Each year, as the days become shorter and the air cools, members of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) gather to celebrate the very best in systems engineering excellence at the annual NDIA Systems Engineering Conference in October. During the conference, winners of the Top 5 Department of Defense Systems Engineering Program Award are recognized for excellence in the application of systems engineering principles that result in highly successful DoD programs. This year, at the 13th Annual Systems Engineering Conference in San Diego, the US Army had the honor of receiving two of the Top 5 Awards; the Program Executive Office, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors (PEO IEW&S) and the Project Manager, Night Vision/Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (PM NV/RSTA) received the award for the Base Expeditionary Targeting and Surveillance System-Combined (BETSS-C) and the Program Executive Office Command, Control, and Communications -Tactical (PEO C3T) and the Project Manager, Battle Command received the award for the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) and the Defense Readiness Reporting System-Army (DRRS-A).
Competition for the award is strong, as applicants across the Department of Defense vie to be included in the Top 5. Each applicant must complete a detailed, comprehensive self-assessment of its systems engineering practices pertaining to a particular program that has proven successful. The self-assessment is then reviewed by a panel of senior leaders from across the Department of Defense. Key criteria for a successful application include effective control of the system technical baseline through event-based technical reviews, the use of technical authority and independent subject matter expert (peer) participation in technical reviews, comprehensive linkage of technical baseline products to program management mechanisms, and effective use of total life cycle technical planning to coordinate and manage a program's technical effort across multiple organizations.
PM NV/RSTA's BETSS-C system, a US Central Command top-ten priority, comprises a combination of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), battle command, and force protection (FP) systems and represents the very best in systems engineering and integration. Each of the systems that make-up BETSS-C - - Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) Towers, Cerberus Towers (CERBERUS), the Force Protection Suite (FPS), and the Rapid Deployment Surveillance Security System (RDISS) - - are each critical from an operational standpoint. However, these systems are that much more powerful in terms of providing state-of-the-art ISR and FP capabilities to the Warfighter, because they are integrated and networked in an optimal and operationally-relevant way. Moreover, BETSS-C is fully scalable, movable, and adjustable, thus enabling its rapid adaptation to changing environments in theatre and shifting Warfighter needs.
"This award is a testament to twenty years of dedicated system engineering discipline within PEO IEW&S, PM NV/RSTA, and PM FLIR," said Douglas Wiltsie, acting program executive officer, IEW&S. "Within PEO IEW&S, we are continually working to improve our systems engineering processes to consistently achieve system performance excellence. Receiving this high honor is confirmation that we are moving in the right direction each day. We are developing and sharing systems engineering best practices that can be leveraged throughout ASA(ALT) and the broader Army to support the Warfighter by providing the best systems possible," Wiltsie concluded.
"We are deeply honored to receive this prestigious award," said Col. Linda Herbert, (former) project manager, NV/RSTA. "Because BETSS-C represents one of the first applications of systems integration across multiple, existing systems, and it is also a quick reaction capability (QRC), our systems engineering efforts were some of the most extensive and aggressive within the acquisition space. We were required to rapidly develop high-quality systems engineering collateral to ensure that ultimate fielding met cost, schedule, and performance requirements."
PM NV/RSTA's systems engineering approach can be divided into three discrete, yet related progressive stages: the set-up stage (first six to eight months), the structure stage (next nine months), and the maintain and improve stage (approximately 17 months into the program). During the set-up stage, the PM quickly formed Integrated Product Teams (IPTs) comprising dispersed and matrixed members, and established active participation of a broad group of external stakeholders ranging from the Combatant Commander (COCOM), the deployed force, and combat and material developers, to ensure that both material and non-material aspects of the program and its capability were being addressed. In addition, several parallel efforts along the multiple lines of operation including business management, acquisition management, systems engineering, logistics, training, test, and organizational change along with the IPTs, Working Groups, and active stakeholders enabled overall program success.
Once the program was established and defined, PM NV/RSTA entered stage two, the structure stage, in which it engaged in a rigorous, methodical approach to systems engineering including a multi-pronged strategy spanning several key areas, including people and processes. At this crucial point in the systems engineering process, omitting or grossly abbreviating the process could result in over-engineering systems, missing key capability requirements, or worse "getting it wrong" (i.e., fielding a system that does not meet user requirements and expectations). To avoid these kinds of issues, PM NV/RSTA employed a disciplined, systematic approach to establish a comprehensive, accurate system technical baseline. "We also recognized the importance of consistency across the program and we standardized our systems engineering processes," Herbert added.
Furthermore, to avoid the potential for scope creep and to keep the focus on meeting the Warfighter's needs, PM NV/RSTA also doggedly managed the original requirements baseline for BETSS-C. "We really treated the original requirements baseline as a 'contract' of sorts throughout the entire process," explained Robin Whitworth, deputy project manager, NV/RSTA. "Early on, we reviewed the core requirements with commanders in theatre to ensure we clearly understood the Warfighter's needs and expectations for the new system, and then we held tight to those baselined requirements. This allowed us to maintain laser sharp focus on meeting fielding expectations," Whitworth concluded.
In addition to conducting specific systems engineering reviews aligned to the DAU Guidelines, PM NV/RSTA understood, from the earliest stages of the BETSS-C program, the importance of engaging and retaining seasoned subject matter experts (SMEs) to provide thought leadership and "hands-on" expertise particularly with regard to the integration of the five systems comprising BETSS-C. "We sought out and retained SMEs with specific experience in multiple systems integration, as well as on-the-ground experience in theatre working with integrated systems from an operational perspective," Herbert added. "At the same time, we were continuously and deeply engaged with our higher headquarters (PEO IEW&S), and regularly engaged PEO participation when conducting key systems engineering reviews (e.g., DDRs, TTRs, etc.).
Through BETSS-C, PM NV/RSTA continues to develop and apply systems engineering best practices, advance theory and knowledge regarding the integration and networking of ISR capabilities, and demonstrate the practical application of that theory by successfully fielding integrated sensor systems. "Most important, since the first BETSS-C systems were fielded, the system has greatly enhanced situational awareness for Warfighters in theatre and has made significant contributions to saving lives," Herbert concluded.