A U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) directive is warning Army training centers against using unauthorized games, simulators and other training aids.
TRADOC Policy Letter 21, signed in August by TRADOC’s commander, Gen. Robert Cone, decrees that before a TRADOC organization may acquire or develop games or training aids, devices, simulators and simulations (TADSS), it must contact the appropriate TRADOC capability manager at the Combined Arms Center-Training (CAC-T) at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“The Army cannot afford TADSS that provide singular solutions or cannot be integrated with other TADSS in the integrated training environment,” Cone wrote. “We also cannot afford to have money diverted from other programs to support procurement of non-program of record, school-unique TADSS and high licensing fees.”
CAC-T Deputy Director Dennis Tighe, who drafted the directive, promises that TRADOC will not confiscate existing nonauthorized training aids.
“We won’t have a TADSS police going from post to post,” Tighe said. “We’re not going to say, ‘We’ll shut down your MTC [mission training complex] if you violate it.‘“ Instead of a stick, CAC-T offers a carrot: Commanders who funnel their requirements through the center can draw upon Army Department funds for their TADSS needs. Those who go it alone must pay out of their own operations and maintenance budget.
“If you have some commander out there who is using his [operations and maintenance] funds to go out and buy stuff locally, he’s going to have to keep paying those funds out of his pocket,” Tighe said.
Authorized TADSS go through extensive testing to ensure they meet training requirements, Tighe noted, while prototype contractor-initiated programs may not.
“Locally procured TADSS are not [Army Department]-funded programs of record: Commanders must take money from other priorities to obtain and maintain and sustain the self-procured TADSS,” Tighe said.
The directive’s goal is to eliminate duplication and allow various Army training centers to take advantage of training aids that were acquired by the others. Organizations that require a training game, for example, would contact the TRADOC capability manager for gaming, who would find the right one.
“Don’t tell us which game you want. Tell us which capabilities you want,” Tighe said. “The onus is on the TRADOC capability manager to get at those requirements, integrate them and make sure we’re spending our money wisely.”
TRADOC also wants to ensure that training aids are compatible with the Integrated Training Environment (ITE), which is the Army’s live-virtual-constructive training framework.
“What the memo really says is: ‘Don’t be using your own money to go out and buy stuff that is only good for your organization,’” Tighe said.
The directive followed CAC-T’s discovery that “a lot of people were going out on their own,” Tighe said.
He couldn’t provide an estimate of how many local training aids exist.
The TRADOC letter cites games several times, but Tighe said it is “not intended to stop gaming. What is intended is that if people have a requirement for games, it goes through [TRADOC Capability Manager] Gaming to make sure that we don’t have people spending money on games that can’t be used by other people, or games that can’t be integrated into the ITE.”
CAC-T also is concerned about nongaming training aids. Tighe noted that trainers sometimes turn to nonregulation simulators when commanders grow impatient with standard acquisition procedures.
Tighe also expressed concern that “non-[Army Department]-approved TADSS might teach soldiers bad habits that can have a negative impact on how they execute actual operations.”
He said he couldn’t point to any training problems caused by unofficial training aids.
A captain at an East Coast training installation said he fears that depriving local commanders of the freedom to procure training aids will stifle creative solutions.
“In the end, the memo will kill innovation and creativity as organizations seek to maintain the status quo within their shrinking budgets,” the officer said. “All the letter reinforces is how the higher-level managers are out of touch with where education actually takes place.”
This report originally appeared in Training & Simulation Journal.