Beyond Business as Usual
By REAR ADM. DAVID A. DUNAWAY
The Navy fights in a system- of-systems warfare environment but continues to acquire systems in “stovepipes of excellence”
without an integrated system-of-systems context. As a result, we
are failing to provide our Sailors
with mission-ready tools critical to
their success in peacetime, crisis and war.
The system-of-systems concept describes a set of
interdependent platforms, weapons, networks and sensors that connect easily and quickly to create timely
warfighting effects — a “warfighting whole” greater
than the sum of its parts.
Today’s warfighting environment demands integrated and interoperable capabilities across the spectrum
of Navy roles, missions and tasks. However, barriers
inherent in our acquisition system frustrate stakeholders seeking enhanced integration and interoperability
(I&I). Title 10 U.S. Code establishes a statutory basis
for vertically aligned programs, confounding I&I capability solutions.
Although it is essential to maintain advocacy for
individual programs, the clear need for I&I mission
capabilities calls for an expanded management construct. The insular focus of programs creates an open-loop process between program and warfighting capability. A few key performance parameters and knowledge, skills and abilities standards will not close this
loop. Rather, a capability-focused construct is
required. The answer isn’t one or the other — it’s both.
We need the vertical program advocacy of Title 10 and
a forward-leaning construct of managing a horizontal
system of systems.
But that goal is increasingly stymied by the
resource boundaries around systems created by program accountability. Each boundary carries an underlying set of assumptions as to the burden of mission
capability that will be performed by other components
within the system-of-systems framework. When these
assumptions are inconsistent or in conflict, the fleet
receives a system that might individually meet a specific requirement but is unable to provide its full value
to the mission. In some cases, the introduction of a
new or upgraded system can result in mission failure
Although many of these system-of-systems challenges are hardware and software focused, they clearly
extend to human system integration (HSI) — the
“human factor” in the operational equation. The system must comprise hardware, software and humans.
Technology trends are increasingly driven by commercial versus military needs, and acquisition
assumptions are that commercial technology will
equip Sailors to succeed in a time-critical, high-stress
environment. Since the Navy’s acquisition system
often is not geared to deliver integrated and interoperable tactical-decision-quality data, the assumptions
begin to fall apart.
Today, our savvy fleet Sailors make things work. In
the future threat environment, operators may not be
able to compensate for a weak system-of-systems engineering approach. Pressures to reduce manning and
ownership costs further compound the problem.
In short, we design, engineer and acquire individual
system elements almost in isolation, and often with
suboptimal results. Instead, we must expand the aperture, looking to a system-of-systems “triad” — Warfare
Systems Performance, Human Interface and Manpower, and Training and Proficiency — for balance
within integrated operational environments.
If we are to be successful in delivering warfare systems that work, we must achieve a balance among all
three. If we do not have sufficient and appropriate warfare system automation, we will need more people or
training, and proficiency demands will increase. The
triad must be in balance to execute complex, integrated warfighting.
When delivered capabilities are suboptimal, programmatic and architectural assumptions need to be
readdressed. Too often, we elect to respond to deficien-cies with work-arounds that offer interim fixes in
anticipation of the next upgrade, but compound the
operator’s dilemma and further destabilize the triad.
We can and must do better.
What if we adjust the flow of resources and accountability to enable I&I right up front and throughout the
acquisition process? What if we empowered the HSI
engineer — among other technical authorities — to
“stop the show” when it is clear that things are going
south and make needed course corrections before the
system is delivered to the fleet?