Accelerate Open Standard Adoption to Drive Warfighter and Weapon-system Effectiveness
November 19, 2020 | BY: David Jedynak
Published in Military Embedded Systems
Warfighter and weapon-system effectiveness is critical for national defense. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Third Offset Strategy – the Pentagon’s drive to pursue next-generation technologies and concepts to assure U.S. military superiority – makes it clear that the continuous deployment and refresh of advanced technologies to the front line is essential in enabling combat platforms to rapidly adapt to changing threats. The Tri-Service Memo of January 2019 – promulgated by the secretaries of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force – directs the use of open standards “…to rapidly share information across domains.” Both the strategy and commanders’ intent are clear; however, we’ve observed that accelerating the adoption of open standard technologies is often slowed by traditional practices, hard-to-quantify benefits, and perceived risks. We believe the best approach is to address these hurdles head-on.
Traditional acquisition methods
The existing acquisition approach for platform technology is well understood: a singular focus on providing a specific capability; one example would be battle-command software running on a physical bolt-on appliqué. This single-purpose approach provides a self-contained materiel solution consisting of a line-replaceable unit (LRU), platform installation kit (IK), training, spares, and the like. These recurring life cycle costs are relatively fixed at the LRU level and are generally well-understood. In some cases, the IK costs as much or more than the LRU itself. The combination of the LRU and IK results in size, weight, and power plus cost (SWaP-C) allocated to the platform.
Is this approach efficient? From a discrete acquisition program complexity and scope standpoint, most likely the answer has been yes. This model has worked in the past to bring relatively small sets of capabilities to existing weapons systems without much integration complexity. Clean lines of separation and limited interaction between each capability are unintended consequences of separate and uncoordinated materiel acquisition solutions.