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The Sustainment Portal-Virtual Technology for Transformation

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Chief Warrant Officer (W5) Patrick E. Conway
Army Logistician
July - August 2003

Standard computers emulate the functionality of actual battlefield operating systems.

The Sustainment Portal provides operators and maintenance personnel with rapid access to authoritative source data.

The Sustainment Portal establishes a real-time, global interface among the manufacturer of the Stryker armored vehicle, training developers, and Stryker brigade combat teams.

Chief Warrant Officer (W5) Patrick E. Conway is the Chief of the Systems Integration Division of the Training Directorate of the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is a graduate of Brunswick College in Georgia, and has served as a staff officer, property book officer, and logistics automation officer in charge in various divisional and nondivisional assignments over the last 20 years.

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The Sustainment Portal-Virtual Technology for Transformation

To sustain the Objective Force in a high-tech, jointly integrated environment, the Army must do more than merely modernize equipment and information systems. The Army must rethink the fundamentals of how it prepares, deploys, and supports military operations. It needs to transform not only the products but also the actual processes it uses to develop, update, and deliver doctrine, training, and materiel to the field. The Army must establish processes and procedures that are as effective, adaptive, and responsive as the warfighting units they are designed to support.

Twenty-first century technology cannot be employed successfully using 20th century practices. The pace of transformation is too fast; the traditional "stovepipe" processes are too slow; the complexities of a multicomponent, joint force structure are too demanding; and the cost in terms of dollars and readiness is too high.

The Army Combined Arms Support Command's Sustainment Portal initiative addresses this challenge by using technology to integrate, improve, and transform the processes of combat, materiel, training, and simulation development. Using a virtual platform powered by a suite of local and remotely linked digital systems, the Sustainment Portal provides a collaborative environment for planning and assessing doctrinal concepts, conducting mission analyses, performing digital rehearsals, developing simulation-based training, and supporting schoolhouses and Army or joint units during exercises, deployments, and actual operations. In other words, it provides an integrated approach to supporting an integrated force.

The cornerstone of maneuver sustainment is effective knowledge management. Information must be accurate, timely, and responsive to the needs of the warfighter. The Army requires knowledge that can be acted on, reused, and shared across the doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities domains. Knowledge also must be updated frequently and reformatted as necessary to meet the requirements of the information systems, publications, and products delivered to the field.

The Sustainment Portal is answering this challenge. By using tools such as the Joint Computer-aided Acquisition and Logistics Support (JCALS) system to develop, format, and share Stryker vehicle technical data, the Sustainment Portal establishes a real-time, global interface among the vehicle manufacturer, training developers, and Stryker brigade combat teams.

The Sustainment Portal improves combat readiness by providing operators and maintainers with rapid access to authoritative source data, the means to identify and report discrepancies quickly in electronic technical and training publications, and a logistics knowledge "reach-back" capability linked directly to vehicle engineers, materiel developers, and training proponents. The result is a fast and efficient way to update, train, and sustain commanders, soldiers, and their Stryker fleets that is a model for the development of the Future Combat Systems and other emerging platforms.

Training transformation means moving toward an environment in which soldiers, units, and trainers can access effective training whenever and wherever needed. Getting there will require transforming both the training products and the processes by which those products are developed, updated, and delivered.

As part of the Army's digital training strategy, the Sustainment Portal is testing digital training support packages that link training publications, online interactive multimedia instruction, scenario-based simulations, and learning management systems using Army Knowledge Online and supporting information architectures. The goal is to achieve an efficient and cost-effective way to establish, integrate, and maintain "living" training products and globally distribute simulation-driven packages that can be adapted, modified, and reused by individual soldiers, unit commanders, and school commandants to satisfy their unique training needs.

Modeling and Simulation

In an effort to expedite delivery of digital training while reducing costs, the Sustainment Portal is being used to assess the Army's capability to develop "digital training simulators." These simulators allow standard computers to emulate actual battlefield operating systems. This initiative will significantly reduce the cost of implementing institutional digital training and allow soldiers to access digital training wherever they are without actually having specific hardware and software systems.

The Sustainment Portal also is being used to experiment with various modeling and simulation programs in an attempt to achieve a virtual digital rehearsal capability. Such a capability would allow collaboration among commanders, staffs, and school commandants to model, plan, and assess military operations virtual "sandbox" that could support exercises, training, and warfighters deployed on actual missions.

For more information on the Sustainment Portal, contact the Army Combined Arms Support Command Training Directorate at (804) 7651653 or send an email to conwayp@lee.army.mil.

Also available at: http://www.almc.army.mil/alog/July_Aug_InsCov.htm

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