Play Games! Help End Defense Procurement Fraud

By Sandra I. Erwin
The Defense Acquisition University has jumped on the online gaming bandwagon, hoping to entice thousands of Pentagon procurement officials to have a little fun while they hone their management skills.
A newwebsite unveiled Dec. 1 offers qualified registrants a menu of 13 games that fall into the category of “casual,” although they are “designed specifically to enhance acquisition work force education,” says Alicia Sanchez, games czar at the Defense Acquisition University.
“We’re super excited about it,” she says during aconference call with reporters. Sanchez’ personal favorite is “Procurement Fraud Indicators” which currently is the top ranked game on the DAU site.
Procurement fraud is one of those areas that are “wrought with shades of grey,” so it makes for a challenging gaming experience that appeals to everyone’s inner-sleuth, she says. Players can dig into cases of suspected fraud, conduct investigations and reach a conclusion of whether actual fraud was committed.  
In “Ratner Racing,” players can show off their knowledge of rules and regulations.
Other games don’t sound as entertaining, although they do address skills that DAU considers valuable for acquisition professionals. They include “Select-A-Cell,” which covers the logistics lifecycle. “Acquisition Proposition” is a diner dash style game designed to reinforce the phases of the acquisition lifecycle. The “Invasion Prevention Corporation’s CPI” game is designed to help students understand when and why it might be appropriate to use "continuous process improvement" tools.
Sanchez says DAU intends to release a new game each month in order to keep players coming back and to keep the content fresh. Upcoming releases include “Artemis: A Cost Estimating Game” and “Time Traveler: A Rates Game.”
“All of our games reinforce core competencies,” say Sanchez. “They are designed so that most acquisition professionals can play them.”
DAU also plans to unleash more complex simulations for senior executives, such as games that focus on how to write complex bid solicitations or how to oversee major defense programs. “We want people to be able to do their jobs better by allowing them to have experiences they normally would not have,” says Sanchez. The Defense Department is hiring thousands of new program managers, many of whom have little to no real-world experience. Gaming could help expose newcomers to challenges that they will encounter on the job, Sanchez says. “We realize the difference between an expert and a novice often is this huge cache of life experiences on the job,” she says. “We hope in the long run that we’ll be able to incorporate games that focus on very complex skills.” One of the projects in the works is a game that addresses one of the Pentagon’s most troubled acquisition disciplines, battlefield contracting.
Sanchez says there are no official targets or metrics yet available on how many participants have signed up or how many are expected. She says she would be happy if 10,000 people signed up over the next six months. That still would be a small portion of a defense acquisition work force of 147,000
So far, no games are being required as part of the official DAU curriculum, although it is possible that, one day, “We may consider giving out credit for games played,” says Sanchez. “We certainly want to move into this cautiously.”
Each game cost anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 to develop, and they are relatively low-tech. “We’re not talking about Halo, or even 3-D,” she says.  The work was performed by a mix of organizations, including the University of Central Florida’s simulation branch, the Defense Department’s advanced distributed learning laboratory and several gaming vendors. Eventually, games will be made available in iTunes, Facebook and “any outlet where we can reach students,” she says. They also might be formatted for use on smart phones.

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, Videogames

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