LVC for Integrated Training
Military Training Technology
Military training is increasingly about the use of multiple training modes to deliver a single training solution. Department of Defense policy encourages the integration of a variety of training systems and techniques to provide a richer, more realistic and more effective training experience.
LVC involves the integration of the three technologies into one seamless training event. Live training refers to real people performing actual exercise missions on real systems, while the virtual domain involves real people operating simulated systems. The constructive domain involves machine-to-machine interactions—for example, when enemy forces and actions are represented in virtual reality systems or battle management, command and control, and weapons systems.
The U.S. military is seeking to determine the appropriate mix of live, virtual and constructive training methods that will ensure the highest levels of readiness while maximizing returns on investments. A key factor in this trend is the tight fiscal situation, which is putting pressure on expensive live events.
A study of Navy flight training undertaken by the Government Accountability Office in 2012 suggested that the percentage of non-live training is on the rise. In 2010, the agency found, Navy F/A-18 pilots completed 82 percent of their training using live-fly methods, compared with an expected 68 percent this year.
Special Operations Technology
The importance of DCGS-A, the Army’s DCGS program, to Army special operators is evidenced by the fact that all operational detachment alphas (ODAs) are authorized a DCGS-A unit. Moreover, all ODA intelligence personnel are trained on DCGS-A. As DCGS has developed, greater emphasis has been placed on getting intelligence to and from the most remote edges of the network. To that end, various iterations of DCGS-Lite have emerged, which have incorporated the mobile technologies required to allow isolated special operations teams to exploit intelligence at their far-forward and remote locations.
The DIB’s common operating environment represents a transition from the old architectures utilized by the Department of Defense, in which systems were integrated individually on a point-to-point basis. Legacy systems tend to collect and disseminate intelligence data from sensors and other sources in a stovepiped fashion. The DIB, which slices across all of the service DCGS programs, allows data to be shared so that data coming from the Air Force, for example, could be accessed and processed by the Army.
Tools have been and are being developed for DCGS to facilitate the capture, analysis and dissemination of all forms of intelligence. These tools are configured as services harmonize to the interoperable DIB architecture. Progressive iterations of that architecture have enhanced the interoperability of the DCGS systems and services. As a consequence, the DCGS family is becoming more joint and more amenable to be managed as an enterprise, as evidenced by the growing number of common elements that have been developed from the beginning as enterprise capabilities.
Special Operations Technology
In the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” after the Navy SEALS ended Osama bin Laden’s life, a shout is heard: “Conduct SSE!” The command refers to sensitive site exploitation, a procedure during which special operations forces collect, organize and manage sources of potentially huge stockpiles of valuable information, including documents, equipment and computers.
Forensic analysis is a key component of the after-incident investigation of special operations, as it is for crime scenes and for suspected storage sites of weapons of mass destruction. In the past, forensics investigators would collect samples from a site and send them back to a laboratory to be analyzed, a process that could take hours or even days. In recent years, thanks to the ability to compact analytical tools in handheld devices, these capabilities have been brought to the field, allowing for much quicker exploitation of collected evidence, as well as faster reaction time to the conclusions drawn from the collected materials.
A number of different technologies have been incorporated into handheld devices that help identify the presence of specific kinds of materials and data at incident sites. Infrared and Raman spectroscopy methods are used to identify drugs, explosives and other chemicals in less than a minute. Gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry extends the analysis of samples to identify and quantify low-level chemical markers present in complex samples in less than three minutes. Some categories of devices specialize in the identification of biological weapons, while others quickly and easily download the content of smartphones and other handheld devices, and then analyze that data.
Historically, the primary goal of field testing was to screen samples to classify evidence or to determine which samples should be sent to the laboratory for forensic analysis. Advances in electronics, coupled with ruggedization, have brought improved analytical capabilities to the field, which provides the information required to respond to the threat and save lives. These factors have increased the value and role of field forensics. “Screening is now the first step in the workflow that makes it possible to not only classify samples, but to conclusively identify and even quantify trace-level contaminants present in the sample in the field,” said Leary.
Peter Buxbaum is a freelance journalist with extensive experience reporting on and analyzing defense, security, international relations, technology, transportation, international trade, and legal issues.
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When Trilithic, Inc., an Indianapolis manufacturer of test and measurement equipment, started to export 12 years ago, the company’s commercial bank required it to insure its overseas receivables to collateralize those assets against its line of credit. Trilithic procured such a policy from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im). Though the company now ships 40 percent of its products overseas and is no longer required to carry trade credit insurance, it still maintains its policy with Ex-Im.
Air Tractor Inc. of Olney, Texas, was in a different position. The manufacturer of agriculture and firefighting airplanes exports 50 percent of its products under terms that require customers to pay off the aircraft in five years. To receive its money quicker by selling those loans to U.S. commercial banks, Air Tractor insures the loans through Ex-Im.
“We first vet customers internally to determine whether they are good credit risks,” says David Ickert, vice president of Finance for Air Tractor. “If Ex-Im’s underwriting committee responds affirmatively, we pay a premium and Ex-Im issues an insurance policy for that loan. We then have the ability to sell that loan to a U.S. bank and that lets us roll our cash.”
Trade credit insurance allows exporters to offer competitive terms of sale without insisting on up-front cash or receiving cumbersome and time-consuming letters of credit. Credit insurance protects accounts receivable against customers who can’t pay due to insolvency, political risk, exchange-rate fluctuations and a host of other factors. Policies are available from private-sector credit insurers such as Atradius and Coface as well as from Ex-Im.
Military Logistics Forum
It’s not here yet, and probably won’t be for a few years, but the U.S. armed services have visions of fabricating replacement parts and components on demand when and where they are needed. The technology required to being these visions to fruition already exists and has already been used to make machine tools and prototype parts. Advancements in materials know-how, information technology and organizational cultures will be required before the ultimate dream becomes a reality.
Additive manufacturing (AM), better known in popular culture as 3-D printing, is a technology that allows for the efficient low-run or even one-off production of parts and components by adding layer upon layer of material to create a three-dimensional product. 3-D printing, which uses machines that use ink jet-like components to supply the production material, is actually a subset of additive manufacturing. AM is the better term to use when describing the overall phenomenon.
AM is a fairly mature technology when it comes to fabrication in plastics, making it ideal for creating prototypes and test parts. Research is under way to expand the knowledge of the behavior of metals in AM processes, a necessary condition before mission-critical parts can be fabricated using AM and deployed on military vehicles and weapons systems.
Additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize military supply chains. Instead of clogging warehouses shelves with hard-to-manufacture or impossible-to-get parts, they could instead be produced on the spot where they are needed. This would dramatically reduce inventory costs and collapse the timeline for acquiring these parts. But AM is not without its own supply chain and logistics considerations.
Each of the armed services is working on AM, each is proceeding on somewhat different schedules and each is approaching AM from somewhat different angles as suits their needs. The state of the art at this point is to use AM to fabricate temporary machine tools used in production equipment and for the purposes of design and testing. But the just-in-time parts production vision is the ultimate goal.
“The Army has expressed interest in producing parts at the point of need. AM can help with that,” said Andy Davis, program manager of the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology Program. “A soldier in some remote location with access to the proper technology could pull a CAD [computer-aided design] file from the cloud, run it through the printer, and have a part in a much shorter time than ordering it through the supply system.”
“We want to go as far as the imagination will can take us with AM,” said Jason Koehler, chief engineer at the Commodities Maintenance Group at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. “We’ll start with low-risk components, but making structural parts with AM is really where we want to go. We have some difficult processes to develop along the way, but the time savings and the material savings through AM will be huge.”
“One of principal drivers of AM is that parts that were designed at certain times are failing and are no longer in the supply chain,” explained Bill Frazier, chief scientist for air vehicle engineering at NAVAIR. “To keep the fleet operational, the goal is to produce parts on demand when and where they are needed. AM is uniquely suited for low-volume parts production and for complex shapes.”
“If we can produce parts on demand,” added Liz McMichael, NAVAIR’s additive manufacturing integrated product team lead, “we can keep the fleet much more ready and also shorten logistics and supply chain time, which also improves readiness.”
Currently, the Army is using AM to make tooling for injection molding equipment. “Those components are made of high-strength steel, are very expensive, and take a lot of machining time to fabricate,” said Davis. “With traditional methods it takes several weeks and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. With AM, it costs two-thousand dollars and takes two or three days to produce.”
Sustaining for the Future
Military Logistics Forum
Improving the sustainment of military platforms and systems has been an important goal of DoD for some time. Sustainment, as much as any other process, ensures the affordability and availability of military hardware. Improving sustainment reduces the life cycle costs of platforms and systems in terms of time, labor, parts, maintenance, transportation, training, facilities and fuel requirements while increasing operational availability and force agility.
One of the keys to reducing sustainment costs and improving availability is analyzing programs costs from a life cycle perspective. Seventy percent of the life cycle costs of military equipment come during the sustainment phase. Taking the long view means considering sustainment as early as the acquisition and design stages of a platform on the theory that the earlier sustainability decisions are made in the development process, the lower the overall program costs. Such an approach was mandated in legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president in 2009. That approach is now yielding a sufficient level of data and experience to start delivering the desired results.
Considering sustainment earlier on in the process results in higher costs at the front end of systems acquisitions. Since DoD is constrained in its spending from one congressional appropriation to the next, it is difficult to make the case for increased spending in year one for savings that are not likely to appear until year five or 10. Increased technology investments in military depots could also reduce long-run costs, but funds for those investments are hard to come by in an environment in which the military is drawing down after protracted conflicts in southwest Asia and in which Congress refuses to agree to cuts that the Pentagon itself is proposing—whose savings could be plowed into sustainment—because they are not politically expedient.
All of the above represents the difficult macro-level view of the issues surrounding the trade-offs involved in developing better sustainment programs. At the micro level, there are examples of specific programs and contracts in which the U.S. military and its industry partners have implemented sustainment changes which have reduced costs and increased availability for those specific contracts and systems by taking a bigger picture approach to sustainment than has been traditional. Some of these changes have involved adapting commercial best practices to the military sustainment environment.
“Ever since the passage of the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act in 2009, there has been a strong emphasis on affordability,” said David Berteau, the assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness. “WSARA mandated putting a cap on program spending and doing a better job of estimating life cycle costs. After six years of doing this, we are starting to see some benefits in that the amount expected for sustainment costs is being matched by the amount actually being spent.”
Organizing the "Knowns"
Geospatial Intelligence Forum
A key concept in that effort has been activity-based intelligence, which uses a multi-INT approach to analyze activity and transactional data to develop intelligence, drive data collection and resolve what have been called the “unknown unknowns.”
Activity-based intelligence can be used to develop patterns of life, understand the intent of bad actors and formulate responses. More recently, however, interest has grown in a series of capabilities that go hand in hand with activity-based intelligence—object-based production.
As described by a Defense Intelligence Agency document, object-based production seeks to organize intelligence around objects of interest and to improve the organization of information. Where activity-based intelligence reaches into the realm of the unknowns, the goal of object-based production is to organize the ‘knowns’ in order to improve the usefulness of intelligence. By improving the organization of information and its access about the knowns, it is more possible to extrapolate to the unknown.
Eyes on the Border
US Coast Guard Forum
Surveillance systems used to secure borders, coastlines and waterways have become remarkably more capable in recent years. Sensors that weighed in the thousands of pounds have been reduced to little more than a dozen pounds, allowing for greater flexibility in their deployment.
Electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) camera combinations, which facilitate day and night viewing of areas of interest, now provide 360-degree panoramas of the areas they are helping to protect. Advanced algorithms and data processing assist systems operators by identifying potentially problematic persons, objects and situations.
EO/IR systems that are geospatially enabled are sometimes referred to as radar, not because they emit a signal like traditional radar, but because they can pinpoint objects of interest and direct the attention of operators to a specific point on a map. Traditional radar systems are often also included in border and coastline protection solutions.
Is ERP For Y-O-U
If you have postponed implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, waiting for costs to come down, your patience may now be rewarded.
ERP suites are increasingly being offered in the cloud, making their acquisition, implementation and upgrading much more affordable and efficient.
“What we call post-modern ERP has brought about a more dynamic change in the ERP landscape than we’ve seen in the last 20 years,” says Carol Hardcastle, a research analyst at information technology (IT) provider Gartner.
“Moving to cloud-based platforms drives huge levels of efficiencies,” adds Shanton Wilcox, vice president of the Supply-Chain Practice at Capgemini, a French-based IT company. “It has allowed midsize and small companies to take advantage of advanced ERP solutions at a much lower operating cost.”
Traditional ERP systems combine functions such as manufacturing planning with financial reporting, human resources and order management. “Nowadays, we define ERP as a technology strategy,” says Hardcastle. “It’s a set of business functions and not a singular technology.”