ROME — Financial austerity has become a key driver for distributed training, multinational cooperation and integrated virtual systems, military and industry leaders said at ITEC today, the opening day of the training conference and exhibition.
The business case for using simulation for training is more compelling than ever, according to Maj. Gen. Mike Riddell-Webster of the Defence Academy of the U.K. He was just one member of a panel that noted economic constraints combine with technology to shift the focus for future training.
One key cost-cutting measure is to share information, standards, tools and technology, reducing expenses for groups such as NATO that can buy a product once and distribute it to member nations’ militaries. Although fostering multinational and multiechelon communication and agreement can be difficult, it is seen as critical for service members who increasingly train for joint and coalition roles.
“It has to be joint. It has to be combined,” said Maj. Gen. David Elmo, deputy chief of staff for mobilization and reserve affairs for U.S. Army Europe.
This increased emphasis on interoperability — and the economic force driving it — will encourage people to start thinking with the same mindset, according to Lorenzo Fiori, senior vice president of strategy for Finmeccanica. He said that from the training and simulation industry’s perspective, there is a need for a collaborative attitude linking the final user to the developer and for expanding distributed training.
The increased demand for cheaper and more easily shared solutions is also pushing materials onto the cloud, but requires additional security and development.
U.S. government budgets are unusually tight as a result of sequestration, Elmo said. To cut costs, the Defense Department is ordering furloughs: Nearly 700,000 civilian employees must take 11 unpaid days off this year.
“It’s more serious this year, in 2013, than it has been in the past,” Elmo said, but noted that it was “a good news story for simulation and training,” which militaries expect to turn to increasingly in the coming years. Lt. Gen. Carlo Magrassi, chief of staff for the Italian Air Force, said he hoped to see more certification of simulations in the future.
“The cost of manpower continues to rise,” Riddell-Webster said, adding that budget cuts might tempt organizations to take shortcuts in training, which would hurt readiness.
He said that because information has to be communicated more cheaply and quickly, there has already been a move toward more modular design in courses that can be accessed from outside the classroom. A blended environment with additional self-taught lessons changes the way students interact with their trainers, using face-time for discussion rather than traditional teaching methods.
Distributed simulation may also realign to assist with additional language and culture training, which Riddell-Webster said “has not received the highest priority,” though the U.K has an “increased urgency to put this right.”