In 2008, the US Army took a step toward a more cohesive training solution with the award of the Warfighter Field Operations Customer Support (FOCUS) contract to the Warrior Training Alliance (WTA). This contract, worth an estimated $11.2bn over the ten-year period of its term, marked a turning point in the army's approach to training its soldiers as it moved toward a collaborative, consolidated and streamlined training environment.
In the time since that contract award, the WTA is estimated to have saved $400m in costs while delivering over five million training events to the army across its digital ranges, Combat Training Centres, posts and stations around the globe - no small achievement in an environment beleaguered by the need to do more with less.
Prior to the FOCUS contract award, the army conducted its personnel training in a fractured and non-cohesive manner. The three main training domains at the time - live, virtual and constructive - were run by three separate primes; General Dynamics, Raytheon and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC).
"At that time the US Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) was looking for ways to gain efficiencies, and they were trying to get us, General Dynamics and CSC to work together across those three domains," says Raytheon's David Beltran. "But the logistics just didn't allow for a lot of the contractual crossovers that were needed to identify and recognise those gains, so the concept of Warfighter FOCUS grew from that - they decided to combine the three domains and let out a single contract."
That contract was awarded to the Raytheon-led WTA.
"Since we were the owners of the live training domain we decided that we would lead the effort to prime, and we put together a four-year build of best of industry players, including capturing General Dynamics and CSC," Beltran said. 'We built the WTA, bringing all the efficiencies, cross-utilisation analysis, centralised depot repair, and took that entire concept to the table as our offering, and that's how the WTA came about."
Today, the WTA includes more than 150 partner companies, with Raytheon acting as the single integrator to eliminate redundancies and create the efficiencies needed to make savings. The core contract covers maintaining training aids, devices, simulators and simulations for the army, along with global comprehensive training support - including direct support to the US Army's Combat Training Centres in the US to specialty training centres in Germany, Korea and Afghanistan; and intelligence and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) training. In total more than 240,000 training aids, devices and simulators are maintained across 92 digital training ranges.
Of this, Raytheon directly manages all training and support, while conducting around 39% of the work itself, with the remainder conducted by partner companies in the WTA - all while over-delivering on the contract's small business requirement to ensure small businesses can play an important role in the work.
"The main benefit to the army is that there is a single point of contact for all decision-making, both at the user level, the customer level and at the oversight level, which is very important for the government as far as auditability goes," Beltran explains. "Then you have cost savings, because we have taken three major domains and eliminated three separate programme management offices and associated cost burdens and moved them into a centralised command and control - effectively removing all redundancies and streamlining processes."
At the same time, the WTA has made training support more predictable and collaborative with the development of the automated toolset for lifecycle activities and services management information system (ATLAS MIS). This system tracks more than 30 million spare parts across the army's logistics network every day, while linking more than 6,000 users across 400 sites around the world with identical real-time information to provide accurate programme situational awareness.
"We have consolidated the multiple repair depots all over the world for virtual, live and constructed training, and introduced technology efficiencies so that everyone is plugged into the same dashboard so they get immediate real-time status on their systems wherever they may be," says Beltran. "That means if an M1 tank trainer goes down at Fort Stewart, California, that customer's Blackberry will ping and tell him exactly what time it went down, why it went down and when it's coming back up - all of which allows them to make information decisions."
So what does all of this mean in real terms? Recent work undertaken by the WTA under Warrior FOCUS represents the diverse and comprehensive nature of the contract. In February 2015, a new training instrumentation system known as the joint pacific multinational readiness capability instrumentation system (JPMRC - IS) was tested. It consists of an integrated system of deployable shelters, communications hardware and software that is used to train army units based on a high fidelity exercise against a thinking opponent, and is designed to improve home station training by blending live, virtual and constructive training domains across widely dispersed geographic locations.
A rehearsal for the system saw more than 400 soldiers located across a number of Hawaiian islands put the new capability through its paces, to test its ability to maintain readiness while maximising flexibility and training resources. The training battlespace is extended beyond physical boundaries, linking units, sites and trainers in real time, with the instrumentation system collecting and storing specific scenario-focused information on performance and aiding controllers in monitoring the exercise, while analysing performance data and providing detailed feedback to units.
In August and September 2015, the WTA directly supported NATO Exercise Swift Response 15 - a US Army, Europe-led training exercise designed to train and test a multinational airborne joint forcible entry operation across four European nations, providing the opportunity for 11 participating NATO nations to practice operating from intermediate staging bases in Europe and conducting forcible entry and follow-on missions. The exercise was one of the largest NATO exercises conducted since the end of the Cold War, and included a 4,000 soldier parachute drop.
"The work we did on Swift Response was similar to what we do at the National Training Centres - only this was a multinational exercise rather than just US combat forces [including] reception, staging, onward movement and integration," Beltran says. "We instrumented all the vehicles that went into simulated opposing force battles, and the soldiers practiced and exercised their joint command and control. We captured all the voice, video and movement through our voice instrumentation system and relayed that back to our home stations, built the after-action reviews for them and transmitted that back out into the field so they can see how they performed for next time."
The future of training
The WTA's current contract will run until October 2017, and while the future shape of Warfighter FOCUS will be dictated by budgets and the political atmosphere at that time, Raytheon is confident that the army is more than happy with the service it is getting, particularly as current budget considerations are seeing an increasing use of non-live training technologies.
"Budgets simply don't support the use of live weapons training all the time anymore, but they are getting this immediate feedback with the use of virtual equipment and it is allowing them to do so much more in a live, virtual and constructed environment," Beltran says. "For instance, they can have virtual trainers down in Camp Humphreys in South Korea, and tanks live firing up on the border at Rodriguez Range, and to the commander who is managing the exercise it all looks seamlessly integrated - there's no difference in the feedback he is getting to what he would get it they were all going live - he can't tell the difference."