Military Acquisition Commands Will Play Bigger Role in 'Systems Integration'
ORLANDO — The military wants to stop buying "proprietary solutions" and will opt for open systems architectures that give the government more flexibility, officials said. “We have ceded too much of the design trade space to industry over the years, and we are going to start pulling some of that back inside Naval Air Systems Command and other Navy acquisition commands,” said Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, the commander of NAVAIR.
“We’re going to take a bigger role as the lead systems integrator,” he said Dec. 1 at the 2015 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference.
It is not about the amount of hardware or software that is developed by the government. It is about controlling the architecture and the design trade space in the systems, Grosklags said. The military is under pressure to innovate, he added. “We struggle to do that very often because we deal with proprietary interfaces; we deal with a lack of technical data.”
At times, the question of data rights has been a barrier to performing tasks or making system modifications quickly to meet evolving threats. It can also consume significant resources, said Rear Adm. Dean Peters, commander of the naval air warfare center aircraft division of Naval Air Systems Command.
“We are spending a lot of our time, a lot of our resources, upgrading OFP [operational flight program] software that is in our platforms instead of spending it on things that we would like to do, which is to develop performance upgrades” or buy additional platforms, he said. “We just can’t fall into that proprietary aspect anymore."
Intellectual property that a company wants to protect can be boxed off, “but all the interfaces that are developed are going to have to be open systems,” Peters said.
Lynda Rutledge, program executive officer and director of the agile combat support directorate in the Air Force Materiel Command, said in the past closed systems have made it difficult for the service to respond to cyber threats.
It was taking five years to respond to an attack because the Air Force had to spend a significant amount of time breaking open the operational flight programs owned by industry. That is unacceptable, Rutledge said.
Having an open architecture is “about us being agile and being able to respond to the threats because they are changing faster than we can keep up.” It is not about taking intellectual property away from industry, she stressed.
In an ideal world, every training and simulation system the Navy buys in the future will have an open technical baseline, Grosklags said. “We're going to insist upon truly open architectures where appropriate and possible that would include open source hardware and software standards,” he said. “It enables that agile and affordable integration of existing capabilities [and] the fielding of new capabilities.”
However, the service realizes that it has limitations as a lead systems integrator today, he said. “I recognize today we don’t have the capability” in terms of financial resources and personnel with the necessary skillsets to take on that role, he noted. “But we are trying to build the skillsets, we are trying to build the resources internal to the Department of the Navy to take on that role in more and more of our acquisition” programs.
Grosklags stressed that increased government control and ownership over systems’ architectures does not mean that industry participation is not important. It is still critical that the Navy works with industry, but it is going to pursue those partnerships with a different business model, he said.
For companies that “are used to owning that architecture and the design trade space and who are used to having us be required to come back to [them] if we want to make even minor modifications, it is a different business approach,” he said.
The Navy is endeavoring to use this open model is as many areas as possible, Grosklags said. Industry will begin to see it as a requirement in an increasing number of the service’s solicitations moving forward.