Good morning and welcome to Orlando.
Admiral Robb, thank you for that kind introduction. And thank you for organizing this event and for all the great work you do for our nation.
Even though this is my third straight year attending this conference, I’m still amazed at how impressive and informative it is. It’s simply the nation’s premier event for the MS&T community, showcasing the newest technology and serving as a forum for leaders to exchange ideas and form personal and professional connections.
Before I go any further, I’d like to give a heartfelt “thank you” to a few people, starting with my two wonderful congressional colleagues.
I’ll begin with Congressman Bobby Scott. He’s the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. His district in southeastern Virginia is home to a thriving MS&T sector—though I would argue it’s not quite as thriving as Orlando! Congressman Scott and I co-chair the Modeling and Simulation Caucus in Congress. The Caucus seeks to educate lawmakers and their staff members about the many benefits of MS&T, so they become as enthusiastic about it as we are.
I admire many things about Congressman Scott, and I especially admire his understanding of how modeling and simulation technology can be used to tackle both defense and domestic challenges—from increasing military readiness; to enhancing training for school teachers, health care professionals, and first responders; to helping communities prepare for natural disasters. Congressman Scott comprehends as well as anyone that simulation technologies, when properly deployed, can improve outcomes at relatively lower cost and lower risk.
Next up is my friend Congressman Jack Bergman of Michigan. He’s a retired three-star general in the Marine Corps, which makes him the highest-ranking military officer ever to serve in Congress. Earlier this year, this Florida girl braved the frigid temperatures to accompany Congressman Bergman to his congressional district in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I dropped the ceremonial puck at a college hockey game, hung out with sled dogs, and wore nine layers of clothing every time I left the hotel. Though he represents a cold place, Congressman Bergman is personally warm and a true gentleman.
It’s always a treat for me to welcome Congressman Bergman and Congressman Scott back to the Sunshine State.
Moving on, I want to give a quick “shout out” to Team Orlando, the beating heart of the MS&T community here in central Florida. Thank you especially to Major General Maria Gervais, who leads the Army’s Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team, and to Brigadier General Michael Sloane, the Program Executive Officer for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation. These are tremendous leaders doing tremendously important work.
Finally, I want to thank George Cheros, who serves as the CEO of the National Center for Simulation and who leads my MS&T Advisory Board. George and his fellow board members have been an invaluable asset to my office, giving us legislative ideas and making sure we are fully briefed on the challenges and opportunities facing the MS&T community.
Now, I understand it’s a bit like preaching to the converted, but I want to highlight why simulation technology is so vital, especially to our men and women in uniform. To do so, I turn to the wise words of Jim Mattis.
In his new book “Call Sign Chaos,” Mattis recounts his tenure as the deputy commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, starting in 2004.
With U.S. forces fighting pitched battles across Iraq and Afghanistan, Mattis concluded that his most important mission was to better prepare individuals and small units to excel in close-quarters combat. So he turned to simulation technology.
Here’s how Mattis explained it:
Computerized flight simulators had long provided a valuable cognitive training tool for aviators. Behind the controls in a simulator, the novice pilot crashes into a mountain or is taken out by a missile. He dies, comes back to life, reviews his technique, takes off again, and avoids the mountain or the missile. As a result, our pilots don’t repeat in actual flight the deadly mistakes drilled out of them in simulators.
As Mattis noted, however, even though infantry units suffer 85 percent of combat casualties, the U.S. military at that time had no simulators for those at the tip of the spear. So Mattis and other military leaders poured their energy into fixing this situation. In the decade-and-a-half since then, we’ve made huge strides in this area, thanks to many people in this audience.
Whether we’re readying a soldier for the battlefield or a teacher for the classroom, rigorous and realistic simulation technology helps them sharpen their skills. Trainees make mistakes and learn from them, but they do so at minimal risk to themselves and others. Given that more American servicemembers die each year in training than in combat, simulation training that both prepares and protects our men and women in uniform is of paramount importance
Since you have three Members of Congress on this panel, let me highlight two initiatives that we are leading in Washington, DC to sustain and strengthen the MS&T community.
First, in its Fiscal Year 2020 budget request, the administration proposed to zero out funding for the Army’s Medical Simulation and Training program element. Because this is the only funding source for research on medical simulation training in the Army budget, I pushed back. As a result, the House-passed defense appropriations bill now includes $3.6 million for this purpose and I am fighting to preserve this funding level when the House and Senate reconcile their bills.
Second, I teamed up with Congressman Scott and Congressman Bergman and four other Members of Congress to urge the Appropriations Committee to provide robust funding for two accounts that support the Synthetic Training Environment, which is a mentally rigorous and multi-echelon training and mission rehearsal capability for the warfighter. The House bill had fairly funded these accounts, while the Senate bill did not. So we are making a bipartisan push for the House version to prevail.
Let me close with this simple point. None of the efforts we are undertaking to support the MS&T community will matter unless Congress and the President can work in a bipartisan way to pass actual appropriations bills, rather than a continuing resolution—or CR—that simply funds federal agencies at the prior year level.
The current fiscal year began on October 1st. Yet, as I’m sure you are painfully aware, it is December 2nd, and the Defense Department and every other federal agency is operating pursuant to a congressionally-approved CR, which expires on December 20th.
CRs constitute malpractice on the part of our national leaders. They prevent our country from making the necessary investments to improve quality of life here at home and to protect our people against threats emanating from abroad. Our service members, our military leaders, and our defense industrial base all deserve better—and it is my sincere hope that leaders in Washington will get their act together soon and pass great bills worthy of this great country.
Thank you being here, thank you for listening, and thank you again for all that you do.