I/ITSEC NEWS: Digital Age Requires More Dynamic, Realistic Training

By Laura Heckmann

Defense Dept. photo

ORLANDO — The world has shifted from the industrial age to the age of information, and sustaining a global force now requires training that is not only increasingly realistic and dynamic, but more integrated across U.S. forces, senior officials said.

Modernization efforts are sweeping the services, and the root of modernization is digitization, Young Bang, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said during a panel discussion at the National Training and Simulation Association’s Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation & Education Conference Nov. 28.

Bang described the journey toward modernization as a digital odyssey, “which is our journey to really be more digital as a service.” In the context of a global force, that means both kinetic and non-kinetic solutions across services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and partners and allies, he said.

Along the digital odyssey is a need to adapt and create training to reflect a battlespace that is more complex than it has ever been.

“It is, no kidding, going to be from space to the seabed,” Rear Adm. Douglas Verissimo, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, said during the panel. “And it's going to be all at once, and it's not all going to be kinetic. And that's going to be challenging for an industry that relies, and has relied during the last 30 years, on specific, real-time, accurate, unquestionable information. That fog of war I think is going to be really real, and we're going to have to … simulate, exercise and rehearse that type of warfighting.”

The fog of war generated by “myths and disinformation that clouds decision-making” is going to require an understanding of the battle environment, Caroline Baxter, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force education and training, said during the panel. The technology, and the speed with which it is obtained, is only as good as the ability to use it.

“Technology isn’t going to save us,” Baxter added. “People enabled by technology will save us, and so the training that this has to enable is foundational to all of this.”

Understanding the battle environment means focusing on near-peer competitors, and more realistic and integrated simulations to meet the pacing threat, the panel said.

Brig. Gen. Andrew Leone, mobilization assistant to the military deputy in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said a conflict with a pacing threat “will likely be at a scale of fighting we haven’t seen in the past. We need to be integrated as a service, as a department, and these future efforts require very realistic training tools and platforms that can be dynamic and also are able to keep up with the ever-changing battlespace.”

The battlespace is getting more complicated, Verissimo said. “Therefore we need the opportunity to train in a very immersive and realistic environment so we can find … those points of error and those points of duplication.”

Lt. Gen. Kevin Iiams, commanding general of the Marine Corps Training and Education Command, said virtual reality and augmented reality training systems also need to be more tailored and higher fidelity, and less one-size-fits-all. Low fidelity simulators of the past were used for easier integration, he said, but they “didn't really provide the realism to the exercise force that we needed. … We've got to move to holistic training.”

Verissimo said integration is key to the vision’s success. “We need to open up the cabinet so that we can, at speed, get equipment talking to each other rapidly, sequentially, in parallel and get it to the warfighter quickly, with trained individuals.”

Achieving the desired level of complexity in training systems also means the thought process needs to include designing and adapting systems with the “digital native” in mind, Bang said.

“A lot of our soldiers that are coming into the Army are born natively digital — they know how to play video games,” he said. “They know how to … understand the user experience. … And I think that's really critical to get the training, to get the education right to upskill our leaders and soldiers so we can really perpetuate that.”

Using a gym analogy, Bang said the training process will require reps and sets, or “continuously [working] in a digital environment. We have to train our soldiers and warriors in a digital environment, and there shouldn't be an arbitrary divide of physical and virtual. We have an opportunity to converge all that.”

Continuous evolution and integration rely on common standards, Iiams said. “It has to have … repeatable standards that we can measure and tell whether we're getting the bang for the buck out of the changes that we're making to our force.”

Instituting common training standards across the services will further integration and support interoperability, Baxter added. She said the department also needs to continue to improve its training and governance structure and processes to align training policies.

Industry is a critical component in achieving the service’s training goals, the panel agreed. But the Defense Department does not need a better mousetrap — it needs innovation tailored to the department’s problems, Bang said.

“Don't come to us and say, ‘Here's the coolest tech that I have.’ It's not innovation. We need you to help us solve our problems,” he said. “We don't want a better mousetrap, right? We want capabilities, and we want you to apply your technologies to our problems. That's innovation. Giving us technology isn't really true innovation unless you can apply that.”

“We really need industry's help here in this space,” he continued. “And we need you to come meet us in the middle. We're not quite there in the digital world yet, but we're learning and we're looking at how do we apply your capabilities.”


Topics: Training and Simulation

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