Now Hear This - The Imperative for Open Architecture and Innovation

By Rear Admiral Jim Shannon, U.S. Navy

A great example of success with OA is the Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS), developed by an integrated government and industry team. TTWCS is one of the three major segments of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile system, which capitalizes on OA through common reusable software components to support multiple U.S. submarine and surface-ship platforms as well as Royal Navy submarine platforms. During the past several decades, TTWCS has been upgraded to incorporate the latest technologies (e.g., processors, operating systems, programming languages). As a result of the OA design, the system can easily be scaled and hosted on several platforms containing unique launching system configurations. This means TTWCS has been used to successfully launch thousands of Tomahawk missiles in support of tactical operations.

Attempts have been made to solve the OA challenge by establishing Navy-owned and -controlled central repositories. Both Share, developed by the Program Executive Office for Integrated Weapons Systems, and the Major Program and Artifact Sharing System (MPASS), developed by Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, provide a process to share with qualified vendors hardware and software metadata such as documents for requirements, architecture, interface, design, and source code. As MPASS is populated, industry will have available an easily searchable system to identify and request information directly from major acquisition program managers. More contractors will then be able to compete for second- and third-generation contract awards, thereby driving down overall costs for the Navy. Additionally, major acquisition program managers will have access to a transparent database where they can identify in-house solutions in which the Navy has already invested.

Over the next five years, the Navy anticipates significant budget reductions. At the same time, military forces are aligning with new DOD strategic guidance that shifts our forward presence toward the Asia-Pacific region. The operational demand signal for a relevant and capable service is increasing as the overall budget shrinks. This is not the first time we have faced such a challenge; innovation has dug us out of this hole before. This time, however, the private and public sectors will have to innovate together and share more information to generate the leaner, more capable force the nation needs to maintain our forward presence. OA and innovation are the critical factors necessary for the U.S. military and industry to maintain their global advantage.

Rear Admiral Shannon is deputy commander, Surface Warfare, Naval Sea Systems Command, with the primary responsibility for life-cycle support of all non-nuclear surface ships. The projects and programs he has previously led include the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Naval Integrated Fire Control, and Naval Open Architecture.


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