A Marine Take on Live, Virtual, and Constructive Initiatives

A Marine Take on Live, Virtual, and Constructive Initiatives

Posted: February 9, 2016 | By: Mr. Brett Telford

Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there.”
Marine General Victor Krulak

Introduction: Preparing to Win

Modeling and Simulation (M&S) will not win any battles for the Marine Corps. As has been the case for nearly two-and-a-half centuries, real Marines with real weapons and real ammunition will win our battles. But being ready is still a necessary condition for prevailing in combat. And because M&S is a monumentally important part of being ready, Marine Corps M&S needs to do everything it can to ensure that Marines are ready. With current fiscal constraints, M&S is particularly important, given its tendency to be far more affordable than alternatives.

In the Marine Corps, as in other services, the Title X tasks to “man, train, and equip” aren’t getting any easier. Indeed, the diversity of threats to our country is expanding and traverses nearly the entire spectrum of war. As the smallest service, the Marine Corps must employ the most efficient means available to ensure our forces have the tools, training, and support they need to meet these diverse threats. And when you’re talking about transforming the cumbersome and the expensive into the convenient and the affordable, you probably need to be talking about M&S.

Recognizing the value of M&S and the need to work closely with our joint counterparts, the Marine Corps recently reorganized its M&S management structure to match the M&S management structure in the Navy. Our managerial framework, like the Navy’s, now has four communities – acquisition, analysis, experimentation, and training. The Marine Corps M&S Management Office (MCMSMO) coordinates M&S activities across these four communities and reports to the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command (CG, MCCDC). This structure lets our service share information across M&S communities within the Marine Corps, and it lets us provide a single, coherent voice to our counterparts across the DoD M&S enterprise. Internal and external coordination is important to DoD in general, and to the Marine Corps in particular – we must leverage existing capabilities across services and across communities whenever doing so accelerates the achievement of an important goal.

Now, in 2015, when you think about Live-Virtual-Constructive (LVC) events in the Marine Corps, you are almost always thinking about training. However, LVC capabilities transcend a single community, as demonstrated by the DoD and our sister services, who are already actively planning to use LVC across multiple M&S domains. To avoid falling behind our sister services, the Marine Corps needs to plan for LVC to grow. This paper will outline how the Marine Corps can set the stage for a strong LVC future, and it will do so by providing context on the state of M&S in our M&S communities (not just the training community, which is the vanguard for how the Marine Corps will use LVC to support training).

The Urgency of Live/Virtual Constructive Initatives

Perhaps no other category of M&S efforts holds as much promise as LVC initiatives. Currently, the training community is the big dog and very nearly the only dog, in Marine Corps LVC. Thus, talking about an LVC Training Environment (LVC-TE) in 2015 and talking about LVC in 2015 are two nearly identical conversations. Still, LVC-TE solutions devised in 2015 or 2016 shouldn’t bind Marine LVC-TE to 2015 or 2016. Likewise, LVC-TE solutions of today shouldn’t constrain broad, multi-community LVC in the future. Technological progress may hold situations in which LVC will matter to people outside the training world (i.e. analysts, acquisition specialists, or concept developers). The Marine Corps needs to allow for progress, which invariably brings with it the unforeseen.

Before this discussion of LVC goes any further, a brief discussion of terms and definitions is in order. For those of you less familiar with LVC, it’s helpful to think of the words this way:

  • LIVE: Real people operating real systems
  • VIRTUAL: Real people operating simulated systems
  • CONSTRUCTIVE: Simulated people operating simulated systems

For those of you intimately familiar with LVC, we ask that you check any tendentious inclinations toward hair splitting. Yes, you can play semantic games for hours, tediously pontificating on the gray areas between live and virtual; virtual and constructive; and constructive and live. This paper is a discussion of issues and ideas. We can all dive into the rabbit holes later. (And most of us have lost many hours we’ll never get back listening to explorations of the ambiguities in these three terms.)

Now that we have a handle on these terms that are attracting so much attention, we need to remind ourselves that when DoD gets excited about an idea, the Good Idea Fairy isn’t far behind. Currently, LVC is the darling of the buzzword chanters and the PowerPoint prophets. Any number of DoD briefings promises full integration of countless M&S capabilities via LVC technology. There’s a tantalizing air of legitimacy to pitches for on-demand distributed training, reuse of models, and operating from the cloud. It’s easy to conjure visions of Marines immersed in a digital world that will meet their every need. Commanders are left with the impression that all they have to do is press a button, and they will have instantaneous, multi-echelon training (as well as analysis and experimentation). It will be just like Xbox Live®!

Of course, the reality is much different. Budgets aren’t unlimited; DoD isn’t the entertainment industry; and the speed of our bureaucracy can handicap us as we try to keep pace with the speed of technological progress.

The Marine Corps recognizes these challenges at the same time it recognizes the importance of LVC. The Marine Corps must review its LVC plan, as Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in his recently published “Commandant’s Planning Guidance.” “We will particularly focus on better leveraging modern immersive training and simulation technologies.” Significantly, Gen. Dunford also directs that any efforts the Marine Corps takes should be based on understood priorities and requirements. In other words, the Marine Corps will pursue LVC capabilities where they make sense, but uttering the acronym “LVC” doesn’t give you carte blanche to hook up assorted M&S systems just for the sake of hooking them up. Integration between independent capabilities should only occur where it needs to occur.

The spectrum of uses for LVC environments is rapidly increasing across multiple M&S communities. However, the cost in time, personnel, and resources for setting up LVC can increase too, if you’re not careful (and even if you are). Many existing environments don’t effectively reuse common capabilities. Instead, there are LVC environments that are highly customized for specific operational requirements, and these environments must be built/dismantled for individual events. Needless to say, these one-off LVC events are costly, inefficient, and unconducive to technological progress. In order to correct this trend, CG, MCCDC will help guide the development of a Marine Corps-wide LVC capability.

Distributed Simulation Engineering and Execution Process

Several systems engineering processes exist, but the Distributed Simulation Engineering and Execution Process (DSEEP) articulates the specific steps that are most appropriate for distributed M&S capabilities. The Simulation Interoperability and Standards Organization (SISO) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have produced an overlay that accommodates environments requiring multiple architectures; in other words, SISO and IEEE have created an approach that handles LVC environments such as the ones DoD employs.

LVC requires a strategic vision that rests upon a strong foundation of where technology is and how this status quo came to be. For USMC LVC, MCCDC will look to formalize the LVC enterprise; that means devising a vision, strategy, and management approach. This vision will reflect the concepts of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), and will reach across our four M&S communities to see how they can leverage LVC capabilities. This approach necessitates a detailed understanding of the LVC requirements for each element of the MAGTF. To help understand these issues, MCCDC will produce a white paper identifying the Marine Corps requirements that M&S working via LVC can support. The requirements will be arranged in blocks and placed in a hierarchy. In turn, Marine Corps planners will be better able to harness LVC. It’s worth noting that executing LVC in the present and the near future is only half the battle and is currently limited to the training domain. The ultimate key is a Marine Corps service-level LVC policy that enables capabilities to grow and be used in unforeseen ways, i.e., a policy that doesn’t constrain future LVC with the perspectives of the bureaucrat or technician stuck in 2015.

Focus Areas

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