Acquiring the Future: Mission Assurance Through Tailored Acquisition Strategies 

In the rapidly evolving landscape of complex development projects and programs, a paradigm shift is underway. The systems procurement and development ecosystem is being transformed with new ways for systems to be conceived, designed, contracted, managed, staffed and supported. The result is nothing short of a revolution in how defense end-users are supported, from initial concepting to system fielding, with a focus on mission assurance through tailored acquisition strategies. This transformative approach is being championed through a partnership between PWK Advisers and Smooth Projects, who now offer an advanced training program plus consulting arrangements focused on “Buying, Fielding and Supporting Complex Systems” (our training course title). This combination of education, coaching and consulting is equipping defense professionals worldwide with the tools and techniques needed to thrive in today’s complex defense acquisition environment. 

There are three key aspects in our approach: 

1. Understanding the capability gap and the end-game capability desired.

2. Ensuring that system acquisition efforts are mission-driven from the outset, leading to more effective and efficient development projects. This is done by integrating the three major engineering approaches – – – Systems Engineering, Digital Engineering and Mission Engineering.

3. Building-in cyber protection, interoperability with Allied systems, ease of maintenance and upgrades, and advanced logistics capabilities from the start, so there are no surprises.

At the core of our approach is the Integrated Mission Engineering Framework or IMEF. This weaves together Systems Engineering, Digital Engineering, and Mission Engineering. Systems Engineering still focuses on the holistic design and integration of complex systems. Digital Engineering now employs cutting-edge digital tools and techniques to streamline the development process. And Mission Engineering now aligns system capabilities with operational needs, ensuring that the end-users’ mission requirements are met. This powerful framework provides a comprehensive approach to system design and development, encompassing the technical, contractual and operational aspects of any acquisition. The integrated approach guarantees successful development and fielding of systems-of-systems, reducing risks and enhancing mission assurance.

Our approach also emphasizes the importance of stakeholder engagement, with a focus on the use of the Stakeholder Matrix and special User-Interviews. The Stakeholder Matrix is a powerful tool that enables defense professionals to identify, analyze, and prioritize stakeholders based on their influence and interests, allowing for targeted engagement and communication strategies. User-Interviews, both structured and unstructured, provide invaluable insights into end-users’ needs, preferences, and challenges, enabling the development of user-centric solutions. These stakeholder engagement techniques ensure that the voices of the end-users and other relevant stakeholders are heard and incorporated into the acquisition process, leading to increased support for the systems being developed. 

Senior Airman Sean Edmonds (left), and Airman First Class Brandon Smith (right), Air Operations Technicians who interprets radar return signals and work with on-board Air Weapons Officers and ground-based Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controllers embedded with ground forces. The JointSTARS mission in Southwest Asia provides radio relay for ground movement, and a “911” style of response systems, up-scaled to a military level, to provide close air support or medical evacuation. Additionally, they can perform surveillance to deter insurgent activity, and look at the immediate history of an IED explosion location to determine possible contributors to attacks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master, Sgt. Lance Cheung)

One of the unique features of our approach is the introduction of five crucial tools that are currently missing from the US Department of Defense’s systems development toolkit. These tools provide a strong, career-enhancing toolset for systems development and acquisition professionals, enabling them to reduce risk, lower system development costs by as much as 54%, and field better systems, faster.

1. The User-Driven Stakeholder Matrix, discussed above, which empowers defense professionals to incorporate end-users’ evolving perspectives into stakeholder analysis, ensuring that user needs remain central to the decision-making process.

2. The Technical CONOPS provides a concise and clear overview of system capabilities and operational concepts, facilitating communication and alignment among stakeholders.

3. MIT’s Problem-Framing technique helps in identifying and addressing the root causes of challenges and issues, leading to more effective collaboration among stakeholders and more efficient problem-solving.

4. The use of proven systems development principles, time-tested by thousands of systems designers, developers, project managers and users, to dramatically reduce risk.

5. Lastly, the Collaborative Architectural Failure-Resistant Engine (CAFÉ) promotes collaboration and resilience in system architecture, mitigating risks and enhancing system performance.

Conclusion: Today’s acquisitions require a paradigm shift in how defense development projects and programs are approached. Through the approach of the PWK Advisers and Smooth Projects Team, defense professionals worldwide gain a comprehensive and innovative toolkit that empowers them to navigate the complex landscape of system acquisition with confidence and competence. The emphasis on mission assurance through tailored acquisition strategies ensures that the systems being developed are aligned with end-users’ needs, operational requirements and logistics challenges. This approach leads to more effective and efficient acquisition efforts, reducing risks, thereby improving system performance, and enhancing overall mission success.

Our analysts and instructors have worked with all the major US defense primes, US military services, the intelligence and space communities, and numerous international and coalition partners.

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