Editor’s note: This article was written by Phil Jasper, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Government Systems, at Rockwell Collins. In part one of this article series, Jasper details his opinions and insights on maximizing interoperability and continuous convergence efforts to ensure warfighter readiness. In this second piece, Jasper outlines three areas of focus to help achieve greater collaboration and more progressive approaches to the defense acquisition process. His piece was originally published in the first 2018 issue of MS&T Magazine, which you can find here.
In my earlier piece, Achieving Extreme Interoperability in LVC Training, I explained the current state of training and pointed out that current training networks and systems are an amalgam of interfaces, protocol standards and equipment that make the integration of training environments needlessly costly and complicated and constitute a barrier to truly integrated training.
While the Department of Defense (DoD) is heeding the wakeup call and moving into a direction of interoperability, we need to understand the complexity and magnitude of the problem, and not pursue partial measures. We need a paradigm shift to enable our networked training systems to keep pace with our evolving weapons systems and CONOPS, and an approach to interoperability that doesn’t depend on the ability to define a one-size-fits-all standard.
I would suggest that the way forward lies in following three main themes:
Embrace a Philosophy of Continuous Convergence of LVC Training Systems
Continuous convergence recognizes the evolutionary nature of the requirements driving the need for LVC and the technologies that will enable solutions for each service and across the services. This is a journey. It is not a destination. By guiding incremental technology improvement, stakeholders can gauge what works well and what does not, enabling evolution of the training experience for the mission sets that provides the most benefit. This will enable better joint as well as service unique solutions.
Disparate training needs across the services can be addressed via a common approach to interoperability. Continuous convergence will accelerate the “Speed to Fleet” through improved testing and acquisition. In fact, the services are already headed down this path via activities such as the U.S. Air Force’s Operational Test Infrastructure the U.S. Navy’s Distributed Mission Training initiative as well as NATO’s Mission Training through Distributed Simulation (MTDS) work.
Drive towards Extreme Interoperability of Connected Training Systems
The term “extreme interoperability” is intended to borrow from the values of extreme programming (XP). Whereas XP enables teams to “confidently respond to changing customer requirements, even late in the life cycle,” extreme interoperability recognizes that training environments may evolve rapidly to address new training needs. To enable this, we must begin to modify (or perhaps divest from) technologies and infrastructure that are barriers to change.
It is ironic that the desire to generate integration standards precipitated the interoperability challenges we face today. For example, early adopters of wide area simulator standards such as SIMNET were the motivation for Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS). Similarly, the development of High Level Architecture (HLA) was seen as a natural cycle of generalization and abstraction that would increase the utility of interoperable training systems. But pursuit of each successive technical solution has had the unintended consequence of exacerbating integration challenges.
The value of extreme interoperability becomes clear when we consider the impact of advances in sensors, combat information systems and smart weaponry. These breakthroughs require increasingly sophisticated test and training environments. For example, fielded instrumented training ranges historically have proven inadequate in presenting LVC-enabled training environments to their users.
Extreme interoperability is the enabler of a focused vision for the future. Extreme interoperability will eliminate big “block” deliveries in favor of agile, XP-like releases that deliver incremental changes. As with XP, extreme interoperability will improve training quality and responsiveness to changing customer (service) requirements. Extreme interoperability will recognize mistakes quickly, learn from them, and move on.
Eliminate the Barriers to Convergence and Extreme Interoperability Inherent in the Defense Acquisition Processes
Currently, each of the services acquires its own warfighter training systems independently, and, in many cases, is dependent upon unique or proprietary interfaces and standards. In reality this isolation has led to predictable outcomes: independent networks and systems that do not collaborate effectively and cannot be readily and affordably adapted to the warfighter.
To move forward, it’s crucial to understand that eliminating barriers to convergence and interoperability are not technology issues; they are policy issues. In my opinion, policy makers must define a path forward that incrementally – and under a common understanding – embraces continuous convergence and drives the services toward extreme interoperability and an LVC-enabled future.
General Stanley McChrystal addressed a similar issue in his book, Team of Teams, when he writes; “The walls between silos were torn down. Leaders looked at the best practices of the smallest units and found ways to extend them to thousands of people …” This team-of-teams approach is the blueprint for what must be done to deliver LVC training that will ensure victory in the battlespace of the future.
Dreams become concepts. Concepts can quickly become reality. We are on the cusp of a radical change in addressing how the US military and its allies can better acquire systems, prepare for their missions, and win on and off the battlefield. Now is the time to move forward in a more collaborative and effective manner as we rise to the challenge.