PEO STRI Chief Karen Saunders Delivers the TSIS 2024 Keynote

By Shane Klestinski, Associate Editor


Karen D. H. Saunders, SES, senior leader for U.S. Army Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), provided the keynote address and the second day’s opening remarks of the Training & Simulation Symposium (TSIS) in Orlando, Florida, June 13.


Saunders, who will relinquish her duties as program executive officer to Army Brig. Gen. Christine Beeler in July, began with an overview of her organization and she listed new names that have joined PEO STRI since the last TSIS conference, as well as some veterans. Saunders said they would be the supporting “nucleus” for Beeler when she arrives next month.


“As my time is closing with PEO STRI, I can tell you that the Army priorities of people, readiness and modernization stay strong,” Saunders said as she spoke of the organization’s accomplishments. “The PEO STRI mission to develop, deliver and sustain testing, training and information operations capability for our soldiers remains the same. How we get there is changing a little bit, and how we get there is really being helped by our senior leadership… which is providing us mechanisms to get there faster.”


She emphasized that PEO STRI maintains its “laser focus” on agile acquisition, standardizing architectures, and the modular, open-systems approach. She described them as “foundational” across the organization, but changes were developing to provide enterprise capability.


“As we’ve learned over the past few years, agility is key to bringing in new technology,” Saunders said. “We’ve had great successes, not only with STE [Synthetic Training Environment] but also with STRI’s Agile Acquisition Response Team, who is assessing commercial, off-the-shelf technologies, working directly with vendors, hardening [the technologies], and then delivering them as capabilities solutions… to our soldiers.”


Saunders highlighted a new Army policy released last March: “Enabling Modern Software Development and Acquisition Practices.” This policy outlines the Army secretary and chief of staff’s approach to dealing with software. She further emphasized that Army senior leadership understood that “more and more, we’re getting into the world of software.” Saunders also underscored the importance of being agile in practices that focus on iterative development and delivering software in close coordination with the user.


“Our chief has made it clear that the voices he wants to hear from are operational users on the ground,” Saunders said. “That’s not to say that we’ll do away with our user representatives, but the users – the soldiers and leaders who are going to use the capability – that’s who he wants the acquisition community to get feedback from.”


The new Army directive lists five key reform areas Saunders briefly described:


– Changes in how government writes requirements. Concise, high-level statements will capture software requirements in place of the detailed documents outlining prescriptive requirements previously used.

– Employment of flexible acquisition and contracting strategies. These strategies for software development efforts will provide quick adaptation to changing requirements.

– Streamlining and modernizing of traditional, manual processes associated with software development and deployment to reduce the time and resources required to deliver software.

– Adopting a new sustainment model. Software-based systems will no longer move into a sustainment mode as done traditionally.

– People – the Army secretary’s first priority. Ensuring that the Army is developing talent and expertise.


To see the PowerPoint slides for PEO STRI’s presentation, go to:


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