DoD Releases Digital Engineering Strategy to Drive Agency Transformation

To celebrate Independence Day, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its Digital Engineering Strategy on Wednesday. The strategy “promotes the use of digital representations of systems and components and the use of digital artifacts to design and sustain national defense systems,” DoD said.

The strategy will serve as a roadmap to guide the DoD on an agency-wide transformation. This isn’t a small change, the strategy document explains, but it’s one that offers considerable upside for the agency and national security.

“Digital engineering will require new methods, processes, and tools, which will change the way the engineering community operates; however, this shift extends beyond the engineering community with an impact on the research, requirements, acquisition, test, cost, sustainment, and intelligence communities,” the report explains. “The digital engineering transformation offers similar positive changes for business operations including acquisition practices, legal requirements, and contracted activities.”

The strategy, officially released by Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin, details the Pentagon’s five strategic goals for digital engineering. Griffin noted that the strategy is the “result of extensive research and collaboration among the DoD Components and academic partners, as well as interactions with industry, professional societies, and defense acquisition associations.”

“The goals promote the use of digital representations of systems and components and the use of digital artifacts as a technical means of communication across a diverse set of stakeholders,” Griffin said in the report. “The strategy addresses a range of disciplines involved in the acquisition and procurement of national defense systems, and it encourages innovation in the way we build, test, field, and sustain our national defense systems and how we train and shape the workforce to use these practices.”

In the strategy, the Pentagon provides an overview of each goal:

“Goal No. 1–Formalize the development, integration, and use of models to inform enterprise and program decision making.  The first goal establishes the formal planning, development, and use of models as an integral part of performing engineering activities as a continuum across the lifecycle. Such ubiquitous use of models will result in a continuous end-to-end digital representation of the system of interest. This will support consistent analysis and decision making for programs and across the enterprise.”

“Goal No. 2–Provide an enduring, authoritative source of truth. This goal moves the primary means of communication from documents to digital models and data. This enables access, management, analysis, use, and distribution of information from a common set of digital models and data. As a result, authorized stakeholders have the current, authoritative, and consistent information for use over the lifecycle.”

“Goal No. 3–Incorporate technological innovation to improve the engineering practice. This goal extends beyond the traditional model-based approaches to incorporate advancements in technology and practice. Digital engineering approaches also support rapid implementation of innovations within a connected digital end-to-end enterprise.”

“Goal No. 4–Establish a supporting infrastructure and environments to perform activities, collaborate, and communicate across stakeholders. This goal promotes the establishment of robust infrastructure and environments to support the digital engineering goals. It incorporates an information technology infrastructure and advanced methods, processes, and tools, as well as collaborative trusted systems that enforce protection of intellectual property, cybersecurity, and security classification.”

“Goal No. 5–Transform the culture and workforce to adopt and support digital engineering across the lifecycle. The final goal incorporates best practices of change management and strategic communications to transform the culture and workforce. Focused efforts are needed to lead and execute the change, and support the organization’s transition to digital engineering.”

In terms of next steps, the Digital Engineering Strategy includes who owns each task and lays out a roadmap for the transformation. DoD Components will create, share, and execute their own implementation plans. The DoD Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering (ODASD(SE)), which developed the strategy, will coordinate efforts across the agency to close gaps, eliminate duplication, and share best practices. The strategy offers up four next steps that ODASD(SE) will take: coordinate DoD digital engineering efforts, develop DoD implementation plans, implement pilot programs, and sustain digital engineering transformation.

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