New DoD Defense Science Board Report on GEMS
The DoD Defense Science Board last week released their January 2021 report on Gaming, Exercising, Modeling and Simulation (GEMS), focusing on six key interdisciplinary areas that transcend DoD functional community or organizational silos. Along with the operational battlespace, in many instances also have direct applicability to the defense acquisition arena:
- Digital Engineering: The DoD has nascent efforts underway to advance Digital Engineering (DE), which are encouraging. For example, there has been a push inside the military services to use digital engineering in considering new system concepts; however widespread adoption of DE remains a work in progress.
- Training: Training capabilities across the military departments have long benefitted from the use of GEMS tools and innovations that helped spur a revolution in training that began decades ago and contributed significantly to U.S. military advantage. While the task force noted that a second training revolution in the military departments is underway, driven by advances in simulations, modeling, virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI), it observed the need for significant improvements in Joint Force training.
- Experimentation & Exercising: The National Defense Strategy (NDS) Commission Report calls for “new operational concepts to achieve strategic advantage…validated through experimentation, exercises and training.” The task force endorses this call and concludes that the DoD must revitalize concept-based experimentation at the combined military department/ partner-level to meet long-term challenges presented by peer competitors.
- Campaign Modeling & Analysis: The DoD’s current campaign models are used to inform investment decision-making, especially among the military departments; however, these models fall short in key areas. In particular, they do not effectively address the complexity of the multi-domain security environment in which the DoD operates and they are not equipped to provide quick-turn analyses to inform decision-makers.
- Strategic Gaming: The United States made good use of strategic gaming techniques during the Cold War—playing out “move-countermove” assessments over a long-term analytical interval. More recently efforts have focused on immediate threats (e.g., terrorism) and strategic gaming has become a rarely employed tool for analyzing today’s larger and longer term challenges.
- Technology-Based Enablers: While GEMS tools benefit from technological advances in many areas (e.g., increasing computing power, artificial intelligence/machine learning) the task force focused on two related technologies—game engines and synthetic environments.
- GEMS Governance: The task force observed that while industry success stories demonstrate the need and pay-off from sustained, top-down leadership and governance to effect change and realize the potential benefits from GEMS tools, the DoD management structures do not promote an enterprise-wide approach. Given the apparent need for both cultural and technological change across the DoD, a more coherent governance structure is imperative.
As the report also makes clear, “…the complex choices confronting the DoD (and the U.S. government) in this new era of great power competition require analytically informed options; never has the need for speed and agility in decision-making been more acute. In this regard, the task force concluded that the DoD must significantly advance its GEMS capabilities to keep pace with its competitors and effectively counter threats—today and in the coming years. Doing so will demand both cultural change and technological change across the enterprise. A robust GEMS toolkit is needed to inform DoD decision-making in the highly competitive and dynamic national security environment in which the United States finds itself today.”