LVC Needs To Be Something Like TurboTax®
When the Marine Corps has the LVC capability it would like to have, it’s likely the user interface won’t be prominent. Indeed, in the case of training audiences, the LVC user interface probably will be invisible – completely behind the scenes.
While those using LVC might see very little of the LVC infrastructure, there definitely needs to be some LVC infrastructure.
An example of a good role model for LVC infrastructure would be TurboTax®, said Col. Walter Yates, the program manager for Training Systems (TRASYS), Marine Corps Systems Command.
You want a web-based service like TurboTax®, Col. Yates said. You specify what needs to be live, what needs to be virtual, and what needs to be constructive. And then you specify what you’re doing; e.g., what type of training task is involved. Then, just as TurboTax® software walks you through the administrative hassles of paying your taxes, the LVC infrastructure would resolve such matters as what needs to be connected to what, or which Information Assurance (IA) documents are required. Whether LVC occurs on the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN), the Navy Continuous Training Environment (NCTE), or some network that hasn’t even been created yet, this tax preparation software -style tool will need to provide a dashboard linked to such assets as the Marine Corps training schedule and pertinent databases.
Of course, we’re a long way from that future, Col. Yates said.
Whether you’re talking about a good administrator or a good administrative tool (such as automated tax preparation software), the essence of what you’re discussing is mapping. Someone or something needs to connect the dots so that everything that needs to be synchronized, registered, or linked gets handled properly. This idea certainly applies to LVC in general and LVC-TE in particular.
As Col. Yates noted, we need to know what our current M&S capabilities are. In the case of training, we need to know how our M&S capabilities map to our Training & Readiness (T&R) portfolio. Too often, Col. Yates continued, we have acquired M&S because experts said those tools had promise. Also, we often acquire training M&S with an exaggerated sense of urgency, which means we end up with M&S that isn’t quite suitable for our purposes.
The Training and Education Command (TECOM) has established the Simulation Assessment Working Group (SAWG) to take inventory of training M&S and note the differences between what M&S allows us to do and what M&S actually needs to do. Many of the M&S training systems fielded during the ramp-up to support wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were done using accelerated acquisition methods that never tied system capabilities to specific training requirements. TECOM will use their findings from the SAWG to formalize how specific simulations will be used to support established Marine Corps Training and Readiness (T&R) requirements. So, in the future, when training systems such as the Combat Convoy Simulator (CCS), Supporting Arms Virtual Trainer (SAVT), or the Deployable Virtual Training Environment (DVTE) are available for use, commanders will know specifically what T&R tasks can be supported with each system, and whether the systems are used individually or in concert with one another.
We do not want a situation where LVC means the Marine Corps has to buy new systems, Col. Yates said. For example, if the MAGTF Tactical Warfare Simulation (MTWS) needs to connect with the Combined Arms Command & Control Trainer Upgrade System (CACCTUS), then that’s exactly what you want to do. You want to connect MTWS with CACCTUS. You don’t want to go out and purchase LVC-specific systems that do what MTWS and CACCTUS already do.
In short, Col. Yates said, LVC needs to be about making tools interoperable (once you’ve established that they need to be interoperable).
The Near-Term Need for LVC Is Not Universal
The key to efficient and cost-effective fielding of a capability is based in large measure on a clear understanding of requirements. Each of the four Marine Corps M&S communities use their M&S tools in unique and distinct ways to meet their mission requirements. As a result, the requirement each community has for LVC capability will vary. As discussed above, in the training community, it is easy to see that LVC will play an ever increasing role in supporting the training of Marines. However, the Marine Corps analysis community may not need the same level of integration of their M&S tools in the near-term.
For example, consider the Maritime Prepositioning Force Cycle Resource Forecast Model (MMC-RFM). This model helps identify the budgetary requirements associated with changing how many pre-positioned supply ships are available to the Marine Corps. The MMC-RFM requires data from data systems the Marine Corps no longer uses. Consequently, a new model that can use available data is being developed by Logistics Operations Analysis Division (LX), Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC), Installations and Logistics (I&L). Kids don’t get these kinds of headaches playing on the PlayStation® 4 , but these sorts of challenges are basic facts of life for many military M&S users.
Because LVC, M&S, and data pose myriad challenges, users must be focused when they use such tools. If a tool is best used in relative isolation, then it probably should be used in relative isolation. Indeed, many M&S tools don’t need to be a part of LVC. Some examples include the Combined Arms Analysis Tool for the 21st Century (COMBAT XXI) and the Synthetic Theater Operations Research Model (STORM), both of which are used by MCCDC’s Operations Analysis Division (OAD).
Lieutenant Col. Dan Reber, the director of operations research at LX, HQMC, I&L, said analysts attacking logistics problems tend to have no need for LVC.
For example, when logistics analysts turn to M&S, they might use a tool such as the Combat Attrition Replacement Factor – Statistical Analysis Tool (CARF-STAT). This tool calculates how much equipment needs to be kept in reserve for certain types of Marine operations. A tool like this is very useful, but like the OAD tools cited above, probably doesn’t need to be part of LVC.
And that is an important point. While LVC capability may enable the Marine Corps to integrate any number of M&S tools, not all tools need to be integrated. As a result, even though the Marine Corps analysis community is a heavy user of M&S tools, they likely will not need to be big players in the early stages of Marine Corps LVC.
Who’s The Mastermind Behind All Of This?
When you talk about M&S, there’s a tendency to think that the tool will do all the work for you. When you talk about LVC, there’s a tendency to start hooking things together willy-nilly, without any consideration for the effort involved and the payoff that results. And when you talk about data, there’s a tendency to believe that it’s all there and that it can all be taken at face value.
All of those tendencies are bad tendencies. People with both knowledge and intelligence need to be steering M&S activities, especially LVC activities.
For example, M&S users in the Marine Corps experimentation community certainly have some tools they like to use. One is the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS), which can represent troops, vehicles, and weapons. Another valuable tool for experimentation is Experimental Planning, Intelligence & Collaboration (EPIC), a constructive tool that can touch on both analysis and training issues.
But the tools probably aren’t as important as the people, said Capt. Gabriel Diaz, the M&S officer at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL). When Futures Directorate hands MCWL a problem, Capt. Diaz said, MCWL has to be able to think broadly. It needs to look at top-level characteristics, e.g., consider the capabilities for a new vehicle. Then MCWL has to work with available tools and data to answer the questions that Futures Directorate posed.
So, Capt. Diaz continued, you want M&S personnel who are well educated. They need skills. “Analysis is still huge,” he continued. There’s a lot of “data crunching.”
The Marine Corps can’t just go out and “get some LVC.” Educated, trained professionals must ensure that the Marine Corps approaches LVC wisely. To ensure that the Marine Corps has some officers who are properly educated about M&S, the Marines have the 8825 Military Occupational Specialty. Those Marines are graduates of the Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation (MOVES) Program at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). To ensure the appropriate level and type of education for these Marines, MCMSMO recently completed a curriculum review for the MOVES Institute. One of the major additions to the program is the inclusion of hands-on LVC activities: e.g., planning, preparation, execution, and assessment.