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Remodeling Simulation

July 2001
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Focus moves from clever gadgets to warfighter needs.

The U.S. Defense Department’s prime modeling and simulation office is crafting a new master plan that focuses on warfighter needs rather than technological leaps. The plan is emerging from a reassessment of past accomplishments as well as requirements identified by the major commands.

The Defense Modeling and Simulation Office (DMSO), Alexandria, Virginia, was established 10 years ago as the executive secretariat for the Defense Department’s Executive Council on Modeling and Simulation. It serves as the full-time focal point for information concerning the department’s modeling and simulation (M&S) activities. The office promulgates policy, initiatives and guidance to promote cooperation among Defense Department components to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

The DMSO’s new master plan will reflect information gathered last year by the Modeling and Simulation Information Analysis Center (MSIAC), Alexandria, Virginia, an organization sponsored by the DMSO and the Defense Technical Information Center. The MSIAC surveyed key M&S practitioners on regional and functional commanders-in-chief staffs and their component commands. In addition, the center solicited input from selected supporting commands that, because of the nature of their missions, have extensive experience providing M&S support to warfighters. The U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Joint Command, various commands with geographic responsibilities, the National Simulation Center and the individual services were among the organizations the MSIAC surveyed.

According to Col. William Forrest Crain, USA, director, DMSO, the assessment focused on three areas of inquiry: What has been accomplished to date? What still needs to be done, and what does the DMSO need to do to support the warfighter? To ensure that as much feedback could be gathered as possible, a World Wide Web site was established featuring an interactive database. The information could therefore be shared within the warfighter community to determine whether the appropriate issues were being identified, Col. Crain relates.

Of the 115 tasks that were outlined in the office’s former master plan, created in 1995, the community’s consensus was that 20 had been accomplished or will be sustained by continued work. Survey participants agreed that no progress had been made on only one task, and the remaining items showed some progress, the colonel offers.

This is an optimum time to be conducting this type of reassessment, Col. Crain believes, because the services are operating under a new administration and a strategic review of the military is underway. In addition, work on accomplishing the goals set in Joint Vision 2020 has begun. “So, if it makes sense that simulation is going to complement these, then it makes sense to do the assessment and support it,” he indicates.

Another reason the office is revamping its master plan is that its current plan is more than five years old. During that time, both the requirements and the technologies have changed significantly, the colonel points out. Improvements in technology have grown exponentially, while the acquisition process continues to be linear. As a result, the gap between the two is expanding and the M&S community must respond, the colonel says.

The 1995 master plan features six objectives that are divided into subobjectives and tasks. For the new version, this number has been reduced to five, which have already been identified. The DMSO is currently working on the subobjectives and tasks, and the colonel believes the office is well on track to have the plan completed by the end of this calendar year.

The consolidation is the result of reassessing what items dovetail. The new plan will also leverage standards and practices from industry, which the colonel admits the military may have to be educated about.

The shift in focus to warfighters’ needs is not a dramatic change from what the DMSO has always done. However, Col. Crain remarks that in the past the Defense Department concentrated on the technologies because they seemed attractive. In some cases, this led to the development of M&S products that did not meet warfighters’ requirements. “Now, we have focused on the warfighter. This is what drives and prioritizes the developmental effort. It is an invalid assumption that the developer knows what the warfighter needs. We will pull out what we should be developing rather than push the technology to the warfighter,” he states.

The DMSO’s new plan objectives are the following: M&S standardization and reuse, authoritative M&S representations, support for the M&S infrastructure, ready access to M&S resources and improvement of the usability of M&S.

In many ways, the new plan is as much of a reorganization of former goals as it is a renewed focus on the warfighter. For example, terrain, oceans, atmosphere and space—subobjectives that fell under the representation of the natural environment objective in the 1995 plan—all have been moved to the authoritative M&S representations environment subobjective in the 2001 plan. All of the subobjectives from the 1995 plan’s common technical framework objective are covered under the new plan’s M&S standardization and reuse objective. Several of the subobjectives from the old plan’s M&S infrastructure objective are now included in the ready access to M&S resources section.

However, the new plan is more than just a reshuffling of old aspirations. Among the new subobjectives that are being considered are cross-domain interactions, computing, human-simulation interfaces, support tools, embedded M&S in end-user systems and security. And like every other organization that is using information technology in new ways, security is a big issue.

“Security concerns are significant. That’s no surprise. Everyone’s Web site has been hit. Well, in a simulation, when you operate in a distributed environment, it becomes a big issue. And we’re operating with coalition partners, so we have to be able to wrestle with those issues,” Col. Crain relates.

But the technology is only two parts of what the colonel calls the M&S triad. While hardware and software may be two obvious components of modeling and simulation, the third element—the people—must also be considered.

“What we’ve done in working on the new master plan is consider all three of those elements. We took a big look at the people and are examining how to address that part. Is it through training? In Desert Storm, the soldiers that were there had learned in the arcades in the shopping malls in the United States how to operate the computers they were using. They are not intimidated by the technology. It’s the people skills that we have to leverage as well as the technology,” the colonel opines.

The DMSO is actively cultivating the personnel piece of modeling and simulation. A service academy outreach program is one of the initiatives the office is employing to ensure that service members are familiar with M&S technology early in their careers.

“Don’t wait until you bring this young person on later in his or her career. We are co-sponsoring a modeling professorship. The purpose is to bring in that kind of cross-pollination and start at the grass roots level. How old are the people that are going to be fighting with the technologies of 2020? The generation that’s going to be using the technologies described in Joint Vision 2020 is in diapers today. So, we have to address this,” Col. Crain says.

Last year’s survey identified other concerns in the commands. One recurring issue is the high cost of M&S technology in both money and time. “We can solve the problem, but we can’t wave a wand and solve it tomorrow. If you look at the DOD [Department of Defense] as a company, we are a very, very large company. Any time you try to implement something in a large company, there are problems. You have to look at how you can standardize,” the colonel relates.

The joint community wants to identify standards to support the integration of multiple simulations. This capability would help address the high cost of M&S technology by using elements from various simulations to create new ones.

Col. Crain uses cooking as an analogy to describe the concept of composable simulations. At the grocery store, a cook chooses a variety of items, then uses these to produce several different types of culinary creations. For simulations, the capability to put the pieces together in several different scenarios saves both time and money. In addition, by adopting standards, as military personnel move from station to station, they can quickly begin working with a system because they are familiar with it from a previous command.

Another issue identified in the survey conducted by MSIAC was increasing the use of M&S for operations other than war (OOTW). This is a topic that greatly interests Col. Crain as his assignment prior to taking over as the DMSO’s director was in Bosnia. “We had a small team to provide analytical support and no tools in modeling and simulation to support what we were being asked to do. Right now, we have the JSIMS [joint simulation system] and JWARS [joint warfare system] programs in line to do analytic simulation for operations other than war. But, the delivery of those systems is a few years off,” the colonel offers.

Current M&S technologies could be useful in OOTW to assist displaced persons. The same principles that are employed for network analysis could be applied to resettlement efforts, the colonel explains, because the work that must be accomplished is very similar—move items from one place to another over an infrastructure and support them in transit. This information could then be combined with models of information about de-mining work, for example, to optimize de-mining efforts while at the same time moving people through the area.

The DMSO is also addressing the challenges that coalition operations pose. European nations and Korea have been developing M&S technologies with an eye toward hooking into JSIMS. The goal is to be able to participate and interact in a collaborative environment. NATO has adopted the High Level Architecture (HLA), a Defense Department program, as its simulation architecture, and the DMSO has assisted in a number of demonstrations and exercises to further the understanding of the standard.

“We have to be able to operate in multinational coalitions as well as jointly. So, it behooves us to work with our allies to make our M&S systems interoperable. As world events become more complicated, it’s essential that we work and train together without the necessity to actually be in the same location—moving troops and material costs money, regardless of the nationality of the currency, and training and maintenance monies often compete with real-world operation costs,” Col. Crain declares.

To achieve the many goals it has set for itself as well as prepare to meet the objectives of the new master plan, the DMSO is now organized by task. The warfighter division identifies, integrates, disseminates and addresses warfighter M&S requirements. The enterprise division is composed of current DMSO programs such as the HLA, the Integrated Natural Environment and Human Representation programs, focusing on M&S needs and efforts of the next three to five years. The concepts application division provides M&S resources such as the MSIAC, the M&S Resource Repository, the M&S education program and proactive outreach programs that act as a conduit for shared information.

The DMSO’s science and technology initiatives division concentrates on finding promising M&S tools, products and capabilities that are on the drawing board today but will be in use five or more years from now. The office’s goal for this division is to anticipate selected technology leaps and also shorten the maturation time of technologies so the M&S community can incorporate them into planning and acquisition cycles for current and future programs. Col. Crain believes it is important to plan for the future of M&S today to influence long-range funding decisions.

The DMSO’s integration task force currently is working toward bringing together the information that has been gathered about past accomplishments with assessments of future needs. It also will be instrumental in work on the new master plan, Col. Crain says.