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Contract Positions VMASC in Lucrative Orlando Modeling & Simulation Market

In a move that officials say could be the tip of the iceberg, Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) has won the right to bid on potentially lucrative military and government contracts at the U.S. hub of simulation and modeling (S&M).

Zel Technologies, or ZelTech, a Hampton-based S&M company, is the leader of the group that was awarded what's known as a Stricom Omnibus Contract. It places the group on a short list of companies allowed to put in bids on contracts with the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation Training Instrumentation (PEO STRI) in Orlando, Florida. VMASC is a key part of that local group.

"It's the first time that I know of that a team from the Hampton Roads region has been given such an award," says VMASC executive director Mike McGinnis.

"That will allow us to create another potential huge market for our modeling and simulation research."

The group was awarded what's known as a Stricom Omnibus Contract. In effect, it is permission to join a small group of companies allowed to put in bids on contracts through PEO STRI. And since PEO STRI is located in Orlando, surrounded by a huge cluster of companies and government agencies that specialize in acquiring S&M contracts, it could mean millions of dollars - along with profile and prestige - for the select group of participants.

"This is a big deal and could be a good story," says Pete Towell, ZelTech's Melbourne Operations Group Manager. "ZelTech is the prime contractor. VMASC, being associated with ODU, is one of the assets that we would have access to."

According to its website, Zeltech delivers "leading edge technologies, state-of-the-art systems, and battle tested processes to help modernize military command and control (C2) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, and to protect the physical and information infrastructures of the US. We also provide systems engineering and intelligence support to national agencies and to military operations around the world."

Towell says groups from Hampton University, Norfolk State University and Portsmouth company MYMIC are also part of the partnership.

PEO STRI is the central agency in what's known informally as Team Orlando, the cluster of agencies and companies that leads the way in acquisition of M&S expertise. Team Orlando includes all five branches of the U.S. military, dozens of private sector partners, and the University of Central Florida.

McGinnis says this deal could mark the start of a fruitful marriage of the emerging research corridor of M&S research and development (Hampton Roads) with the area which specializes in awarding business and government contracts for that work.

"It's a hunting license, or a fishing license, to look for these contracts," McGinnis says. "But it's very, very significant for us since we are from Hampton Roads but have now established a presence in Orlando.

"If you're talking about research and development, concepts, designs, specifications, requirements, we are - if not the nation's foremost hub - we're right now in the top two."

In addition to the "hunting license" VMASC has received two other grants, $181,000 from NASA to study airport terminal area simulations, and another $236,000 from United States Joint Forces Command, for strategic communications support.

Also, VMASC was part of a team from Raytheon that has received a 2009 National Training and Simulation Association Modeling & Simulation Award for its work looking at the non-lethal effects of crowd reactions in various scenarios.

That research is focused on developing realistic directed energy models, designed to improve crowd behavior and incidents of violence in an environment where friendly, neutral and hostile forces are all in close proximity.

And McGinnis says all this is further evidence of the increased prominence VMASC is gaining in the M&S field, which will help it continue to become a catalyst for spinoff economic growth in the field of M&S in Hampton Roads.

"Modeling and simulation is a very important new interdisciplinary field, and ODU is one of the industry leaders," McGinnis says.

This article was posted on: February 2, 2009

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