This 27 February, group editor Marty Kauchak completed a wide-ranging interview with Colonel Joseph Nolan, Deputy Director of US Army Modeling and Simulation Office (AMSO). Highlights from their interview are provided below.
The US Army’s annual M&S Forum has become a hallmark of the service’s efforts to put a business practice in place to help manage enterprise-level investments in its six M&S communities. At the same time, the Forum brings together the larger Army M&S “family” to share ideas, best practices and tools, to provide a consistent representation of M&S across the service, and to reduce costs and gain other efficiencies.
This February’s fourth iteration of the forum complemented the service’s recent, “bold steps on how it approaches modernization,” according to Colonel Joseph Nolan, Deputy Director of U.S. Army Modeling and Simulation Office (AMSO). The Army M&S leader added that while his service’s modernization efforts are advancing well under the leadership of Army Futures Command, a four-star headquarters, “there was a feeling within the leadership, that these efforts were not synchronized, and we weren’t being as responsive to the warfighter and soldier that we needed to be.”
AMSO, as the service M&S lead, took the initiative to include Army Futures Command’s M&S activities in the 2019 Forum’s deliberations, allowing the organization to also benefit from wider service community’s M&S business practices. To that end, 2019 M&S Forum delegates included members from the eight command Cross Functional Teams leading specific efforts and working special projects. While select cross functional team members initially attended the 2018 M&S Forum to gain basic insights on how the service conducts business within the M&S enterprise, “we followed it up this year with the M&S ‘deep dive’ with each of the different efforts that Army Futures Command is focused on, to help them understand the Army M&S enterprise, what assets the teams have available to them now, to include data and tools, and help expedite the Cross Functional Teams’ M&S successes,” Nolan recalled.
Cross Functional Team areas of focus to help develop the Army Modernization Enterprise include: Long-Range Precision Fires; manned and unmanned capability in Next Generation Combat Vehicle; manned and unmanned platforms for Future Vertical Lift; Army Network; Air and Missile Defense capability; Soldier Lethality; Precision Navigation and Timing; and the Synthetic Training Environment.
The AMSO Deputy Director emphasized the goal of one focus – the Synthetic Training Environment – is to “expand and distribute simulations down to the battalions and company levels, with an enhanced capability to model both dense urban environments and any other type of future battlefield we will have moving forward. STE is focused on leveraging new and emerging technology, to advance the pace, quality and capability of our training systems.”
And beyond STE, which is familiar to many MS&T readers, the AMSO Deputy Director was asked how M&S might be brought to bear in another randomly selected focus area – FVL, for instance. In one case, modeling supports the accurate and quantitative, rapid evolving strategy of manned-unmanned teaming of weapons platforms and their sensors, and other onboard systems. “And as important, is how do we train to that,” Nolan said and added, “how do we train these operators, and that circles back to the Synthetic Training Environment. When you take a look at these emerging capabilities, there is a lot of overlap. The more precise our investments and new concepts – the bigger the bang for the buck we’ll get.”
Two Significant Activities
The AMSO Deputy Director called attention to two, major on-going efforts, each which prominently figured in this M&S Forum’s deliberations.
At the top of Nolan’s list was the Unified Data effort. He explained, “The idea with our Unified Data effort is focused on providing visibility and access to authoritative data so we can get consistent representation across the enterprise.” With respect to M&S, there are multiple, different types of content qualifying as unified data, including performance data, force structure data and geospatial data.
The notion of quickly and more completely distributing authoritative data to the Cross Functional Teams is powerful, with cost avoidance, elimination of redundant investments, and other efficiencies being gained. Nolan emphasized, “That was one of the big, good wins we had.”
Of added interest to training audiences, another part of the Unified Data effort has AMSO partnering with TRADOC G-2 to obtain notional threat representations for training events. Nolan explained there are five notional nations, each representing a projected threat the Army may face in the future. “We have also built those notional threats in the same force structure and added parametric data, so we can pull down full threat data as well. Whereas in the past, a unit going into training had to create this data from scratch, today, a unit using a training simulation, battalion staff exercise, can pull down their unit’s force structure data, the parametric data associated with all the weapons their unit and the threat nations’ have, all the way down to the soldier level, with their associated probability of kill and probability of hit tables,” he added, and noted, “and all of this reduces set-up time, allowing us to do more ‘sets and reps’, something both the secretary of the Army and chief of staff of the Army are really looking for in terms of training.”
This data will be hosted on the Army Organization Server, and will serve as the data broker to process force structure and link it digitally to parametric data.
An initial operational capability of this May is projected for the force structure and parametric data linkage effort.
In a second major initiative, Nolan candidly observed, “we’re a little earlier on the geospatial data process. What we’re focused on is defining the parameters required to create both data layers and describe what the future environment will look like.” Offering the example of dense urban terrain, the Army is looking to have its One World Terrain and geospatial data efforts focus on helping to define the data layers, and then working with the authoritative sources for the layers to establish a commonly agreed upon format for the layer content. From an overarching perspective, the service remains committed to toward cloud-delivered terrain, rendered at the point of use for simulation and command and control applications.
Major General Maria Gervais, Deputy Commanding General for the US Army Combined Arms Center-Training and Director, STE Cross Functional Team, is the service lead for One World Terrain and its overarching Synthetic Training Environment. As such, AMSO remains in a direct support role to the STE Cross Function Team to advance these two efforts.
On the Horizon
Asked to peer out to the end of 2020 and highlight AMSO’s short-term priorities, Nolan noted, first and foremost, the office wants to complete Phase 1 of the Unified Data effort, linking force structure data access with parametric data from the Army Futures Command’s Army Material Systems Analysis Activity (AMSAA), Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland. “We want to ensure that capability is accessible, accurate and hardened,” he emphasized.
Concurrently, AMSO will be working in partnership with Army Geospatial Center (AGC), and in support of the STE Cross Functional Team, to advance One World Terrain. Nolan added, “We need to identify what the capabilities really are today, and those emerging capabilities we have, to be able to provide cloud-delivered terrain, machine rendered at the point of use, like mobile apps do. And then, provide that capability with agnostic standards for industry to look at for M&S and command and control. At this point, you hit that fusion of modeling and simulation in support of operations.” This outcome is huge, as it would provide the commander in the field with the capability to implement a simulation of a war plan on system he or she will go to war with.
Also on the office’s planning horizon is bolstering human behavior representation, which calls for modeling human behavior both on the friendly and hostile sides. Nolan explained, “This is less for predictions but more to be able to provide information for commanders to make decisions.” While this technology thrust would identify an authoritative Army lead office for human behavior modeling, through a project’s life cycle, it would conceptually, digitally implement a specified human behavior model to help inform the emerging capabilities originating from Army Futures Command, and support commanders during mission analysis.