Over the past month, the U.S. Army has consolidated two directorates in an effort to continue improving agile acquisition. Combining the offices is designed to allow more efficient and effective cooperation, enhance long-term planning capabilities and boost the service’s ability to acquire an overall system of systems.
The two directorates—System of Systems Engineering and System of Systems Integration—within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology [ASA(ALT)] have been combined into the Systems of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate. Heidi Shyu, the ASA(ALT), was briefed on the changes earlier this month.
Terry Edwards, who leads the new directorate, explains that under the previous organizational structure, no one was seeing the forest for the trees. “Unfortunately, these two processes weren’t connected optimally. The benefit first, for the Army, is the ability to look at a system of systems across the Army and to bring engineering and integration together,” Edwards says. “Nobody was looking at the system of systems.”
Additionally, he says, the former structure was too focused on the near-term. “The second benefit was to look at not just the near-term focused view of what we do for the Army, but also to look out at how we shape the Army’s architecture to be more capable but also more efficient in how we deliver that capability,” he says.
The ASA(ALT) officials have been developing long-term roadmaps toward the service’s future. “One thing Ms. Shyu has been doing is trying to establish this 30 year roadmap across all of our portfolios. One of the functions of our office will be to look across those portfolios and analyze how they align,” Edwards reveals.
Furthermore, under the old structure, one directorate had outgrown the other, and the two sides didn’t cooperate quite as much as they could have. Consolidating the two allows a better balance of personnel and resources, as well as more effective cooperation. “Now, we have an organization that is optimally aligned to deliver capability in a more efficient manner,” Edwards states.
Edwards envisions developing the new directorate as the service’s focal point for system of systems engineering and integration. “That is where we want to be because right now, there are a number of people who have been dabbling in that space, so our vision is to be that recognized entity,” he explains.
Army officials say they need to do a better job of communicating their technology needs to industry so that industry, especially small businesses, can plan ahead and wisely invest internal research and development dollars. The consolidation is seen as one step toward improving that weakness. “In doing so, we’re able to identify the gaps and opportunities that now we can translate to industry. That’s something we couldn’t do in the past,” Edwards declares.
Some Army officials describe the consolidation as a reaction to industry comments concerning agile acquisition and the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) process. Industry feedback has indicated a need for greater alignment of the research, development and engineering function and the integration function. Edwards, however, explains that Army officials have seen the need for consolidation for several years but needed everything to fall into place to make it happen.
Several years ago, the service developed a small office called the Office of the Chief Systems Engineer within ASA(ALT), a position also filled by Edwards. It was designed to tie together to the two directorates, but because of staffing issues and a short-term focus, the office fell short of its potential. “It didn’t have the aspect of helping to shape the architecture, set the standards, set the guidelines and give industry time to react to change,” Edwards states.
The consolidation fills a widely recognized need, Edwards adds. “The stars aligned, and there was this transition moment to bring about something that everyone thought was the logical thing to do. This was the time,” he says. “It is definitely showing benefits, and it’s the right thing to do for the Army.”