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Six degrees of acquisition integration: Part II.

In the last issue of Defense AT & L, we described ACQ451-Acquisition Integration, a new 400-level course to be offered by DAU. We devised the course construct called "Six Degrees of Integration." We previously discussed the first two degrees ("Big A" and Functional Specialty integration); this continuation article describes the remaining four degrees.

Life-cycle Integration

The third degree of integration is life-cycle integration--in other words, making choices that integrate near- and long-term consequences of acquisition decisions. In defense acquisitions, managers must frequently make a difficult trade-off between an investment that promises to lower total ownership cost versus their need to deploy quickly and contain current cost. A single right answer to such trade-off decisions is elusive.

The "Kiowa Warrior" case study situates the participants in exactly such a dilemma. The case describes the tradeoff the Army had to make in 1999 between funding upgrades to the aging Kiowa Warrior helicopter fleet vs. spending funds to hasten development of the next-generation Comanche. Participants are usually aware that Comanche was later cancelled and that the life of the Kiowa fleet was extended, but we ask them to play the role of a 1999 decision maker. With no foreknowledge of the eventual fate of Comanche, which course of action would they recommend? In the pilot offerings, opinion in the class was almost evenly split. The point, of course, is not to achieve class consensus, but to explain reasoning and expose competing criteria. For that purpose the case works well.

We also ask participants to work through a series of one-paragraph caselets, which address a sequence of lifecycle integration issues of a new generation of night vision goggles encountered sequentially over a period of years. By distributing the caselets one at a time, and asking table groups to analyze each one sequentially, participants gain experience at making life-cycle choices and seeing the repercussions of prior decisions.

System of Systems Integration

The fourth degree of integration is integration between separate systems that can operate autonomously but gain synergy by interoperating with one another. This type of integration is a requirement of virtually every complex defense system today. Problems arise trying to achieve the coordination, interface standards, schedule, and budget synchronization necessary to integrate systems that are managed by independent organizations.

To immerse the participants in the thorny technical and management issues surrounding system of systems integration, we use another case study, "Joint Strike Fighter Interoperability." The case describes the long intensive effort to map out the Joint Strike Fighter's position in the network of interoperating systems with which it would share the future battlespace. Issues that the participants analyze are:

* Who generates and enforces system of systems requirements?

* Who maintains the network configuration baseline for current and future interoperating systems?

* How and where are the system-of-systems capabilities tested?

* How does one trade off single-system capabilities against system-of-systems capabilities? That is, how much should the Joint Strike Fighter depend on other external sensors and control systems being available in combat?

Following the case discussion, participants are asked, "Where is your program in a system of systems?" They are asked to draw a diagram of the program they work on (or one with which they are most familiar) within a system of systems framework and explain it to their fellow participants. In workgroups, they share their own personal challenges of operating within this framework. This particular exercise also often exposes ineffective integration. As a participant graphically maps out and describes the interdependencies of his/her program with other programs, it is common to see that the liaison activities among the programs are insufficient and the interoperability risks are correspondingly high.

Joint Integration

The fifth degree of integration is integration of systems for use by multiple Services. Joint programs bring their own unique integration challenges such as varied requirements, competing priorities, funding challenges, testing needs, and cultures between the Services. The case study "Joint Biological Point Detection System" describes the difficulty of harmonizing requirements across the armed services and developing a single joint system for detecting biological attacks. As in the other cases, the myriad of competing criteria and priorities renders this case without a single right answer. However, participants become involved in the debate and soon realize that building one system that will satisfy multiple armed services is a risky undertaking. However, the alternative of developing Service-unique systems has its own problems, including higher cost per Service, duplication of effort, and lost economies of scale. Following the case, participants discuss their own challenges with joint programs and compare strategies applied to cope with them.

International Integration

The sixth and last degree of integration is integration across nations. The United States is increasingly including allies in the development and production of new defense systems, to share the cost, to gain wider access to technologies and skills, and to reinforce international military cooperation among allies. The challenges of international integration are similar to those of joint programs but are complicated by necessary interaction across governments and cultures. The case study used for this course module is the "Rolling Airframe Missile," which was codeveloped and coproduced by the United States and Germany. The case exposes the difficulties of achieving consensus across nations on what a system must do and how it must evolve. Because international program management involves many special players (Department of State, Department of Commerce, etc.) and many unique laws and regulations, a DAU guest instructor who specializes in international program management facilitated this lesson. In the two pilot offerings, the expertise of the guest instructor was vital because class discussion raised subtle and nuanced questions about international acquisition policy and regulations. Future offerings may include a non-DAU guest speaker such as a current program manager of an international program.

Course Wrap-up

The course concludes with reflections on perceptions that have changed during the course and with participants finalizing their integration action plans--actions they will take upon returning to their jobs to foster increased acquisition in their environments. The action plan is the essential take-away for participants. Although every lesson gives participants opportunities to learn by application, applying integration principles back on their jobs will reinforce what they have learned and improve their programs. One unfinished aspect of course design is whether and how to follow up with participants regarding their integration action plans. The Acquisition Community Connection Web site, <>, may be an appropriate venue for participants to continue learning from each other as they pursue and share results of their individual action plans.

Early Success

DAU's new triad of 400-level courses appears to be an early success. ACQ451, in particular, appears to be filling a niche in necessary knowledge and skills to achieve effective acquisition integration. By partitioning the course objective of effective integration across six separate degrees and analyzing each degree in turn, participants are left with an appreciation for the full scope and challenge of effective integration. If any of these new 400-level courses interest you, you can find course dates and instructions for registering at <>.

Roman is professor of acquisition management at DAU, where he specializes in information technology and software. Possehl is professor of systems engineering management in the Defense Systems Management College-School of Program Managers. Stein is currently the lead ISD for the School of Program Managers and the DAU action officer-COE Accreditation. Forman is professor of acquisition management at DAU, managing the development of executive curriculum.


1. "Big A" Integration. Integrate the business processes and decision systems, (e.g. requirements generation and procurement).

2. Functional Specialty Integration. Integrate professional specialists on an acquisition team (e.g., logisticians and testers).

3. Life Cycle Integration. Integrate decision criteria to account for both near- and long-term consequences within and across programs.

4. System of Systems Integration. Integrate separate acquisitions to ensure current and future interoperation.

5. Joint Integration. Integrate requirements across military services to support the Services with a single joint acquisition.

6. International Integration. Integrate U.S. requirements with those of our allies to support multiple nations with a single acquisition.
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Title Annotation:Spotlight on DAU Learning Resources
Author:Stein, Sue
Publication:Defense AT & L
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Previous Article:Department of Defense news release (Aug. 10, 2006): DoD releases Selected Acquisition reports.
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