The U.S. Air Force is putting an Air Staff office in charge of coordinating the service’s virtual training efforts. This comes in the wake of a Government Accountability Office report that revealed that the absence of a single overseer has allowed fragmentation and inefficiencies.
The July 19 document said such training is now overseen by three major commands (Air Mobility Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, and Air Combat Command), which lack common standards for acquiring and fielding virtual training systems, and these systems don’t always play well together.
GAO recommended that “the Air Force designate an entity to integrate its virtual training efforts” and “develop a strategy to align virtual training initiatives and goals.”
GAO noted that this tactic has been adopted by the Army and Navy, which have dedicated organizations to oversee all of their virtual training: the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) and the Naval Air Warfare Center, respectively.
In theory, this will increase interoperability of devices and create common standards, meaning individuals won’t have to find workarounds when devices don’t integrate.
The report said that such issues of compatibility can cause “diminished training quality, fewer training opportunities due to lengthy preparation times, and increased costs.”
In its response, DoD said that the Air Force had “taken initial steps” to create a point of authority that will oversee interoperability and standards across both virtual and constructive training. That point will be the Air Staff’s AF/A3/5 (Operations, Plans, and Requirements) office.
The GAO report also found that while the Air Force estimated it would save $1.7 billion over four years by replacing live flying hours and training with simulators, the branch neglected to factor in costs incurred by using the alternative technology. This includes expenses such as transport to sims, additional staff to run training sessions, or the purchase of additional simulators. Such financial information is scattered and difficult to collect.
Naturally, the GAO recommended — and DoD supports — adopting a consistent way of “accounting and tracking” the costs of virtual training. More accurate figures should allow for better planning and cost estimates when the Air Force lays out its training plan.