MAINFRAME: Military acquisition inspired framework for architectural modeling and evaluation
Zellers, Eric M.
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Military acquisition programs have long been criticized for the exponential growth in program costs required to generate modest improvements in capability. One of the most promising reform efforts to address this trend is the open system architecture initiative, which uses modular design principles and commercial interface standards as a means to reduce the cost and complexity of upgrading systems over time. While conceptually simple, this effort has proven to be exceptionally difficult to implement in practice. This difficulty stems, in large part, from the fact that open systems trade additional cost and risk in the early phases of development for the option to infuse technology at a later date, but the benefits provided by this option are inherently uncertain. Practical implementation therefore requires a decision support framework to determine when these uncertain, future benefits are worth the cost and risk assumed in the present. The objective of this research is to address this gap by developing a method to measure the expected costs, benefits and risks associated with open systems. This work is predicated on three assumptions: (1) the purpose of future technology infusions is to keep pace with the uncertain evolution of operational requirements, (2) successful designs must justify how future upgrades will be used to satisfy these requirements, and (3) program managers retain the flexibility to adapt prior decisions as new information is made available over time. The analytical method developed in this work is then applied to an example scenario for an aerial Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance platform with the potential to upgrade its sensor suite in future increments. Final results demonstrate that the relative advantages and drawbacks between open and integrated system architectures can be presented in the context of a cost-effectiveness framework that is currently used by acquisition professionals to manage complex design decisions.