Modeling, Simulation Sector to Undergo Change

Article excerpt

Technologies will help defense planners adapt to new geopolitical realities

In the movement to transform the U.S. armed forces--and in their ongoing efforts to fight an unconventional war against terrorism--the modeling and simulation industry will play a critical role. The industry also will have to transform, to adapt to this changed world.

From the game of chess to today's computer models, modeling and simulation (M&S) technologies have played an increasingly important role in defense planning.

The end of the Cold War, which rendered some Pentagon combat models obsolete, led some experts to doubt the future of M&S as a key decision-support tool in U.S. military planning. We believe the contrary to be true.

Four major drivers will ensure and expand the role of M&S services and the contractors who deliver these services to the U.S. Defense Department. Those drivers include:

* New domestic and international security threats;

* Bush administration emphasis on restructuring U.S. armed forces into a leaner, more agile organization, more responsive to strategies and threats in the post-Cold War world;

* Recent technological advances, including better commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software, broadband/high-speed Internet access, distance learning and advances in super computing;

* Increased near-term procurement spending.

These factors were present well before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, but they were magnified by the tragic events of September 11. U.S. defense planners have undergone the same profound shock as our society. The shock will strengthen the movement to transform our armed forces to fight a new and, by Cold War standards, unconventional conflict. M&S itself will play an integral role in shaping this change, but M&S will have to transform, to adapt to this changed world.

There are four key trends reshaping the future of the M&S industry: War-fighter focus, broader usage, consolidation and globalization.

War-fighter Focus

Much like commercial enterprises in the l990s, the Defense Department caught the technology bug. Technology advances, rather than the user applicability, drove M&S procurement. The Defense Modeling and Simulation Office (DMSO) now is seeking to turn around that thinking. A core part of the DMSO's master plan refocuses the Pentagon's M&S efforts on the needs and requirements of the war-fighter/end-user.

A key aspect of this war-fighter focus is the current effort for breakthroughs in simulating and forecasting human decision-making. War-gaming engines are good at tracking the motions of large-scale forces, the interactions of weapons systems and abstract tactics and strategies. But they do a poor job when it comes to simulating the influence of human psychology.

Virtual commanders don't make misjudgments in the heat of combat; virtual soldiers don't improvise on the battlefield. Each element follows its programmed script.

The Defense Department and contractors are striving to create technologies that do a better job incorporating human variability into war-gaming. One solution has been to graft real land, air and sea forces in actual exercises onto computer-generated simulations.

Along with continuing breakthroughs in raw computational power and improved simulation algorithms, distance-learning and broadband technologies are playing key roles in expanding the use of these solutions. For example, Distributed Mission Training (DMT) is being used to track actual pilot behavior to capture the missing human element in existing M&S systems.

Broader Usage

The new DMSO master plan should, at a minimum, increase M&S standardization, as well as its effectiveness and efficiency However, M&S activities will no longer remain limited to warfare systems.

Simulation-Based Acquisition (SBA) will play a growing role in enabling planners to determine future platform needs, as well as assist in the procurement of extremely complex platform assets. …