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Featured Training Effectiveness

{Editor’s Note: Earlier, we posted a Q&A with Wes Naylor, Former Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Training Systems Division, about the importance of effective training to ensure that military services are “ready to fight.”  Naylor told us how training in the live, virtual and constructive (LVC) world, has lifted many of the previous training restrictions, offering more flexibility than ever before.  So we asked him, with the technology that we have today, what is now standing in the way of effective training? Here is what he had to say:}

Training is in a great place today, in that technology has caught up with the promises we were making about it 10 to12 years ago. We can do things in gaming and virtual environments that we could only talk and dream about a decade ago. The technology is here.

We also are in a fortunate space where there is broad acceptance across the Department of Defense (DoD) and Services that we need to move to the systems, which include live, virtual and constructive (LVC), virtual environment trainers, and intelligent tutoring, that will enable that advanced training. Money and need are pressing us in that direction, and, since the technology is already here, we are at a unique point in time where we don’t have to bet on something that “might be.”

Unfortunately, the acquisition of LVC and other high-quality, multi-platform training systems is not nearly fast enough or nimble enough. When we are going up against non-traditional actors, like in the Middle East where we are dealing with ISIS and Al Qaeda and folks who change their tactics and their equipment on a moment’s notice, we can’t have a training system that takes a year or 18 months to spool up a requirement and then come up with a training solution. We have to turn around training solutions much faster so we don’t get expose people to known dangers and tactics in theater.

To speed up the acquisition process, we have to fix the policy piece of it on both the government and industry side. We have to look holistically at the policies – acquisition and IT – that are slowing it down, as well as how we manage risk on those. Since technology is not the barrier to where we need to go in training, we need to evaluate how fast we can buy the technology and how fast can we get past internal government policy and systems. For example, many times a service will know that a system exists, but they can’t buy it or field the system because of policies and policy rulings that were made 10-20 years ago and have not kept pace with where technology is going.

An example I like to use is Sailor 2025, where it would be advantageous for us to move learning out of the classroom and into the cloud. Again, the technology exists to make that happen. In fact, many large corporations are already doing it and doing it with high confidence from an IT security standpoint.. There should be no reason – and there is no technological reason – why the Services can’t do it. However, they do get bound up in our policies and an “It’s not the way we have always done it” mindset.

DoD leadership, along with leaders from the Department of the Navy, have said that the Services need to move faster toward LVC and other types of simulation training. The warrior has said we have to move faster.  Yet we have a frozen middle because the folks in the middle aren’t incentivized to move faster and our systems aren’t incentivized to take risks in acquisition and fielding.

Luckily, there are examples where we do it and do it well. If you take a look at Special Operations Command, they have been willing to push the boundaries on speeding up the acquisition process while staying within the rules. The things they are acquiring and developing fast are things that blow up and kill people, so there is a much higher safety bar. We shouldn’t apply the same bar to a virtual environment trainer as we do to a missile or a munition that can kill someone. We have to balance the risk of it appropriately. If Special Ops Command can move a weapons system out quickly, we should be able to move a training system that doesn’t use live ordnance out as quickly or more quickly than they can.

Post Author
President & Managing Partner of Cohen Naylor Group and Former Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Training Systems Division.