By Ken Running, Modeling and Simulation Engineering Manager
As a modeling and simulation professional, I deal with questions all the time--and not ones that a 411 call or Google query can answer. They are “what if?” questions about complex scenarios involving complicated system architectures and thousands of variables. Leveraging digital engineering, I help customers get answers that have critical implications for our safety and security.
For instance, in assessing conditions on the ground during a disaster relief effort, how do solar flares, storms, or cloud coverage degrade situational awareness for mission commanders? What if other sensors and resources were brought in? Could they help fill the gaps?
Department of Defense leaders, policymakers, and acquisition specialists all have a need for quick-response modeling, bringing questions to which they need answers “yesterday.” A quick-response modeling task may be an hour-long exploration into a 2X higher bandwidth communications pipe for single-mission performance. A full parametric evaluation for a variety of mission scenarios could take a few hours.
What-if analyses can cover a range of costs, time, and resources depending on problem complexity. A longer-term analysis spans a year but involves agile sprints in getting data to the customer fast for feedback and making adjustments. In the end, we inform decision-makers of complex engineering issues, trade-offs, and solutions, averaging more than 600 tasks a year.
Knowing ‘Why’ Yields Maximum Insights
We don’t simply report the simulation results in each of our analysis packages. Our multidisciplinary team of engineers, mathematicians, scientists and analysts, using an automated data analytics process, understands and reports the factors that drive mission performance so that customers can make more informed decisions.
For example, if a particular scenario results in 80 percent mission effectiveness due to factors X, Y, and Z, then we can recommend mitigating them through system or architectural changes to improve mission effectiveness to 95 percent. It’s not enough to share numbers from the simulations; expert analysis provides insights and determines ways to achieve better mission outcomes.
When you’re building a house, the kind of house you want drives the pieces and tools you need. The same goes for building complex simulations; the kind of analysis a customer requires drives the modeling requirements. From commercial, government, and SAIC-developed modeling and simulation tools, we select the ones that get the depth and breadth of insights needed for a particular task. Beyond helping a customer gain the insights it needs to make a mission-critical decision, we look at the number of tasks we support and the response time per task—ultimately maximizing insights per dollar.
About the author: Ken Running is a highly skilled software developer and team manager for agile development of a modeling and simulation suite for integrated air and missile defense. The suite supports analyses for Congress, the White House, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, DoD agencies and armed services, and Unified Combatant Command. He holds mathematics and engineering degrees from North Carolina State University and University of Maryland.