This month I would like to reflect with you on the functions of associations in general, and NDIA in particular. As this column is written, we have just returned from the 19th Interservice/Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Florida. I/ITSEC is a major conference for the training and simulation community displaying amazing technologies ranging from virtual reality systems for the conduct of sophisticated wargames to eye-popping simulators with realistic imagery.
However, as I reminded the 4,000 plus participants, we must not let the technology of these devices distract us from their fundamental role: to improve the readiness of our armed forces.
The conference this year was especially timely because there appears to be a growing realization that resources will continue to shrink and, if we are to maintain the quality of our preeminent military force, then we will need to find ways to trade off steaming, flying and operating hours for savings to be invested in modernization.
Of interest, the Air Force keynoter, Gen. Dick Hawley, USAF, commander Air Combat Command, posed a concept for such a trade-off in the acquisition strategy to be used on the new Distributed Mission Training concept for ACC. Specifically, the Air Force proposes a "fee for service versus a system procurement approach." It does not plan on owning or maintaining the hardware but rather on buying a service. In effect, this means an acquisition role reversal in that industry is asked to make a large up-front capital investment in hardware and then amortize costs and generate profit over what could be a long term contract. Many people at the conference pondered whether this strategy could be applied to other areas in the acquisition spectrum.
Of course, I/ITSEC is more than simply a trade show. The term "Interservice/Industry" reflects the interdependence between the uniformed services and what I often refer to as the fifth or non-uniformed service-defense industry. In fact, without defense industry, the four uniformed services, no matter how joint, are impotent. It is industry that must provide the necessary equipment and technology which allows our military to be the best in the world.
NDIA's purpose as a defense association is to facilitate communication and interchange between government and military. We provide for that interaction through conferences such as I/ITSEC focusing on specific technologies or issues. And it is at these conferences where we bring industry's attention to bear on government problems to facilitate better government understanding of industry problems.
Obviously, to do that work we need as broad …