Jason M. Jones is the Defense Program Manager for Matrix Pro Sims, a commercial military strategy gaming company with a range of gaming software for use by defense professionals. Prior to this position, Jason was a U.S. Army SimulationOfficer, with experience in constructive simulation of logistics, land combat and air and missile defense, and live simulation training as an observer/controller at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center. His final assignment before retirement from the U.S. Army was as the Deputy Director of the NATO Modelling and Simulation Centre of Excellence.
Jason holds a Master’s degree in Modeling, Simulations and Virtual Environments from the Naval Postgraduate School, where his thesis was on using commercial gaming software to conduct training for Infantry squads.
NPS and MOVES built a foundation that supports the very wide range of roles an Army Simulation officer might find themselves in. The courses, brown bag lunches and even the casual conversations among faculty and students in MOVES and on campus exposed me to joint and international knowledge and perspectives that I might never have had access to.
After graduating, I prepared units for GWOT deployments and supported exercises in INDOPACOM and Korea for two specific simulation capabilities: the Army’s high-fidelity logistics simulation and Air and Missile Defense simulations of Army, USAF, USN and Missile Defense Agency assets. MOVES’ focus on fundamentals of M&S, both theory and practical implementation, support my daily mission of creating simulation effects that support an organization’s objectives. And because MOVES emphasized a wider body of knowledge, I was also prepared to use the knowledge acquired from other campus disciplines: training management, human factors, networking, statistics, and preparing and analyzing surveys.
It wasn’t until after retiring that my thesis work with Colonel (Ret) Joe Nolan directly impacted my work. Joe and I explored using Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) multiplayer, first-person shooter video games as a training tool for the Infantry squad. At the time (2005), there were various efforts exploring the use of video games for recruiting or training tool, but our brief celebrity status post-thesis made it clear that no one had evaluated the actual effectiveness of it. As our celebrity faded, that work went on my virtual shelf until I retired and was seeking my next career: helping defense organizations get the most from gaming software.
I first engaged with the NATO Modelling and Simulation Group (NMSG) in 2016 as the Deputy Director of the NATO Modelling and Simulation Centre of Excellence. This was late in my career, and a time when I had the experience to appreciate NATO’s consensus-building approach. For many, this approach is extremely slow, but this deliberate approach is like the tide, and is designed to lift all boats (and the Alliance) together.
NMSG isn’t an obligatory group - only the Nations and Partner Nations that choose to participate are present, so the group consists of the National best government and industry representatives the Nations and NATO bodies can provide.
The biggest difference between the US and NATO and the NATO Nations is scale, in terms of both our military forces and geography. US DOD has funding and a supporting defense industry that works at a scale that’s unmatched in NATO, its Nations or Partners. But the smaller national defense organizations and industry within NATO have an agility that’s difficult for the US DOD to match. I found that the Nations of NATO and their industry address challenges from many directions, while US defense generally follows the lead of the big procurements, typically won by the major defense corporations.
Both approaches are appropriate given the scale differences, but the solutions NATO and its Nations generate are worth DOD keeping an eye on. These are rarely at the scale DOD needs, but the ideas and approaches often use methods worthy of adopting. NATO’s Modelling and Simulation as a Service is one example: a set of M&S capabilities virtually centralized and accessible, regardless of location. This approach has potential for the US DOD with or without the significant simulation center infrastructure and capabilities we have in place.
NPS Tech Day was a great example of connecting NATO M&S experts with US industry and NPS faculty and advisors. I believe academia is always a great entry point for NATO Nations and Partners to conduct engagement. NMSG activities and events are typically attended by M&S faculty from the Nations and Partners, to include NPS. At the M&S COE I was always glad to see MOVES faculty involved in various NATO M&S research efforts.
A great opportunity for collaboration for NPS would be in international exercises, many of which include an experimentation component, including the Sweden-US Viking series and the Australia-US Talisman Saber/Sabre exercise. At these events there is an opportunity for NPS to bring innovations that wouldn’t end at ENDEX to the participating operational forces. NPS is in an excellent position to extend the best ideas in a way that the operational force might want to, but may not have the bandwidth to do because of their need to move to their next mission.
Beyond exercises, NPS could extend participation in NATO’s annual CWIX (Coalition Warrior Interoperability Exercise) experimentation event. CWIX is designed around collaborative experimentation and interoperability and some of my MOVES colleagues have participated in this event in the past.
And finally, as an academic institution, NPS could take a role in creating interoperability standards on behalf of DOD. Industry developed standards ultimately create more division than unity across DOD and our allies, and NPS, in conjunction with organizations like the NMSG and SISO (the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization) could provide a more impartial role in standards development.
While past and current M&S has primarily been the domain for training and analysis, two of the future fight’s key components, Artificial Intelligence and Cyber, require an M&S environment to prepare for their usage.
The military potential for AI is vast, whether as a commander’s advisor or as a kill-chain compressor, but as a ‘learning’ technology, Artificial Intelligence needs robust M&S environments to explore actions and learn from reactions. Matrix Pro Sims’ product Command Professional Edition has built-in accessibility for AI to simulate battles and generate a lot of data, and new simulations will build with those access-points in mind.
As Cyber continues to present both opportunity and risk, we need to better simulate the effects of cyber for both training and analysis. Can we simulate the network environment we’ve grown to rely on during the decades of the war on terror? Is that network, or a future network ready for threats from a peer/near-peer? Can we exercise the opportunities and risk? Without that, we won’t sufficiently understand the implications of offensive and defensive cyber.
Infrastructure, whether on-premises or cloud-based, will continue to develop in capability, but information security must be at the forefront of any solution. Can we build an IT environment that will allow the theoretical “commander’s advisor AI” to actually “touch” operational data? And tying this back to the topic of working with NATO and allies, how interoperable will we allow the M&S infrastructure to be? Will it even be interoperable across DOD?
One of the greatest challenges in the M&S community is eye-candy and the associated perception that a realistic visualization is indicative of a realistic simulation. Just like a carpenter’s toolbox has more than a just hammer, not every simulation is suited for every task. And not every one of them looks “realistic.” If nothing else, leaders should recall that a coach can effectively ‘simulate’ a play on a white board using X’s and O’s. Graphics aren’t everything, but your audience’s ability to understand the simulation environment is.
DOD and the Services own the responsibility for M&S requirements, but they take great risk when also electing to procure them from the cradle to grave. This approach gives DOD and the Services a great deal of control, but all risk for a successful deployment is borne by the government.
This is a situation where industry, particularly Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS)-based M&S, has an opportunity to provide the government great value. Because COTS products are already ‘on the shelf,’ the government took no risk to create it. The government can then decide to select, or not, and expand if desired. NATO is following this approach in its search for their next generation of simulation and wargaming tools.
To be fair, there’s likely not a COTS solution that’s ready to stimulate an Army brigade’s worth of command and control devices, but as computing power expands, there should be a middle ground between government procured and an off the shelf tool set.
As a hub of defense research, NPS is suited to take risks and explore new technology independently, with industry or with groups like the NMSG. Putting those experimental capabilities into operational events like those mentioned earlier puts them one step closer to usage by the fleet and forces.
The M&S Tech Day attendees from NATO, NPS and industry are all working to prevent the next war by ensuring our Nations are stronger in defense, both individually and together. M&S Tech Day included all of the key aspects of major conference, panels, demonstrations, and hands-on opportunities for attendees, in an environment that encouraged communication, relationship building and information sharing. All of these are components of building trust, and as was said during one of our sessions, “trust is something you can’t surge when you need it.”