Plug and Play
Affording the future Navy depends on open architecture in combat systems
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
tractors using proprietary software
and hardware. Major efforts at systems engineering were required to
integrate them with other combat,
sensor or command-and-control
systems. The integration of additional systems often proved costly
and slow, absorbing resources that
could have been better spent in
Likewise, the plethora of electronic mission systems on modern
warships and aircraft are responsible for an increasing portion of their overall cost.
“In order to build our fleet to a minimum of 313
ships, we will need to reduce the cost of fielding and
updating combat systems on the new ships, as well as
modernizing our existing fleet to keep them battle-ready
in the new threat environments that they will face in the
future,” Benedict said. “An open-architected system that
is flexible and can incorporate applications from other
acquisitions and new sources of innovation will allow
the Navy to provide new capabilities that the future
warfighting environment will demand.”
Moving an institution the size of the Navy in a cultural shift like OA requires strong leadership “to stretch
across all of the various players,” said Tim Oliver, a senior associate of Booz Allen Hamilton and a former Navy
submarine officer and acquisition official.
Navy leadership has stated its support for OA concepts.
In August 2005, John Young, then-assistant secretary of
the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition
(RD&A), issued a policy statement on the need to develop OA across the Navy and Marine Corps. More recently,
the secretary of the Navy, chief of naval operations and
commandant of the Marine Corps have listed OA as a
high-priority effort in the last two annual “Department of
the Navy Goals and Objectives” statements.
Vice Adm. David Architzel, the principal deputy
secretary of the Navy for RD&A, has amended the “six
Open architecture (OA) implementation depends on a balance of
technological development and a solid business case.
■ Program managers face cultural challenges in adjusting to OA.
■ It offers greater opportunities for small business innovation
■ Momentum will build as successes accrue.
As the Navy implements open architecture
(OA) initiatives in its warfighting systems, it
faces technical and managerial challenges in
its drive to achieve a significant degree of interchangeable “plug-and-play” capabilities. The success of the
initiatives will depend on opening up technical competition and changing aspects of the culture of its acquisition community, service officials said.
The Navy recently updated its OA strategy document,
defining it as the “confluence of business and technical
practices yielding modular, interoperable systems that
adhere to open standards with published interfaces.”
“This strategy encompasses three overarching goals
aimed at transforming business practices, systems
engineering and, ultimately, the Navy’s acquisition and
program management culture,” said Rear Adm. Terry J.
Benedict, the Navy’s program executive officer for
Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS).
“These practices are intended to significantly increase
opportunities for innovation and competition, enable
reuse of components, facilitate rapid technology insertion and reduce maintenance,” he said. “OA is about
saving money, but it is about much more than that. We
also seek to increase interoperability, reduce cycle time,
increase performance and reduce risk.”
Most warfighting systems on today’s ships and aircraft were designed and built by major defense con-