There was more than the usual scramble for a seat in the 2022 Training & Simulation Industry Symposium (TSIS) auditorium; a record-breaking crowd of 950 attendees celebrated the return to the first “all-live” TSIS event since 2019. MS&T’s Chuck Weirauch managed to snag a seat.
The two-day TSIS conference featured the latest in US military contract opportunities as presented by the country’s leading armed forces training organizations. The adjoining banquet hall also became packed at times, as exhibitors from 24 companies demonstrated their latest products.
If there was one major takeaway, it was that the training and simulation community must work harder to improve training programs and technologies, because today’s efforts are inadequate to meet the current and future challenges of the opposition. This view was emphasized by several presenters as the US Services focus on what they consider to be key factors essential to modernizing their training systems.
“We are doing pretty much what we did for 20 years,” said Capt. Kevin McGee, NAVAIR Program Manager for Aviation Training Systems and Ranges Program. “We are not building the kind of training that we need to move forward with a more agile development cycle. We have made great strides, but we have a long way to go.”
“We need to think beyond what we are comfortable with, so we need a mindset-shift to think beyond where we are,” McGee emphasized. “The system we have built up is not adequate for the new training concepts. We need to work together to produce new and novel things to develop a more agile training schedule.”
Capt. Dan Covelli, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) also advocated not just “raising the bar” above the performance of the opposition, but to “bend the curve” to always be above that bar by increasing levels and frequency of training. “Raising the bar means to try harder,” Covelli explained.” But raising the bar will only get you so far. So we bend the curve. We have to increase our training throughput, placing more emphasis on our own Distributed Mission Training and with Coalition partners. We just have to be more agile.”
Scott Burlingame, Deputy Director for the F-35 Joint Program Office Training Systems and Simulations, also cited the need to change the mindset about current training efforts, since modeling and simulation will be the only way that F-35 capabilities can be tested and assessed. That assessment is essential, since the F-35 program has continued to grow to become the largest weapon system acquisition in the history of the Department of Defense and for Coalition partners.
“To make this work, we have to leverage simulation differently in these weapons systems than we have in the past, especially for some training that we do not want to execute live,” Burlingame stressed. “We have to change our mindset and conduct training in an operational-relevant environment, and put a little sweat in our training.”
While the Services’ training commands have always encouraged the MS&T industry to come up with innovative solutions to training problems, there was more emphasis on that message at this year’s TSIS. Some of that request for help simply comes from the pressing need to modernize training, while it was made clear that more traditional methods will simply not be accepted.
To help encourage industry to come up with such next-generation solutions, some commands are providing more competitive contract offerings. Brian Hicks, NAWCTSD Aviation Programs Program Director, provided some good news to that effect. The majority of his division’s 32 program offerings this year are competitive rather than sole source for the first time since he has been director, he noted. “I am excited about this,” Hicks stated.
As a part of its modernization efforts, the Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) will be setting up an Industry Collaboration Day at Tech Grove to help industry better understand how the organization plans to achieve this goal.
Col. Nick Kioutas, Project Lead for PEO STRI’s Synthetic Environment directorate, told the TSIS audience that the Army especially needs industry help in developing training for multi-domain operations. “As we focus on modernization, we are looking at the threat of our near-peers and how do we train for multi-domain operations,” Kioutas said. “This is something that we have not done before, as this is a new Army doctrine that has not been finalized yet. We need new technology to train for multi-domain operations, and we need everyone’s help to get it here today.”
Kioutas also called for industry help in developing next-generation constructive simulation that will be called Echelon Above Brigade.
“We want you to engage with us and ask what contract opportunities should we have, rather than what contract opportunities do we have,” he emphasized. “We are also looking at a modular open system approach, featuring all of the best-of-breed technology. And we want industry to focus on their core competencies to integrate into that open architecture. What we are looking to do is to put out an RFI to enable this, and we want wide industry approaches as opportunities for competition. I don’t just want an ID/IQ. I want industry to tell me there is a better way.”
While all of the training organizations presenting at the TSIS stressed the need for internal and external training modernization, Karen Saunders, Program Executive Officer for PEO STRI, described an overall enterprise approach for all of its live, virtual and constructive training programs that will enable better collaboration with the modeling and simulation industry. A key element of this effort will be an open architecture and open systems approach to its acquisition processes, she said.
“We have recently established the Acquisition Academy, but more importantly, we are looking to create a centralized Operations Center hub with 24/7 capability,” Saunders summarized. This new capability will reduce operational overhead and consolidate all of our operations into a single process, including the consolidation of all of our labs. This effort will also improve collaboration with industry and our other partners. We also will be collaborating with the University of Central Florida in a new partnership that will be called Partnership 6.”
Major Contracts Announced
NAWCTSD Cross-Warfare Programs Director Robin Wieckhorst said that the largest Navy contract, the competitive five-year, $1.3 billion Fielded Training Systems Support (FTSS) V contract, would be awarded in August this year. Some of the sizable offerings anticipated under Lot 1 of this new contract include the competitive 5-year, $180 million Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) Contractor Instructional Services contract, and the $180 million Navigation Seamanship & Shiphandling Trainer ID/IQ, both with an RFP this August. A later large-scale competitive contract is the 5-year, $100 million USMC Training Systems Contractor and Maintenance Services contract, with an RFP in the second quarter of 2025.
Robert Wolfinger, Project Lead for PEO STRI’s TADSS Support Operations, provided his organization’s plan for the next iteration of the Army’s Warfighter Readiness Solutions (Warfighter TRS) 10-year, estimated $3-to-5 billion competitive contract. A draft RFP is currently scheduled for the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2023, with a currently estimated contract award date of between the second quarter of FY25. The uncertainty of the actual contract award date is to allow enough time to properly transition activity from the old contract to the new contract without any problems, Wolfinger explained.
Lt.Col. Marcus Reynolds, Program Manager for Training Systems, Marine Corps Systems Command (PMTRASYS), cited the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger as saying that the Corps “lacks the necessary modern simulators to sustain training readiness.” He also provided an overview of the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 planning guidance document, and an update to the progress of the service’s Live, Virtual, and Constructive Training Environment known as Project Tripoli.
Col. Timothy Beers, Commander of the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation (AFAMS), called for what he termed a “training overmatch,” where better-trained US airmen would have the advantage over any adversary that might employ aircraft that were equal to those flown by the Air Force. He also encouraged industry and academic partners to develop training scenarios that are Joint and Coalition-holistic, models that are timely, operationally relevant and realistic, and to embrace data-centricity.
Jude Tomasello, Program Manager for the Medical Simulation and Training Program Management Office for the Defense Health Agency, described how his office is supporting the application of modeling and simulation technologies to the field of medicine across the Department of Defense. He also announced two new contract opportunities, the 5-year, $19 million Complicated Obstetric Emergencies Simulation System (COES2), and the $10-to-18 million Interoperable Networking for Training, Readiness and Education (INTRAMED) competitive contracts. The RFP for COES2 is scheduled for release during the first quarter of FY23, while the INTRAMED RFP is planned for the third quarter of that year.