Army's STRICOM Project Promises Benefits Throughout Government

Army's STRICOM Project Promises Benefits Throughout Government<@VM>STRICOM Companies

By Jennifer Freer, Staff Writer

The cutting-edge technology used for the Army Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command contract will not only benefit the Army, but promises to play a large role in expanding governmentwide distance learning and training programs, said officials with companies selected for the new project.

Under this eight-year, $4 billion deal, known as the STRICOM Omnibus Contract, winning companies will design, develop and test simulation systems and war games to help train the Army, maintain combat readiness and plan for future missions.

The Army awarded contracts Sept. 21 to 13 companies for "constructive" simulation, one of four project areas, according to according to Input Inc., a Chantilly, Va., research firm.

These companies will compete for Army task orders under the constructive area for simulation products and services.

The STRICOM work, which will be performed in Orlando, Fla., includes four main project areas:

? Live: testing and training to simulate experiences during actual operational conditions;

? Virtual: replication of warfighting equipment with the capability to test and train in a specific environment;

? Constructive: representing actions of people and systems in simulation;

? Test instrumentation: test materiel, systems and weapons in a developmental testing environment.

The Army is expected to award contracts for live, virtual and test instrumentation simulation by the end of January, said industry officials.

Simulation technology is used for not only for combat training, but also for learning quicker and more effective responses to crises, instructing pilots and truck drivers and even teaching lessons in schools, company officials said.

"Simulation training area is an area we see great growth potential," said Buck Leahy, vice president for business development for SAIC of San Diego. "The armed forces are becoming more dependent on simulation training."

SAIC doesn't see the Army or other military branches as the only avenues for its simulation business to grow. The company also sees a future in using this technology for training in other professions, such as law enforcement officers, Leahy said.

Crisis management training programs, such as the Virtual Emergency Response Training System, a program run by the Army's Department of Military Support, can use simulation technology in training for responses to nuclear, biological or chemical threats and weather disasters like hurricanes.

The company also hopes to use the technology to train state and local government workers, Leahy said.

SAIC expects to see simulation technology being used in classrooms to demonstrate lessons in more visual ways than just reading about it, he said.

Another winner of the contract, Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., is working with military and commercial pilot training programs using simulation technology, said Frank Delisle, director of advanced programs for Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin also is also working with truck drivers to help train them in an environment that simulates conditions like narrow roads, hills and many weather conditions, Delisle said.

"Costs for simulation technology are going down," Delisle said. "As we see this technology evolving, there will be more Web-based distance learning where we can provide a simulated environments for training."

Any federal agency can use the STRICOM contract to develop training for personnel systems and job retraining. "It's a broad capability," said Mike Scherer, southeast director of business development for CSC of El Segundo, Calif.

Increasing numbers of systems ? and not just those used for training ? are simulated and tested before they are ever built, Scherer said. That provides huge savings in time and effort because companies don't have to manufacture prototypes. It shortens the whole acquisition and development process, he said.

"It's not just happening in the Army, it's happening in the private sector, too, like in automobile plants, and to build microwaves and toasters," Scherer said.

But the Army is making sure to use the simulation technology to its advantage and has already initiated a program called One Semi-Automated Forces that will serve the needs of training, research and analysis for the Army, SAIC's Leahy said. It's the first major program initiated by STRICOM under the Omnibus contract, and companies are still competing for various aspects of it. CSC and Lockheed Martin are also competing for this program.

The Army is also expected to use the simulation technology for deployments in Kosovo for Close Combat Tactical Training simulators, which are simulators that soldiers train in before they go to Kosovo for the mission, Leahy said.

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