Across the services—Air Force, Army, and Pentagon leadership—emphasized the increasing importance of simulated training systems for soldier readiness in coming years at the Defense News Conference.

“We are transitioning to a synthetic training environment,” said Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Training Center, because, she said, it will allow commanders to train on the environment they will be fighting on, using organic weapons they would use, in conjunction with partners, with the necessary repetitions.

Gervais said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would like to have “25 bloodless battles before the first battle.”

“Our number one priority is to actually making the Secretary of Defense’s requirement to provide a squad-immersive training simulation training capability, similar to the same capability they provide to pilots,” Gervais said.

In the end though, it’s only useful if it’s realistic. 

“The goal for any training is to try and make it as realistic as possible,” said Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, Military Deputy in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

It’s clear from Pentagon leadership that industry will have a place in that program development.

“We have the opportunity to work with closely with industry, both traditional and non-traditional partners,”  And we’ll … really leverage the $5.2 billion and growing virtual and gaming industry and the advances we’re seeing taking place.”

With the rise of nontraditional defense industry partners participating in DoD acquisition, and even just the proliferation of data breaches, the Trump administration is looking into ways to protect the security of the defense supply chain, including potentially designate security as a metric within the acquisition process.  

Gervais said that won’t be a problem and hasn’t been her experience.

“As we’ve been going through this prototyping effort we are finding we’re getting lot of  non-traditional partners coming in and we’re working with them on the security piece,” she said. “I will tell you what they told me: ‘If you don’t think we can’t protect our data, then you’re mistaken.’”

The Pentagon leaders, speaking at the Defense News conference, were explicit that contractors are important in the development of these simulated trainings, but also more generally for years to come.

“[Contractors] are part of the team … we will never go to war again, we will never train again just as uniforms,” Clardy said. “Whatever we do will be with civilian partners and certainly contractors and they’re all part of the team.”