New VMASC head named

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A leader in Army modeling and simulation projects for the past 15 years has been tapped to lead Old Dominion University’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center

in north Suffolk.

Col. Michael McGinnis, 51, head of the Department of Systems Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., will assume the helm of VMASC in June 2006.


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He was selected from more than 20 candidates from around the country who applied for the vacancy created last May when former executive director Bowen Loftin left to become vice president of his alma mater, Texas A&M University.

&uot;I am excited about the opportunity to join

ODU’s team,&uot; said McGinnis, who will retire from the military in June. &uot;I’m looking forward to the challenges of continuing to build on the great progress at VMASC and making sure the team sticks together.

&uot;I’m also looking forward to broadening and strengthening VMASC’s partnerships with government and industry and … to working with those partners to develop internships for ODU’s modeling and simulation graduate programs.&uot;

McGinnis comes to the table with the talent and experience to grow VMASC to the next level, said Robert R. Harper Jr., a Northrop Grumman Mission Systems executive who chairs the VMASC advisory board.

&uot;He had real strengths in most areas we looked at, both through his experience in the Army as well as his non-military career,&uot; said

ODU President Roseann Runte agreed.

&uot;Col. McGinnis has broad experience in research, teaching and academic leadership,&uot; she said. &uot;He has been an effective team and program builder. He is a highly reputed engineer in the fields of modeling, simulation, analysis and visualization.

&uot;We are proud of the accomplishments of VMASC … and all look forward to welcoming Dr. McGinnis to this burgeoning research center, so vital to the economic development of this region.&uot;

Since 1997, when it was founded, VMASC has been an integral part of a Hampton Roads modeling, simulation and visualization cluster of industry, government and academic entities focused on military and commercial applications.

Many of the applications involve training, experimentation and decision-making under realistic simulated conditions. Others involve testing of strategies and equipment.

McGinnis, systems engineering department head at West Point for the last six years, has been a regular member of the official U.S. delegations to international symposia involving computer simulations. In 2002-03, he directed a task force for the secretary of the Army that used modeling and analysis to revamp the way the Army builds its combat brigades.

As director in 1997-99 of the Army Training and Doctrine Command

Analysis Center in Monterey, Calif., McGinnis built a reimbursable research program and gained an international reputation in advanced computer simulation. He gave a keynote speech on &uot;Emerging Trends in Modeling and Simulation Technologies&uot; at a conference of 400 engineers and scientists in Australia in 1998.

Under his leadership, reimbursable research in systems engineering at West Point increased from $300,000 in 1999 to $3 million in 2005, and he was credited with expanding the institution’s research partnerships both with the Department of Defense and private industry.

McGinnis, who began the process of transitioning out of the Army a year ago, jumped at the chance to enter the private sector with VMASC.

&uot;When I retire, I will have spent half of a 29-year military career leading high-technology, cutting-edge organizations doing modeling and simulation,&uot; he said. &uot;This is a very good fit for me, and I am humbled and honored to have been chosen.

&uot;VMASC is already very well positioned as a leader in these fields. A lot of credit must go to the people who are at VMASC now, and I hope that we can keep this team together.&uot;

McGinnis, who grew up on a Nebraska farm, graduated from West Point in 1977. He holds master’s degrees in applied mathematics and operations research and statistics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a master’s in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College and a doctoral degree in systems and industrial engineering from the University of Arizona.

&uot;Col. McGinnis is eminently qualified to be executive director,&uot; said Harper. &uot;Industry partners of VMASC look forward to working with him.

&uot;This is a positive step for VMASC and ODU as we move forward in this region with modeling and simulation.&uot;

Earlier this year, Gov. Mark Warner authorized $1.45 million in state funds to spur growth of modeling and simulation in Hampton Roads. A recent study commissioned by VMASC predicted that the annual economic impact of these technologies could grow from about $500 million in 2005 to $1 billion over the next five years.

VMASC headquarters are in northern Suffolk and &uot;VMASC East&uot; facilities are on the ODU campus in Norfolk. The northern Suffolk &uot;Sim City&uot; also is home to the Department of Defense’s Joint War Fighting Center and the Joint Battle Center, co-located in the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Training, Analysis and Simulation Center.

Companies that are involved in modeling and simulation in &uot;Sim City&uot; or elsewhere in Hampton Roads include all of the larger defense contractors as well as many specialized small- and medium-sized companies. These include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, General Dynamics Advanced Infor-mation Systems, Boeing, Raytheon, CACI, Alion Science, Loyola Enterprises, DDL Omni, Warner-Anderson and BMH Associates.

VMASC manages the ODU master’s and doctoral programs in modeling and simulation. In 2003, the university became the first institution in the country to award a doctorate in the field. Currently, 66 master’s students and 34 doctoral students are enrolled in the graduate modeling and simulation programs. The VMASC research and administrative staff and affiliated university faculty members number about 65.