In the run-up to 2023 I/ITSEC, Marty Kauchak, MS&T Editor gained insights from Rear Adm. (ret.) US Navy, Jim Robb, President, National Training and Simulation Association on a wide range of topics of interest to the S&T community. The NTSA president’s views and positions follow.
MS&T: Admiral Robb, thanks once again for taking time to speak with MS&T. Before we gain a 2023 I/ITSEC update, we’re also interested in receiving your perspectives on several topics that will be widely-discussed around the conference’s exhibition floor and meeting rooms. First, there’s artificial intelligence. What’s needed in terms of new or enhanced US government laws, policies and funding to help expand AI throughout US DoD training and education programs?
Jim Robb (JR): Thank you for having me. For AI to be effectively integrated into US DoD training, we need a three-pronged approach. Firstly, clear policies that delineate the ethical use of AI. This applies both in training scenarios and operational usage, as we need to know about operational use before we can design training. Secondly, we need funding specifically earmarked for AI-driven projects. This is a critical enabler to both advancing the technology and understanding the technology enough to build the policy I mentioned previously. Lastly, enduring collaboration between the defense sector, academia, and the tech industry is crucial to ensure the right balance between innovation and security.
MS&T: And to follow-up, AI will one 2023 I/ITSEC Special Event theme, part of “The Next Big Thing” session.
JR: Absolutely. The “Next Big Thing” session will delve deep into the practical applications of AI in training and simulation, showcasing real-world case studies and discussions from leading experts. This session promises to be both informative and eye-opening, and it’s a very good complement to the myriad of papers being presented throughout the conference on AI-related topics.
MS&T: There have been substantive actions, for instance, NTSA’s annual TSIS, to strengthen the early, “left side” of the acquisition process for S&T products and systems. What else is needed to make the rest of the US DoD acquisition process more responsive and equitable to current and prospective S&T industry product and service providers?
JR: First, I think it’s important to understand that any action from NTSA is part of and tightly coupled with the wider efforts being undertaken by all members of the simulation and training community. For instance, TSIS serves as the training systems acquisition commands’ annual baseline for their acquisition forecast, with updates occurring periodically at both their Procurement Acquisition Lead Time (PALT) sessions and at I/ITSEC, creating a near-constant dialogue between government and industry. That dialogue is also integrated with specific discussions and events occurring in venues such as the Central FL Tech Grove, enabling very strong collaboration between the parties. Building on the initial actions, there’s still a need for even further transparency and communication throughout the acquisition lifecycle. There is also a need to stabilize funding across acquisition programs, and the ongoing Planning, Programming, Budget, and Execution (PPBE) Reform Commission offers a bit of hope for progress on that front. Further, I’m encouraged by recent trends that simplify bureaucratic procedures and embrace agile methodologies that can speed up the process, ensuring timely delivery of cutting-edge technologies to our warfighters.
MS&T: The Congressional M&S Caucus and NTSA have been among the proponents for expanding the national M&S dialogue among the wider S&T community, beyond defense into healthcare and other high-risk industries. Is there an opportunity to foster a dialogue between the defense learning (training and education) community and the commercial aviation training enterprise?
JR: Undoubtedly. The defense and commercial aviation sectors face overlapping challenges and can learn immensely from each other. Some of these connections already exist through the pilots that have made the transition from the military to commercial aviation. NTSA is keen on facilitating such dialogues to deepen these connections, allowing both communities to exchange best practices, lessons learned, and explore collaborative opportunities.
MS&T: Your concerns about the future strength of the US S&T industry workforce – and some thoughts on how to recruit, retain and sustain this national resource.
JR: The workforce is the backbone of the S&T industry. It's imperative that we invest in STEM education, provide robust training platforms, and foster an environment of continuous learning. We are partnering in each of these areas. For instance, DoD offers the STARBASE program to engage youth in STEM activities. As Central Florida stood up a STARBASE, they leveraged their relationship with NTSA to bring STARBASE instructors to I/ITSEC for collaboration and enrichment. Collaborative initiatives such as this between government, industry and educational institutions can help bridge skill gaps and ensure a ready pool of talent. NTSA supports STEM initiatives throughout the year and brings both educators and students together to showcase their talents in the exhibit hall and take in the universe of possibilities at I/ITSEC.
MS&T: Update us on your forecast for this year’s I/ITSEC in terms of exhibitor and delegate registrations and such.
JR: We’re anticipating a significant turnout this year. Preliminary numbers indicate an uptick in both exhibitor and delegate registrations. The enthusiasm from the community is palpable, and we expect I/ITSEC 2023 to be a landmark event.
MS&T: Preview this conference’s other Special Events and activities the attendees should be attentive to.
JR: You mentioned AI earlier, and of course there is a considerable amount of discussion around AI- rightfully so. We’ll be addressing Government perspectives on the adoption of artificial intelligence in our Next Big Thing TalX series. Our “Black Swan- Dawn of the Super Soldier” event will certainly generate discussion on the future of augmented human abilities. Attendees can look forward to hearing from senior leadership sessions and panels with government, industry and academia on topics including augmented reality, cyber-physical systems, medical training, and immersive training modules. Our innovation showcases promise a deep dive into the latest in S&T. In addition to our Congressional Caucus, another very timely and information-rich signature event is the “Train While You Fight: Ukraine as Touchstone for Training in Future Wars.”
MS&T: Highlight other compelling reasons “undecided” and unregistered individuals should attend 2023 I/ITSEC.
JR: I/ITSEC is not just a conference; it’s the epicenter of the modeling and simulation world. With the continued transformation to a digital world, so much of our future depends on modeling and simulation. If you want to witness the future of training and education, engage with industry, government and academic leaders on the technology of today and the future, and be part of game-changing discussions, there’s no better place to be.
MS&T: And anything else to add?
JR: Just that I/ITSEC 2023 continues to be an unparalleled platform for learning, networking, and collaboration. We're excited to see the community come together again, sharing insights and paving the way forward. With the technology landscape evolving more rapidly than ever, I/ITSEC gives professionals in modeling, simulation and training an opportunity to learn from and share information with leaders in the field in one place at one time. I/ITSEC 2023 will certainly be a pivotal year for all participants.
[Editor’s note: Andy Smith, Halldale President and Publisher; Marty Kauchak, MS&T Editor and CAT and SCT correspondent; Marco Santana, Halldale Florida correspondent; and Holly Foster, Marketing Strategy Consultant for MS&T will be at MS&T/Halldale booth 1159 during 2023 I/ITSEC.]