Of no surprise, three leaders - Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations - confirmed their services’ use of S&T across the operational domains. Del Toro, Berger and Gilday recently provided fiscal insights across their portfolios for the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee as Congressional hearings are underway on President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request for the Pentagon.
The sea service leaders’ testimony included comments on their current and requested investments for simulation and training programs.
More significant, and of interest to industry business development teams and program managers, the services are eyeing forward-leaning and, in some instances, new programs to keep their individuals, units and staffs mission ready for a conflict with a near- or peer competitor.
Secretary Del Toro told the House appropriators and their staffs his department’s S&T future includes a more robust capability in the expanding cyber domain. The senior leader noted, “Adversaries and competitors worldwide leverage cyber vulnerabilities to hold our capacity and capabilities at risk. This malign behavior requires a robust response, and we will prioritize building cyber resilience and strengthening our capacity to withstand, fight through, and recover quickly from disruption.”
To do this, the Secretary said his department must “bake in” cybersecurity to new capabilities and platforms we procure while “bolting on” cybersecurity capabilities to legacy platforms. “This strategy also requires training our Sailors and Marines to operate in cyber-contested environments.”
Beyond equipment and platforms on which to train, Del Toro raised training to a higher level, asserting, “Our information space requires new approaches to training, such as the Persistent Cyber Training Environment, which integrates capabilities to continuously evolve cyber training and exercises. This joint capability has expanded access over the last year, enabling force readiness and driving decisions on the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.”
The sea services will also stay true to upgrading the live training environment to allow them to learn and enhance skillsets beyond the virtual and constructive domains. The department leader noted in addition to procuring the modern platforms, his services are also expanding the areas available for its personnel to train. In one case, “With our partners in Congress, through the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, we are expanding and modernizing our training ranges at Naval Air Station Fallon. This initiative will provide our pilots with the airspace and ground necessary to hone their skills in the advanced aircraft we field.”
A Naval UAS School?
Training remains a top US Marine Corps priority well beyond the FY24 budget outyears.
To help meet this outcome, Commandant Berger suggested to Congress the time is right to expand Marine Corps UAS training competencies. The service is on a trajectory to double its uncrewed aircraft capacity across the force from three unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons to six squadrons and transition from the RQ-21 to the much more capable MQ-9. The Marines are working with the US Air Force to help train and qualify increased numbers of its service members for the expanded mission. “However, there is a need to direct the necessary resources in future budgets to establish a Naval UAS School to resolve this larger joint force issue,” he added.
In another part of the USMC training portfolio, the service is expanding and modernizing the Marine Corps training environment (MCTE) through an effort called Project Tripoli, which will integrate the live, virtual and constructive training domains. Conceptually, the MCTE will further integrate all training enablers from full-flight simulators to training areas and ranges, to force-on-force systems and deliver training to Marines by way of multiple training programs. Initial fielding for the project is expected later this year, with plans to have the program in place in 2025.
The FY24 budget request contains an additional $581 million for training and education modernization.
LVC for the Navy
CNO Gilday said his service continues the Fleet Training Wholeness initiative to integrate live platforms and simulators across its strike groups. The service leader added this initiative funds LVC training at the unit and strike group levels. “In the fleet, LVC continues to be a game-changer in training our combat leaders. To date, fleet exercises like Large Scale Exercise-21 have connected eight Maritime Operations Centers, three Marine Force Operations Centers, eight Carrier and Expeditionary Strike Groups, and 30 ships into a single LVC training environment.”
This August’s Large Scale Exercise-23 will further expand the Navy’s LVC capabilities by increasing the numbers of total participants - training both at-sea and pierside - in an advanced, global scenario. The CNO continued, “From the pilot in the cockpit to the technician on the radar scope, LVC initiatives allow warfighters in all domains to train together at unprecedented levels of integration and complexity.”
Concurrent investments in training like the Ready Relevant Learning initiative will allow the Navy to continue to modernize service training and accelerate new delivery methods, supplementing its traditional brick-and-mortar schoolhouses with modern, multi-media, multi-platform solutions.
Competition for Resources
Navy leadership is also highlighting the need for smaller yet capable amphibious ships, more and increasingly lethal missiles and other materiel to elevate the Navy-Marine Corps teams’ ability to win against a near- and a more capable peer competitor. All of these competing requirements are vying with new and existing S&T budget lines for full funding.