Military delays war training

After four fixes, Joint Simulation System (JSIMS) Version 1.0 still cannot be used to train military commanders and their staffs. The question now is what officials are supposed to do about this $800 million program.

"Early indications are the software is not ready to support joint training," said Army Lt. Col. Andrew Riley, JSIMS project lead at the Joint Forces Command. The unified command, located in Norfolk, Va., oversees policy, training, communications and computer war-gaming as part of the military's long-standing efforts for the services to fight as a more cohesive unit.

JSIMS is supposed to link Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps simulators nationwide for the first time so unified and joint task force commanders and their staffs can receive intra- and interservice training. Unified commanders oversee nine geographical and policy areas, and joint task force commanders manage deployed air, sea and ground troops and equipment.

In December, the Joint Forces Command will complete testing of JSIMS Version 1.0. By then, command officials should know whether the software provides appropriate joint training or if they can only use parts of it, Riley said.

Unhappy with JSIMS' performance, Defense Department officials terminated the seven-year, $800 million program in December 2002 — when it was almost two years behind schedule. At the time, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz cancelled JSIMS' $147 million fiscal 2004 funding, ordered the software fixed by July and the program stopped by October, directed Version 1.0 testing completed by December, and requested a report on alternatives to the software by this month.

The military desperately needs a computer simulation that provides joint and service-specific training in a distributed, war-gaming environment, according to Defense officials.

Army Brig. Gen. Steve Seay managed JSIMS through the unusual circumstances of fixing the software by July 1 and shutting down the program by Oct. 1.

In discussing the management problems he encountered during the 12 months he tried to get JSIMS back on track, Seay said JSIMS' nine funding streams should be cut down. "One program line is where it needs to go," he said.

He mentioned how best to balance software fixes with closing the program. "I asked myself, 'What are the laws that drive us?' [and then tried to] meet them," Seay said.

JSIMS Version 1.0 was made reliable by the July deadline, but officials also juggled breaking contracts, closing offices and laying off employees in preparation for dissolving the program. "I had to factor in a backward planning process," he said.

He finally called attention to the potential problems of getting software working at different places.

"You're almost always going to have problems getting the software up and running," Seay said. "You then start consuming resources going to different sites. Every platform is wired differently."

Despite JSIMS Version 1.0 not living up to the military's expectations, Seay said he thinks the command can use parts of the software, especially the land piece.

But the lesson is a good one. Software development efforts fail in government and industry because employees and managers lack appropriate skills, according to Watts Humphrey, a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute.

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