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VMASC Wins Renewed Contract to Create Modeling and Simulation Industry Standards

Modeling and simulation has been used for research for more than 30 years, starting with the Department of Defense (DoD) and expanding to be used in other areas.

The problem is, the field is relatively new and no one has written down the rules of the game. Until now.

Last year, Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) was awarded a $650,000 contract by DoD to begin to develop standards for M&S software development.

The second year contract was recently approved, totaling another $800,000 for work beginning in September.

VMASC Executive Director John Sokolowski said this project was a recognition that DoD needs to change the way it does business.

"This funding actually is a congressional earmark from Congressman (Randy) Forbes (R-4th District)," Sokolowski said.

"He saw that DoD was spending money on modeling and simulation over and over on the same thing. And that was because there were no clear standards that would allow something to be developed and then shared in different venues. So DoD was paying for something multiple times."

VMASC has been tasked with developing standards to allow a particular model, say, representing an airplane, to be used in multiple simulations.

The work is being done for the M&S coordinating office, which is under the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Sokolowski said while the target has been to develop standards that apply to DoD, "We're taking a broader look at this, because these standards are necessary not only in DoD, but really across the board in modeling and simulation."

An international group known as the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization has worked on different aspects of M&S standards for a number of years. But Sokolowski said VMASC's current project is a broader look.

"We're not only looking at the engineering aspects of these standards, but also looking at the policy aspects, so these standards may be crafted or adopted or codified from a policy standpoint, to put them in a place where they may be easier to follow."

In addition to cost savings, there's a competitiveness issue involved in standardizing key M&S parameters.

In the computer hardware business, standard sizes for chips and USB ports have allowed for a predictability that permits smaller operators to take part in the industry, rather than reserving it for a few giants.

For modeling and simulation, standard applications mean that a tiny company with a good idea can get into the game, because they can operate with the same standards as the titans of the industry. "This really fosters competitiveness and allows the best products to rise to the top," Sokolowski said.

In the first year of the grant, VMASC did an across-the-board look at what has already been done in the way of standards crafting.

In the next two years, VMASC will look at what items need to be included in the standardization analysis, and begin crafting those into a recommendation of what Congress ought to mandate.

"We're not necessarily going to craft the standards specifically, but we are crafting what ought to go into these standards, and what they should encompass from both a technical aspect and a policy aspect," Sokolowski said.

After that process, Congressional approval will mean a contract will be awarded to write these standards. "We'll either do that follow-on work, or be partners with an organization that writes standards," Sokolowski said.

This article was posted on: November 1, 2010

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