budget lines intact through the machinations of the budget process – through conference committees and reconciling program budget requests in the president’s budget submission to Congress against funds appropriated by Congress for the same projects – for starters.