Now Hear This - Securing Mission Success in a New Defense Environment

By Vice Admiral Thomas Kilcline, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Today’s defense programs are large and complex, with numerous interfaces. These systems must work the first time and every time. SE&I is a proven and measurable contributor to these programs’ success. This is where industry can help.

For example, while planning to comply with the base realignment and closure initiative, a DOD organization estimated necessary changes would cost 15 percent of the total budget. But when SE&I processes were applied, with repeatable procedures, quantitative metrics, and continual analysis for improvement, only 3.6 percent of the budget was spent on anticipated changes, saving the agency more than $200 million. In another case, an intelligence customer used SE&I processes to analyze current space architecture, cost constraints, and mission needs. The provider saved the program from cancellation by proposing a mission-focused architecture with an acquisition strategy that fit the customer’s budget and satisfied the mission requirements. 

The inevitable fiscal belt-tightening will require cutbacks to many systems; the challenge is to do so without compromising national security. A responsive SE&I capability will lessen the budget impact to U.S. national security by helping sustain our edge in defense and intelligence systems. A strong commitment to SE&I is essential to ensuring a solid program foundation in terms of requirements and architecture decisions.

Supporting the Navy’s SE&I transition requires a disciplined process, specialized talent, and leading-edge tools spanning the life cycle of weapon systems. Against the backdrop of intense budget constraints, experienced, analytical, and independent systems engineering and integration is necessary now, to prevent program overruns, delivery delays, and mission misalignment later.

As the reduced readiness and increased costs caused by false savings in maintenance and reporting have demonstrated, cuts to solid management tools such as SE&I will result in inefficient program execution and greater expense. The Navy would be wise to sustain and even increase its investment in sound management processes such as SE&I to increase efficiency and combat readiness in the long term.

Vice Admiral Kilcline is vice president of naval programs at TASC, which provides acquisition, engineering, analysis, decision support and program services in support of national security.


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