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This article was Originally Published on Oct 20, 2005 in Volume: 4  Issue: 3

Industry Challenge: BMD

A panel at the recent Space and Missile Defense Conference highlights key role of industry in integrating ballistic missile defense technology.

By Mickey McCarter

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Industry has a critical role in integrating the complex technologies involved in ballistic missile defense (BMD), according to participants at a recent panel on private sector participation in missile defense programs.

Representatives from several of the leading companies working with the Missile Defense Agency, Army Space and Missile Defense Command and other agencies appeared on the panel, which was held at the Space and Missile Defense Conference and Exhibition held in Huntsville, AL, this summer.

Challenges facing Department of Defense and industry planners in missile defense development include technical difficulties, policy questions and manpower issues, participants suggested.

Following are edited versions of remarks given by panel members.

Sidney Fuchs
President, TASC Business Unit
Northrop Grumman Information Technology

At today’s industry panel, we are going to talk about the industry perspective regarding the challenge of integrating ballistic missile defense technology. For some time, government and industry have enjoyed a very good relationship through many years of changes in requirements, practices and evolving technologies.

It used to be that several agencies and departments would develop requirements and systems in a very stovepipe manner with very specific functions. Today, we are finding that we need to figure out ways to integrate those systems for many reasons. One could be lack of funding for future systems. Another could be that systems can last longer than expected.

Today’s warfighter needs actionable information. We all know that. That’s pretty obvious. It’s correct to say that information that can be passed around quickly and integrated from multiple sources allows the warfighter to make correct decisions in a timely manner. Future military campaigns are going to continue to increase their reliance upon this capability in each situation in terms of executing a response and subsequent results.

There’s a short National Defense University publication titled “Transforming America’s Military.” One of the concepts that it discusses is that the future of working missile defense may be theater-centric versus national-centric as we try to enable the warfighter to become better prepared to deal with today’s challenges. The future success of our defenses will weigh heavily on technology, as we all know, and our ability to integrate cannot be overemphasized.

There are three major challenges associated with what we are going to talk about today. Obviously, there is the technical challenge. The U.S. missile defense program is truly a joint effort. Several government offices and numerous industry partners are working together to develop technology for a reliable, accurate and secure vehicle. Another challenge is policy. Schedule slips, cost overruns and increasing threat sophistication are all issues that must be addressed by both government and industry.

The last challenge is workforce. With every technical area in government today with respect to the military where there is a lot of education and training required for high-tech applications, we just don’t have the scientific minds coming out of colleges that we had years ago.

Lieutenant General Ed Anderson (Ret.)
Principal, Booz Allen Hamilton

At Booz Allen, the development of hardware is not one of our core competencies; however, I would like to talk to you for a few minutes about something else that I can offer for critical technology, and that is to talk to you from a slightly different perspective. I am going to talk to you from an operator’s perspective. I submit to you that just as technology is critical, integration is very critical.

There is probably no more complex system and no greater challenge and no more important challenge for the ground-based midcourse defense system than integration. This system is very complex. Furthermore, we also have a complex integration challenge associated with fielding this particular system. When you add on to it the global dimension associated with the GMD system. that certainly makes integration a much greater challenge.

We have a business model for system engineering and integration. It is really rather straightforward. It is not rocket science, but it is hard, and again it is absolutely critical. It begins with a determination of a need for a capability by a user, and then the process undertakes the design of a solution, which generates, certainly in the case of GMD, a system of systems and then bringing it all together and testing it and fielding it. Those systems would be both legacy systems as well as new systems as well as modernized systems, all of which certainly increases the complexity.

You must have program control and program management throughout the process. You must have modeling and simulations and analysis. But the part I would like to focus on for a little bit is the operator and warfighter input and support for this process.

The term operators and warfighters are frequently used interchangeably. But when you equip the operators and you provide them with these kinds of capabilities, they become a warfighting system, but the system is then handed off to the warfighters. The warfighters are the joint unified combatant commanders. But STRATCOM, for example, has the unified command responsibility for being the advocate and a number of other things for the missile defense system, but they are not the operators. They do not exercise the system.

The major challenge is to make sure that we bring the materiel development processes and the operational development processes together concurrently to provide a warfighting capability.

Mike Trotsky
Vice President, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control

The first challenge or lesson learned that I want to talk about affects all of us, and it really isn’t just a production problem. It affects people in development as well. It’s obsolete parts. More and more, we are finding that from production buy to production buy, we cannot buy the same material two years in a row.

Every year, we get a letter from several of our vendors saying that the microchip or the particular screw or body material that we are using will not be supported anymore. Generally, they ask us if we would like to make a lifetime buy or a sunset buy of the material before we stop supporting this, or they say you are on your own. Since the DoD is such a small percentage of the vendor-based business, we don’t have a lot of leverage. The government is not really in a position to make a lifetime parts buy. The procedures are not amenable to make that happen.

The next one, which also affects us all, is quality in the vendor base. What we are finding is that we can really be diligent about quality and you can examine every process, every document in your own plant, and you have caught maybe 5 percent of what was made for the government, the other 95 percent is up to five levels deep into the vendor base. When you start getting five levels into the vendor base, you may find out that you have hundreds of vendors. The prime contractor alone cannot handle the problem. Everyone on the team has to look after the problems.

Another one affects us all: Everybody seems to understand that to get to success, you experience failure along the way. Every great success has experienced failures along the way. That’s easy to say but hard to do. When you go into Congress or you go into the Pentagon, especially with programs that are in tech demonstration or tech feasibility phase and you are doing something new that has never been done before, there are a lot of people who think you can schedule technical discovery, but you can’t. The thing that is hard to do is get a sensible program that accounts for failures along the way and get people to agree that they need to pay for some amount of failure along the way.

Major General Frank Moore (Ret.)
Vice President, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems

As we have approached the missile defense business, we have had two primary challenges. The first of these is integrating myriad technologies into an actual operating weapons system. Of course, we are getting there in that regard. The second major challenge was to do that in such a way that these systems would have the mission effectiveness that our operators and warfighters demand as they seek to defend their nation.

I am confident that we will meet these challenges. They are works in progress, but we have done this in the past. We have met our operational requirements and we have mission effectiveness and reliability requirements. We can do the same for the system and the challenges we now face.

One of the primary advantages that we now have is that the technology is so much better now than it was back then. Things that were so difficult 10 or 20 years ago in programs that I worked on are now relatively easy. Technology has both good and bad dimensions to it. Our adversaries take advantage of today’s technology. Terrorists use the Internet and travel on our international airlines. We are challenged to use technology to overcome what they are able to do.

The way we will meet many of these challenges is through sound systems engineering--remembering the basics and doing the right thing.

I will focus briefly on another way that technology is helping us as we look to the future. Really, for the first time, we have the capability to do large-scale simulations and war games of complex systems like our missile defense system. We are doing in Colorado Springs, CO, and we are doing it here in Huntsville. But I’m not talking about that building that is geographically located in Colorado Springs at Schriever Air Force Base. I am talking about the distributed, integrated, interoperable and in fact international network that we have for simulating our missile defense system.

Debra Rub-Zenko
Vice President, Boeing Integrated Missile Defense

The challenges we face today have been given sharp definition in recent years with dramatic and profound changes in the warfighting environment. The threats are unpredictable within a complex and dynamic operating environment. Industry and the warfighter must work together to address these challenges in a timely manner.

To prepare for what the future holds, while meeting the demands of today’s battlefield, requires us to think differently and develop warfighting capabilities that can adapt quickly to new challenges and unexpected threats. We must address how to integrate legacy systems with new platforms and provide situational awareness through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The warfighter is addressing CONOPS in new and innovative ways with an emphasis on operating jointly--not only among U.S. services but also with coalition partners.

Capabilities-based acquisition is a flexible answer to the traditional decades-long acquisition process. While capabilities delivered are paced by technology maturity, they can provide “something” where “nothing” existed. Through the spiral development process, additional capabilities can be introduced over time. Collaboration between government and industry provides unique insight into additional capabilities to meet the evolving threat.

Whether we are providing relatively low-tech solutions to address insurgency threats on the streets of Baghdad or a complex missile defense system designed to counter ballistic missiles against the U.S., our deployed forces, friends and allies, it is our challenge to bring the “best of industry” to provide timely and affordable capabilities to our warfighters.

There is no simple answer to the challenges posed by today’s complex warfighter environment. Essential to success in responding rapidly and decisively to the warfighter’s needs is collaboration between government and industry.

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