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New Features and Security Controls for the Competency and Skills System

April 26, 2021

The ADL Initiative recently released a feature update for the Competency and Skills System (CaSS) application to better support competency authoring. The authoring tools use the new CaSS plug-in architecture to allow users to create, import, and edit competency frameworks.

CaSS screenshot
CaSS Authoring Tools web application interface

CaSS is an open-source tool that leverages the work of an active community of users and developers to improve how competency data are managed and shared across different domains. For DoD, CaSS will also support military readiness by providing increased visibility into the training personnel who will need to maintain or achieve competence for mission-critical operations.

To allow its use on DoD networks, the CaSS software has also been hardened to meet cybersecurity requirements. The Army’s Software, Simulation, Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate (S3I) performed a detailed review that identified outdated dependencies, cross-site scripting issues, and other potential risk factors within the software’s 1,800,000+ lines of code.

After mapping these vulnerabilities to DoD Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) and Joint Federated Assurance Center (JFAC) risk metrics, the Army S3I recommended software updates, provided hardening guides for systems that CaSS is dependent on (including Apache, Tomcat, and Ubuntu), and recommended an update to Elasticsearch version 7 for CaSS cross-domain search and analytics.

The CaSS developer, Eduworks Corp., integrated the recommended updates and completed regression testing in late 2020. The software is now deployed in a US Navy Impact Level 5 (IL5) DevSecOps environment, with similar access now being pursued for Army and Air Force networks. Operating in these DevSecOps environments will allow ongoing integration, testing, and scanning of the software in order to achieve continuous Authority to Operate (ATO) for the rapidly changing software.

“Training warfighters to common standards is a complex challenge when credentials, certifications, accomplishments, and training activities differ and are disconnected among different DoD organizations,” said Dr. Robby Robson, CEO of Eduworks. “Our goal is for both trainers and trainees to use competency frameworks, recognizable across the Services, to tailor their learning activities.”

Through CaSS, competency frameworks operate independently and can be easily referenced in training delivery systems, learning management systems, and career development systems. CaSS also supports linked data, which promotes flexible interoperability by allowing competency data to be translated across a range of federated software systems while preserving its integrity.

Several Government and private sector organizations have either adopted CaSS into their systems or are evaluating CaSS for broader use, including non-profit projects like Credential Finder and Credential Engine, agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF), and multiple DoD components.

The US Army’s Synthetic Training Environment Enhanced Learning for Readiness (STEEL-R) project aims to incorporate team-based competencies via the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring (GIFT) and CaSS to demonstrate the viability of these technologies to support all Army training. The ADL Initiative is consulting on the competency aspects of STEEL-R, viewing this as a transition opportunity for DoD’s use of CaSS as an enterprise capability.

CaSS Report cover
CaSS Authoring Tools project final report

The US Navy is using CaSS as part of the MyNavy Learning project and Surface Training Readiness Management System (STRMS) program to hold digital representations of all the Navy’s rating data, including definitions of occupational tasks, learning objectives, Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS), Learning and Development Roadmaps (LaPDRs), etc. Through CaSS, the MyNavy Learning project identifies and sets goals as well as computes learner profiles for each sailor representing their current capabilities.

At NSF, CaSS is being deployed to link workers to training and jobs that address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to help companies work with universities to structure workforce continuing education and professional development courses using competency frameworks.

The interoperability of CaSS frameworks, with its use of xAPI and other elements of the Total Learning Architecture, supports DoD’s transition to competency-based learning, which is an approach to education and training that emphasizes competency mastery and the design of learning activities around prescribed competencies. This approach has been demonstrated to improve education/training efficiency and effectiveness.

Visit the CaSS project for more information, including a 2020 report on the Competency Framework Development Process, and 2021 reports and guides for the CaSS Authoring Tools.

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