They’re all working on certain pieces of the Rubik’s Cube that is the Air Force, and some are actually working on weapons systems. TBH, we want to hate on this for the geeky names, but what they’ve been able to achieve is pretty badass….and at lightspeed in Pentagon terms.
That said, it isn’t too hard to do this when you own the tech stack and the intellectual property (IP) of the weapon system you are trying to improve.
Our completely subjective grade: B
Open Architecture: Almost all current weapons systems are run by software that is unique to the respective hardware vendor. The concept of moving away from this and towards an open-source standard, known as Government Reference Architecture (GRA), has been around for a decade.
Only recently has the Pentagon started to notice though—that blinding flash of the obvious was commercial industry zipping by in the fast lane.
This is extremely hard to integrate into existing programs due to the way the incumbent vendor’s product profit model was established, IP concerns, and challenges about losing competitive advantages.
With GRA (or any other grey box concepts), the focus is shifted on the outcomes of the product, not the IP within the product. This approach appeases IP concerns, but it has to be baked into the beginning of a program so companies understand the monetization strategy (i.e. the opposite of today’s approach).
Without GRA, government-owned IP, or some kind of open mission systems, vendor lock will continue to kill any ability to implement agile and DevSecOps processes. #gameover
Our completely subjective grade: D
Digital Engineering: The final and most complicated element of the digital trinity was how to actually truncate formerly real-world activities. The guidebook started with 14 tenets in January, which was trumped in May with a new memo outlining seven attributes of digital engineering.
While you can digitize the design and production of a widget, it's orders-of-magnitude harder to click a button to analyze the fluid dynamics and flight sciences of that widget. Digital engineering is only as good as the models and computations that underpin it, and the ability to interconnect sim-to-fly-to-sim informed model loops is still very nascent.
For the near term, expect to see platform sub-components earning the e-Program stamp of approval (B-52 engines, F-15EX wings and nose barrel, etc.).
Our completely subjective grade: e-for-effort