Think of LVC Like Building A House
Just as Capt. Diaz believes that people who know what they’re doing are the key to M&S activities in general (and to LVC activities in particular), so does Luis Velazquez, the deputy director of the M&S division for Systems Engineering, Interoperability, Architecture & Technology (SIAT) at Marine Corps Systems Command.
“When you go to build your house, you don’t go talk to an electrician, you go talk to the general contractor,” said Velazquez. If you talk to a good contractor, you know that he’ll find the right plumbers, electricians, brick-layers, and so forth.
Having a framework is the key to LVC, Velazquez said. Indeed, that’s why SIAT has been so enthusiastic about the Framework for Assessing Cost and Technology (FACT). The idea behind FACT is to allow different users distributed across different locations to integrate their work in real time. For example, a systems engineer might look at design tradeoffs while a cost analyst looks at budgetary tradeoffs. If all the tradeoffs are modeled concurrently, then everyone involved is on the same page at the same time.
Velazquez has emphasized that FACT isn’t a model – it’s a framework.
And that’s probably a good pitch to use for LVC, too – LVC isn’t something unto itself, but it’s an infrastructure that ought to make users more efficient as they pursue their daily responsibilities.
Building The Marine Corps “LVC” House
In order to better define the requirements, the unique problem space that the Marine Corps must operate within must be defined in a way that makes sense to Marines. Much like a house can be thought of as a collection of electrical systems, plumbing systems, air conditioning systems, etc., LVC for the Marine Corps can be decomposed into discrete capabilities, organized into a collective framework, and analyzed for cross-system seams. Simply using “LVC” as a single word that invokes a universal panacea is not sufficient. The devil is in the details.
As discussed earlier, this paper does not seek to have a philosophical debate on a layman’s understanding of what is “live” versus “virtual” versus “constructive” simulation. However, as one thinks about LVC and how the capability may evolve, it is likely the clear distinction between each element will become more opaque. For instance, imagine live, dismounted Marines on a training range using augmented reality see-through goggles to interact with a simulated, virtual world. This type of capability would certainly decrease the current frustration a squad feels when the range instructor informs them that they have all just been killed by a simulated artillery barrage that they never heard or saw coming. In addition, if the Marine Corps seeks to integrate live assets, such as aircraft and vehicles, planning must occur so platform sensors send and receive the necessary data to enable their integration with constructive and virtual assets without compromising the operator’s safety. This paper could craft several, if not dozens, of other examples of how LVC capabilities will blend live, virtual, and constructive technologies. The point is not to provide an exhaustive set of use cases, but to demonstrate the challenge the Marine Corps, and all DoD users of LVC capabilities, face in understanding and scoping requirements to meet current and future uses Compounding the problem is the fact that each community has its own hierarchy of intended uses. For the training community, TECOM arranges the training audience hierarchy as individual; collective and unit; and staff. These individual audiences are being brought together during combined training events, and each audience has its own competing priorities and requirements. Lastly, each M&S community has to define their hierarchy and clearly articulate what LVC capability is needed to accomplish their missions.
The final bit of added complexity is the nature of the Marine Corps, something that can be confusing to the uninitiated. The Marine Corps is the only service that must simultaneously operate in the land, air, sea, and cyber domains performing the functions of the Command Element (CE), Ground Combat Element (GCE), Air Combat Element (ACE), and Logistics Combat Element (LCE). To date, these challenges have been so daunting that few have tried to comprehend them. The result has been isolated, stand-alone M&S tools that perform very well for a specific use case. In the age when “smart interoperability” is required, Marine Corps planners are going back to the basics taught in the Marine Corps Planning Process (MCWP 5-1). The first step is Problem Framing, which “enhances understanding of the environment and the nature of the problem.” The MCMSMO will produce a problem framing whitepaper as a way to synchronize the enterprise’s individual efforts that will be brought together in the appropriate ways to form the Marine Corps LVC House.
Who Should Lead The Capability Push?
LVC can be viewed as a capability or a service, which will require a large underlying infrastructure that will enable the Marine Corps to link our existing and future M&S tools and databases together where necessary. This is not without significant challenges, primarily in identifying requirements, programming for the necessary resources, and coordinating efforts to ensure all parties are in sync.
In some respects, the evolution of LVC requires a soft touch. In other respects, the evolution of LVC requires a robust framework. As an example of the soft touch, consider all the M&S in the status quo. Not all of that M&S needs to communicate with each other (or with other systems) in an LVC environment. So, in that sense, a little restraint guided by knowledge of legitimate, no-kidding requirements is in order. As an example of the need for a robust framework, consider the future. Whatever we do with LVC now needs to allow for breathing room down the road. The LVC ideas of 2015 and 2016 can’t be so rigid and small-minded that they block out unforeseen requirements and technologies that will undoubtedly enter the picture in the years ahead.
If the Marine Corps seeks to integrate live forces – real Marines, moving across real ranges, shooting at real targets – with synthetic virtual or constructive forces, a significant effort will have to take place to instrument our existing ranges and platforms to support this requirement. This has implications across the Marine Corps and coordination will have to occur from Headquarters Marine Corps to the Marine Corps base level. It is unrealistic to expect this capability to occur overnight, but if this vision is to be met it needs to be planned for now so our initial steps down the LVC path take us in the right direction.
Going in the right direction includes looking beyond just how LVC can support training. While training will be a significant user of LVC capabilities, and may very well lead the way, LVC capabilities can help support the full range of Marine Corps requirements. For example, many of the same capabilities needed to support the training of Marines can be used to support the operational tests of new platforms. Networks needed to support integration of training systems can be used to support distributed joint wargaming and campaign analysis efforts. Analytical data models being stored in cloud-based servers can be shared by engineers, cost analysts, and research personnel using shared tools. While each community will always have their unique requirements, there are seams between our communities that need to be sealed to take full advantage of what LVC can bring the Marine Corps.
Identifying and filling these seams will be a MCCDC challenge. The technical and policy issues associated with aligning the various levels of fidelity and resolution of models, fielding the required network capability, addressing cyber security requirements, and associated range safety concerns, are not insurmountable, but will require a dedicated and persistent effort. Working with our Marine Corps M&S community leads as well as joint partners, we will establish an LVC capability based on coherent policy, common standards, and coordinated resources. By doing this, we will ensure that the Marine Corps is well positioned to take advantage of LVC so that real Marines, with real ammunition, will continue to win battles.