Simulation technology software wins scientist major NAVSEA award

Naval officials awarded Dr. Mary Ann Cummings the 2016 Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Scientist of the Year Award for the Orchestrated Simulation through Modeling (OSM) patented software that is now available to the Department of Defense (DoD) for free.

According to a Navy press release, the OSM has already “simulated myriads of warfare scenarios in exercises over the past year.”

Along with her Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) team, Cummings boarded the USS Ronald Reagen (CVN-76) and the USS Bulkely (DDG-84) during the exercise. Her team spent 11 days out to sea for the Valiant Shield exercise late last year.

Valiant Shield is a biennial field exercise that focuses on integration of joint training among U.S. military forces, Navy officials say. This training, in particular, will allow service members to become proficient in supporting joint forces in various sea, land, and air scenarios, as well as cyberspace.

Sailors maneuvering an F/A-18E Super Hornet on the flight deck of the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during Valiant Shield 2016. Photo by U.S. Navy/ Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke

The exercise included “nine surface ships, 180 Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps aircraft, and 18,000 warfighters were engaged in the exercise. In addition to the Reagan strike group, Valiant Shield included an expeditionary strike group, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, and Air Force aggressor and bomber squadrons,” Navy officials say.

That’s a pretty big exercise.

“It was my vision to create war games for Fleet operators before a Fleet exercise,” Cummings says. “We can create simulations that show what could happen and take data from an exercise to show how that exercise might play out as a real event.”

Simulations are becoming a prevalent way of training sailors. It is cost-effective, especially when you’re involving a carrier strike group along with several other military services. It makes sense. Yet, it’s different when you’re playing a game versus when it’s real like.

Not many scientists get to see their work actually play out in the real world. In this case, it worked out pretty well. “We used the OSM framework during the exercise to provide Sailors with a powerful tool for warfare simulations and more realistic at-sea training,” Cummings says.

It is true. The exercise does allow sailors to prepare and train. I don’t think I ever had “fun” during any of the training scenarios during my service. However, the OSM software will hopefully give sailors that extra edge to make training more realistic. That’s the key.

What makes this unique enough for Cummings to win the award is that the framework architecture used the Discrete Event System Specification (DEVS) formalism spearheaded by Dr. Bernard Zeigler that “enabled the evolutionary building of Simple Operating System simulations,” Navy officials state.

Dr. Bernard P. Zeigler is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) fellow due to his contributions of his work in discrete event simulation. He is an emeritus professor at the University of Arizona, has co-wrote “Theory of Modeling and Simulation”, and the co-director of Arizona Center for Integrative Modeling and Simulation, amongst many of his accomplishments.

The work of these scientists along with Cummings and her team have enabled the creation of a system that will hopefully help the sailor train for future missions in a more realistic manner.

“Her approach enables any organization to develop required software components independently and to plug-in those pieces into an overarching framework so that the various components can receive, share, and output needed data and information,” explains the NSWCDD commanding officer’s nomination of Cummings for the NAVSEA Scientist of the Year Award in the release.

The plug and play capability is important and will help make this software be successful. We are all looking for as much flexibility as possible with the best technology available in order for us to succeed. The military is no different.

“Dr. Cummings and her team have matured a science and technology concept into a powerful, executable modeling and simulation framework that can incorporate many systems into a system of systems,” the nomination states. “This patented product fosters government software reuse, increases flexibility and interoperability while reducing cost and schedule for Navy programs by providing a highly functional solution to a complicated problem.”

Her work has been the culmution of her research for a doctorate in software engineering. A degree she earned from the Naval Postgraduate School In 2015. Just a testament that technology like this doesn’t just become a reality overnight, but it’s through years of hard work.

In addition to her hard work, she shows her true colors as a leader: “Although this award was given to me, it really belongs to my team, I may have been the team lead but it was their knowledge and software skills that made OSM a reality.”

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