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Please do keep it on topic, which will never be about any contributor. Derogatory comments will be deleted.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Systems Engineering Wholeness... Accounting for All the System Functions

A few Systems Engineers I know have a tough time owning all of their system's functionality, regardless of where those functions have been allocated.  They readily take ownership of baselining the functionality allocated to their system's hardware and software, but for some reason have not considered baselining their system's functionality allocated to humans to perform.  Since I know of no fully automated (i.e. all functionality allocated to hardware and software) C4I systems, the results are often predictable.  

Systems Engineers do understand that humans perform C4I systems functions, because they get feedback from the Fleet that the Sailors have a very difficult time operating or maintaining their system.  Yet they make no objective attempt to consistently baseline human performance during system testing in the labs, when their system is being operated and maintained by humans... Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).  Their system tests well in the lab when operated and maintained by SMEs, and then tests well when installed aboard ship where it is again operated and maintained by SMEs (who are "assisting" the Sailors as they learn how to operate and maintain their new system).  But then the SMEs depart.  The Sailors attempt to perform their system functions allocated to them, and their performance is not up to par with that of the SMEs.  Of course it isn't.  How could a System Engineer expect otherwise?  The majority of Sailors aren't SMEs.  So they struggle to get the darn thing to work, and then out of frustration file a CASREP for Tech Assist.  Out come the SMEs... in a few minutes, with no parts needed, the system works just fine, once you get it all configured correctly.  The SMEs depart.  Soon thereafter... CASREP for Tech Assist.  The vast majority of C4I systems are restored to full functionality without drawing a single part from supply.

Are Sailors' performance of systems functions ever baselined?  Sure... by the Fleet.  They have PQS, and watchstander qualifications... these are human performance baselines.  But is this where system Operability and Maintainability should be baselined for the first time?  How does the Systems Engineer understand the performance of all system functionality, including that allocated to Sailors to perform, when that human performance baseline isn't established until the system leaves the testing labs?  How does the Systems Engineer come to learn that the systems functions allocated to humans to perform should instead be reallocated to hardware or software?  The Systems Engineers do reallocate system functionality from software to the Sailors to perform... every time a system trouble report determines a software function that doesn't work has a procedural work-around, and they decide to "fix" that problem by having the Sailors perform that work-around, they've in essence reallocated system functionality to the Sailor that had previously been allocated to software to perform.  Can the Sailors perform all those systems functions?  That's not the question, because ships aren't simply the collocation of individual systems in space and time.  Ships are a System of Systems.  The question is can the Sailors perform all the System of Systems functions they've been allocated to perform, by individual Systems Engineers who have made that decision for their individual system?  

Let's consider a single use case... Multi TADIL J (MTJ), a System of Systems (SoS).  The Fleet has expressed more than mild exasperation with MTJ, but not with the SoS hardware or software.  It's too darn difficult to operate and maintain, end to end.  Is there a Systems Engineer for MTJ?  No.  So who has determined that all the MTJ SoS functionality allocated to Sailors to perform is not more than should be expected for Sailors to perform?  Who has determined the Operability baseline of MTJ?  What is the probability that all the Sailors performing their SoS functions can perform them without error?  These are not training questions.  These are not technical documentation questions.  Training and technical documentation have only one purpose... to increase the probability that Sailors will perform their system functions without error.  But how much training and documentation is needed to increase that probability if a human performance baseline isn't established until the SoS is in the hands of the Fleet?  Why aren't Systems Engineers taking ownership of all the system functions, regardless of where they've been allocated?  Am I frustrated?  I used to be... until an organization took ownership of C4I System of Systems Wholeness... SPAWAR's PEO C4I PMW760, the Ship Integration program office.

PMW760 has examined System of Systems (SoS) functionality, and endeavored to reallocate some of those very difficult and time consuming human functions to software.  They are endeavoring to automate the determination of SoS configuration, something Sailors must do but have a very difficult time doing.  If most of the C4I CASREPs for Tech Assist are cleared by SMEs reestablishing the tested and approved configuration, then Sailors armed with the automation tools to readily determine the SoS configuration, and how it compares to the tested and approved configuration, will at least know their SoS configuration is no longer within baseline, and the automation will point out where within the SoS the misconfiguration issue resides.  This in my humble opinion is a step in the right direction, because as the force becomes more geographically separated under Distributed Lethality, the Sailors will need to rely more and more upon themselves vice the SMEs to restore their SoS functionality.  What's all the more remarkable is PMW760 is doing this without a SoS budget from OPNAV to perform Platform Integration.                           

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Boarhog LLC Awarded SERMC Total Ship Readiness Assessment (TSRA) Support Contract

PRESS RELEASE

San Diego, CA (April 30, 2015) – Boarhog LLC has been awarded a prime contract to support the Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) in the Mayport, Florida region.  The 2-year fixed price contract, assuming the option is exercised, will provide a cumulative worth of nearly $1,000,000.  The Boarhog team will be providing SERMC’s Engineering Department with support to satisfy the overall operational objectives of the Total Ship Readiness Assessment (TSRA) Integrated Class Maintenance Plan and other Type Commander (TYCOM) directed Assessments.


Managing Member Joseph Bulger stressed the importance of the upcoming mission:  “In a challenging environment of ever-increasing operating tempo and fiscal constraints, Boarhog continues to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to supporting our warfighters.”

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Very Special Learning Experience I Wholeheartedly Endorse

Today after 10 weeks of full time instruction, the Defense Acquisition University West graduated the annual Advanced Program Manager Course (PMT 401) with a nice ceremony on the US Navy ASW Base in San Diego.  I was one of three industry representatives in the class, which was primarily comprised of two dozen Air Force, Navy, and Army prospective and current program managers and deputy program managers.  Without reservation I will assert this was the best course I've ever taken, because my fellow students were spectacular, and the professors have been trained to draw out interaction from the students on multiple levels.

See, DAU structured the course to have almost no lectures.  We powered through 88 case studies, first by individual self study at night, then meeting at 7:30 in small group, followed by 9:00 class engagement.  The class was divided into four groups of six students, each assigned to a group study room, where small group learning facilitated by a professor took place.  We'd talk in small group for 90 minutes about the two or three cases we read the night before, then we'd argue the assignment questions while sharing relevant experiences from our different perspectives.  All the cases were drawn from real world defense acquisition programs that presented a protagonist (the program manager) with one or more dilemmas.  Once the four small groups met together in the large classroom, wider engagement ensued.  The professors introduced critical thinking tools and other management methodologies that enabled us to settle on a problem statement, issues, options, selection criteria, and ultimately a course of action.  Each of us was actively engaged in the learning experience, and we all learned from each other.  Sometimes, DAU would have the actual program manager protagonist in a specific case talk to us about the case in greater detail, and we'd ask them questions and probe into their thought processes.  It was a fantastic opportunity, and I will miss my classmates.  That said, even though we just graduated this morning, more than one of my classmates has already reached out in order to build a group email so we can stay in touch.  I'm gonna build a Blogger for us... pull vice push.

If you get a chance to attend DAU PMT 401, I highly recommend it.  Some of my fellow small business associates have asked me how I could justify being away from work from 7:30 in the morning till 3;30 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday for ten straight weeks.  In my humble opinion that's not the right question.  

              

Friday, October 31, 2014

How Industry's Innovative T&E Efforts Align With Better Buying Power 3.0

"Our technological superiority is being effectively challenged" due to the remarkable worldwide leveling of the state of technology delivered by commercial off the shelf (COTS) computing, communications, and sensors.  Better Buying Power (BBP) 3.0 presents initiatives to achieve dominant capabilities through innovation and technical excellence, as offered by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Mr. Frank Kendall on 19 September 2014.

This week the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) San Diego Chapter put on their Fall C4I Industry Day for close to 400 registrants from across the defense industry, government and academia.  The panel delivered by the International Test & Evaluation Association (ITEA) San Diego Chapter was well received based upon limited feedback and my observation of our audience from the podium as panel moderator.  The expert panelists offered personal experiences and insights on half a dozen of the BBP 3.0 initiatives, specifically focusing on those that can be supported by industry's innovative Test & Evaluation efforts.

The panelists were exactly the right experts, not so senior that they haven't had their hands in the gear recently, but not so junior that they're unsure of themselves or are reluctant to speak up.  All I had to do was tee up the initiatives and ask a few pointed questions of:

  • Dr. Bob McGraw, who co-founded RAM Laboratories in 1997, and is the company's Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, responsible for the oversight and technical direction of RAM Labs' applied research for Information Assurance, cyber security, modeling and simulation, and decision science-related efforts.  He is the author/co-author of over 40 papers in the fields of cyber security and modeling and simulation, and he earned his MS and PhD in EE from the University of Virginia.  
  • Michael MacFadden, the Chief Engineer and Chief Technology Officer of Solute Consulting, a San Diego-based small business providing engineering, aviation, training, and other consulting services to the federal government and prime contractors.  Michael holds a MS in Computer Science from San Diego State University, and a BS from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
  • Susan Wellersdieck, a Senior Analyst with G2 Software Systems, a woman-owned small business based in San Diego that has been providing high-quality software application development and systems engineering solutions since 1989.  Susan has over 30 years of progressive experience in software development and management, with an MBA as well as a BA in Economics from the University of California San Diego.  She is also a certified Program Management Professional (PMP).
  • Michael Costello, the Technical Director of Lockheed Martin's Technology Collaboration Center - West in San Diego.  He's has worked in systems engineering and architecture for over 20 years, and is a certified PMP.  Prior to directing TCC-West, Mike worked in Lockheed Martin Corporate Engineering and Technology, where he was the deputy for the Engineering for Affordability Initiative, and worked to establish the Architect Development and Qualification program. 

Here are short versions of the BBP 3.0 initiatives and questions they addressed at considerable length.  I would recommend to you a Google of Mr. Kendall's website in order to fully appreciate these and the other initiatives:

  • Improving the Return on Investment in DoD laboratories.  Question:  Do you envision a way for industry, with considerable investments in laboratories, to work with the DoD labs in order to improve return on investment?  Is establishing that working relationship doable at a local level, or would you file that under "too hard"?
  • Eliminate Unproductive Processes and Bureaucracy.  Question:  The discussions surrounding Speed to Capability tend to focus on rapid advancements in the technologies.  But what about the business practices affecting Speed to Capability?  A few years ago Dr. Marv Langston blogged about "...the potential impact of changing the primary acquisition metrics from cost, schedule, and performance to Speed to Capability."  He suggested cost, schedule and performance are of secondary importance.  "Building transparency around everything that reduces Speed to Capability would allow bureaucratic processes to be exposed and corrected." Are there innovative T&E efforts that could help address this issue, and what additional transparency might be needed in order to eliminate unproductive processes and bureaucracy?
  • Promote Effective Competition by improving technology search and outreach in global markets.  Emphasize competition by creating and maintaining competitive environments. Question:  What are your thoughts on creating and sustaining a competitive environment within T&E?  Are there ways to ensure new sources have opportunities to win their way onto programs?
  • Remove Barriers to commercial technology utilization.  Question:  What kinds of innovative T&E efforts might affect the barriers currently preventing technology companies from doing business with DoD?
  • Improve Tradecraft in the Acquisition Services.  Increase Small Business participation, including more effective market research.  Question:  What are your thoughts on innovative ways the government could acquire T&E services that would promote small business participation?
As I listened to these experts in their fields, suggestions of  rapid "third party assessments" of candidate technologies was repeatedly emphasized.  Within the world of Navy C4I, government T&E is absolutely essential, otherwise the "third party" rapid yet robust assessments are promoting acceleration to nowhere.  Industry and government can work together to address Mr. Kendall's initiatives, if there is a will to do so.  Government can't go it alone, because they don't have the resources to do all the T&E they want to do or even need to do, and that condition will be getting worse before it gets better.  I would suggest that major C4I systems are still getting to the Fleet without being adequately tested... witness the new racks of the latest shipboard computing equipment subjected to hard crashes because the backup power system in those racks designed and intended to provide battery power after the loss of ship's power weren't programmed to initiate that controlled, graceful shutdown.  The results are akin to unplugging your laptop, then popping out the battery with all your applications running and work not saved... times how many Sailors using that common computing environment?

For those of you in the audience during our panel discussion, I'd very much appreciate your observations and insights.  Constructive and meaningful collaboration is important.  Others who care to join in the discussion please do, and I thank you in advance for your contributions.  ITEA San Diego will be presenting follow-on panels, probably as deep dives into BBP 3.0 initiatives.  You may want to join the ITEA San Diego's LinkedIn group to stay in touch.  
                 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rapid yet Robust 3rd Party Technology Assessments by Industry, for Industry

Something unusual yet important happened over the past month, but understandably only a select few took notice.  Boarhog LLC successfully completed a Boarhog Logic™ Phase 1 Candidate Technology Assessment (CTA) of an "extra rugged" and powerful server, for a reseller.  From the initial kickoff and handshake to the finished 700+ page assessment report took less than 90 days.  The team of experts was assembled, signed contracts, the representative physical network was built from a relevant functional specification, the Phase 1 assessment plan conceived, automated test software obtained and configured, and the physical integration assessment, the cybersecurity readiness assessment, and the performance assessments were performed against a relevant maritime domain environment.  The report was generated, peer reviewed, and delivered to the client.  Less than 90 days.  The Boarhog Logic™ Phase 1 CTA report revealed to the client how many chat users, emails and file transfers their new server will support before it fails to meet the relevant specification, and whether or not the server's ready as physically configured to be inserted into a production rack of equipment within the targeted environment, and the results of a meticulous evaluation of the guts by information assurance experts.  There's an army of server sales people out there telling the U.S. Navy why their box is better than the other guy's box.  One of them now has an independent, third party objective and relevant assessment to go along with their own slick sheets, and it cost them very little to have that done because it all came together and went away in less than 90 days... firm fixed price. Turn out the lights, shut the doors, shake hands... all done by industry, for industry.

What's the benefit for Navy C4I?  Boarhog Logic™ CTAs are intended to accelerate transition to a Net-Centric infrastructure.  That transition is grounded in a standards-based open architecture that will readily accommodate innovative technologies and will facilitate the retirement of legacy capabilities.  The Boarhog Logic™ CTAs don't cost the government a dime, they increase competition (expanding pool of engaged suppliers), they increase government awareness beyond slick sheets, and they promote Small Business (all contracts for the CTA just completed were with Small Businesses).  Less than 90 days.  More Boarhog Logic™ CTAs are in the planning stages, including on Solid State Devices as replacements for spinning media, and on Predictive Analytic software.

Boarhog LLC... skin in the game... pigs in the breakfast... sic semper ad pullos: thus always to chickens.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ignite Talk presented during 7th Annual C5ISR Summit

It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now. -- Woodrow Wilson, upon being asked by a member of his cabinet about the amount of time he spent preparing speeches
I was chosen to deliver an Ignite Talk during this month's C5ISR Government and Industry Partnership Summit in North Charleston, SC.  My students will attest I have been known to burn through about 100 slides on a Monday evening from 6pm to 9pm during the C4ISR class at UCSD Extension.  But 5 minutes, using 20 slides, flipped automatically every 15 seconds was a real challenge.  Also delivering Ignite Talks were IBM, Dell, Microsoft, Nova Power Solutions, Spry Methods and half a dozen other innovative companies.  On the sage advice of a great man I truly admire, I endeavored to allow the slides to do most of the talking about the government's need for Unstructured Testing.  If the summit's Ignite Talks are ever published, I'll endeavor to include a link here.  The 20 slides are on my iPad, which I take almost everywhere... have elevator pitch will travel.              

Friday, November 1, 2013

UCSD offering excellent C4ISR Course commencing 13 January 2014

Continuing Education Credits are provided by UCSD for this 27 hour, 9 convening course held on Monday evenings from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm, starting 13 January 2014 (with no class on 20 January or 17 February), at the UCSD Extension's University City Center (6256 Greenwich Drive, San Diego).  Sign up for this 4 unit course (CSE-40952) on the UCSD Extension website soon, because seats fill up fast.  Those on the waiting list will be notified when a seat becomes available.   

Past guest lecturers have included Dr. Marv Langston the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (C4I & Space), CAPT DJ LeGoff the PEO C4I Program Manager for Tactical Networks, and Mr. Mike Spencer the Deputy Chief Engineer and Director of Integration and Interoperability (DII) of the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Command.
    
Students represent a good cross section of industry and the government, interested in an understanding of Command and Control, tactical and satellite Communications systems capabilities and limitations, Computers and Networks including various aspects of virtualization, Intelligence activities and supporting systems, Surveillance methods and resources, and Reconnaissance platforms capabilities and limitations.  The true power of this course resides within the open dialogue, non attribution, among the students and lecturer.  Many students are experts in their chosen field, and lend their insight and experiences to the learning environment.

The class text is Jeff Hawkins' On Intelligence.  Discussion of his position on Artificial Intelligence and why truly intelligent machines are certainly possible, but not by continuing down the current path of building ever faster computers with more processing power and more storage running sophisticated programs.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Surprise Surprise... Incumbent wins SPAWAR competition

The Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Command thanked us during our debrief for our competing bid, but in the end the incumbent ITT/Exelis won, again.  The Fleet Systems Engineering Team (FSET) contract has always been held by the current incumbent, over many competitions every 5 years.  The losing competitors this time were four teams lead by SAIC, QinetiQ, Jacobs, and SRA International.  Boarhog LLC was with the very strong SRA team, which also included teaming agreements with Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, McAfee, Secure Missions Solutions, SRC, Salient Federal Tech, C4 Planning Solutions, AMSEC, CUBRC, and many small businesses with current SPAWAR contracts.  The government assigned the SRA team grades of "outstanding" for our management plan and staffing plan, and they indicated our detailed transition plan from incumbent ITT/Exelis was more than adequate.

The powerful SRA team had maritime C4I capabilities covered across the context of the 16 areas laid out in the government's statement of work, and every company on the team had committed to investing their resources as designers, developers, producers, installers, and maintainers of C4I systems afloat and ashore, around the world.  The SRA team was assembled to not only meet the requirements with little risk to transitioning from the incumbent, but to provide SPAWAR's Fleet Readiness Directorate with access to a widest possible range of systems engineering resources and expertise.  The SRA team's staffing plan was populated with many prior FSET members, including the incumbent's prior FSET Program Manager.  The SRA team's offer was within a small single digit difference on price.  But as was the case with the previous SPAWAR competitions for the FSET contract, the incumbent was not to be unseated.

FSET was started as a Small Business Set Aside program awarded to Darlington Inc., who won the FSET contract recompete and was acquired by EDO Corporation, a large business.  The next FSET competition was Full and Open, since the incumbent was now a large business and the government determined after a Sources Sought that there were no longer any small businesses who could do the work.  Therefore, FSET was not to be a Small Business Set Aside.  The incumbent won again, beating out the team of CSC with subcontractors Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, who I understand was the low bidder.  EDO/Darlington was acquired by ITT/Exelis, and five years later SPAWAR awarded to their FSET incumbent, again, at a competitive price.  FSET contract awarded to Excelis

A Vice President of a major defense contractor recently corrected me when I offered that while SPAWAR is pleased to report competing 80% of their contracting opportunities, they award to their incumbent 80% of the time.  He said their extensive analysis indicates that latter number is closer to 91%.  In 2017 SPAWAR will again compete the FSET contract for award in 2018.  There will be competition, even with a 9% probability of winning the work.  What other choice is there?    

Monday, September 9, 2013

Suspicion of NSA includes NIST... who is to be trusted?

Conspiracy theorists will love this... it's not just the NSA, it's also NIST, and therefore probably other federal agencies too.  How many taxpayer dollars have been spent on complying with standards that are purposefully flawed and exploitable?  NSA's NIST Standards

Monday, August 26, 2013

What makes Big Businesses attractive?

I was fortunate and grateful to sit a panel today during the NDIA Gold Coast 2013 Small Business Conference:  Prime Perspective – What makes a Small Business Attractive?  My fellow panelists represented General Dynamics Information Technology and BAE Systems, moderated by the very capable and professional Michael Sabellico of Vanguard Global Solutions.  While my fellow panelists presented extremely valuable insight and important perspectives representing two of the most influential and successful large defense contractors, I found myself drawn to a different question of equal importance in today's declining defense contracting environment.  While the audience anticipated insight on how they can make themselves attractive to large businesses, my assertion to the small businesses in the audience is that Big Businesses need to make themselves attractive to us.  

I presented my perspective on how small businesses ought to establish themselves as highly valued teammates, highly sought after by big businesses.  After all, in this business, a large defense contractor goes out of business without small business teammates.  The government will not accept a Big Business proposal without small business teammates who have signed on to do materially important work.  Make no mistake about it, there are highly respected, highly sought after small businesses in the Navy C4I acquisition arena.  Large businesses court them to be exclusive teammates in order to establish a competitive advantage.  But recently the Commander of the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Command signed out a policy statement requiring exclusive teaming agreements be justified within the proposal as beneficial to the government, not necessarily to the prime contractor.  Indeed, SPAWAR specifically sets aside a substantial portion of their contracted work to be performed by small businesses -- big business need not apply -- and many small businesses have excelled on these contracts.  SPAWAR likes working with the right small businesses.  

So what is it that a Big Business can do to make itself attractive to small businesses with established capabilities, specific experience, extensive insight, and customer knowledge?  Well, many of the recommendations and advice provided by the large business panelists today equally apply:  pay your bills on time, be financially viable, execute flawlessly, be responsive, be on message, etc.  But there are others that don't often apply to small businesses that do apply to Big defense contractors.  If you want to be attractive to a killer small business:

  • Don't come across with the Big Business arrogance, like you're doing the small business a great big favor by even considering doing business with them.  Remember, without small businesses agreeing to do business with you, you're dead.
  • Don't always assume your "best practices" are the better way, just because you're Big.  Remember, many government employees don't want to award work to big businesses for this very same reason. 
  • Don't pretend you see the small business representative's hat in his hand.  Small Businesses who have established themselves as sought after teammates are very likely talking to all your competitors as well.  When the small business tells you they decided to go in another direction, you'll likely never know the real reasons.
  • Don't hire away their employees just because they're really good at what they do.  When small businesses get together, they spread the word that you're a predator.  We know who you are, and we're avoiding you because you can't be trusted.
  • Don't assume you'll get everything you need for the price of a few chicken dinners.  You get one meeting for free, during which you can decide if additional meetings and collaboration is warranted.  The next meeting includes the paperwork to deliver consideration.
There are a good number of Big Businesses who are attractive to small businesses because they get it.  The wisest small businesses actively seek opportunities to establish business relationships with them, and avoid engaging with those who don't care how attractive they are to small business.  Those small businesses who are desperate enough to willingly assume any inferior position to land any piece of work they can manage to beg under any conditions with the most arrogant and predatory Big Businesses are certain to regret it.  Those Big Businesses who take advantage of those desperate small businesses quickly establish a market reputation that will follow them for decades.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Choice is Chat

Chat is Choice for C2.  Not anything new really.  It has been that way for a while now.  The first time I witnessed chat used for C2 was by an OS2 employing the JMCIS chat that was fielded as a JMCIS network administration tool.  That chat was strictly monitored, and the OS2 got reprimanded for unauthorized traffic... obviously by someone who was missing the big picture. Fast forward quite a few years, and Chat is the most useful C2 tool... witnessing chat launch CAP brought that home for me.  Here's to chat.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The great Marvin Minsky reveals his observations on Artificial Intelligence

I can't recall anyone ever mentioning that the Turing Test was a joke, never meant to be taken seriously.  The Wikipedia description appears to have greatly underrepresented that fact.  I also haven't fully appreciated the role of the US Navy in advancing basic research until this talk by Marvin Minsky.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3PdxQbOvAlI