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Mission Engineering Integration and Interoperability (I&I)

By Dr. James D. Moreland, Jr.


Dr. James D. Moreland, Jr.
Chief Engineer
Naval Surface Warfare Center
Dahlgren Division

                The complex and now highly integrated machines of naval warfare continue to evolve enabling higher precision, more effective power projection and safer defensive postures for the Fleet. The interconnectedness of our own social fabric is finding its way into our ships, airplanes, submarines, networks, tanks, and the very weapons they deliver. This paper identifies the critical events that have occurred as a direct result of the Chief of Naval Operation’s (CNO) Integration and Interoperability (I&I) Summit on 9 December 2010 to include the development of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations’ (VCNO) I&I Activity which is driven by a formal charter. The Naval Systems Commands (SYSCOMs) are charged to place an increased emphasis on assessing the I&I of warfare systems to support current and future readiness for critical mission threads. The assessment of naval technologies, systems and/or capabilities requires a system-of-systems (SoS) approach to analyze the impact of making these naval investments across the diverse domains of surface, undersea, air, land, and networks as well as maritime coalition force integration. These assessments are executed following a systematic, quantifiable, and iterative approach referred to as Mission Engineering which combines the structure of Systems Engineering and the tactical insights of operational planning. The findings are captured in “effects/kill chains” to clearly identify operational needs based on the way we plan to fight through mission threads captured in our Combatant Command’s Operational Plans (OPLANs) and Contingency Plans (CONPLANs). Mission Engineering emphasizes capability-based assessments to produce integrated warfighting capabilities that can be translated into specific programmatic guidance for strategic programs. The technical baselines developed will interject warfare system details into the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) System and Naval Capability Development Process (NCDP) to drive the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) for today’s readiness and the future capabilities of our naval force. The overall objective of this I&I Activity is to provide responsive, credible analyses and engineering to inform decision makers of the results, insights, and alternatives of organic naval warfare capabilities for the integration of these capabilities within joint warfighting campaigns enabling more effective civilian and military leadership decisions.               

To achieve the naval enterprise goal of having its major systems interoperate to create warfighting capability requires an accountable governance structure with mission-level processes and tools. Naval material acquisition traditionally delivers piece parts of warfighting capability (e.g., radars, weapons, command and control systems) and the platforms that deliver these piece parts to the fight (e.g., ships, submarines, airplanes, tanks, etc.). In today’s acquisition process, these individual programs are matured independently with the resulting negative effect of integrating SoS when delivered to the Fleet. Developments and purchase contracts are many times sub-optimized for programmatic business and production purposes. The time between the initial vision of an integrated warfighting capability and the realization of all the necessary piece parts coming from various program offices can span many years or even decades. An additional long-term mission focus activity must be appended to the acquisition process to assure the integrated warfighting capability originally envisioned is actually delivered. A mission-based emphasis is required to focus across the entire developmental timeline from describing, integrating, testing, and finally delivering warfighting effects at best value across representative operational environments. Since these developments can take a long time to be realized, there is a critical need for factually informed, data driven mission thread assessments from OPLANs and CONPLANs to continually describe and reconfirm warfighting gaps.        

Mission architectures serve as the bridge for tactical-to-technical understanding by describing warfighting capabilities in a functional context and, most importantly, to set detailed force-level engineering requirements. These requirements need to be actively tracked through decomposition into Programs of Record (PoRs), validated, and certified at Fleet delivery. In addition, technical reference designs are needed for the major interface implementations, and mission-based testing is required to provide independent operational assessments of mission capabilities across systems. These elements are the enablers to support decision-making and governance for warfighting effects, ensuring the naval systems are integrated and interoperate to create the needed warfighting capabilities to effectively execute mission threads. While it is absolutely necessary to define the effects/kill chains and to govern these products, there also needs to be government control and accountability of major weapon system interfaces across the warfighting domains of surface, undersea, air, land, and networks. Specifically, defined technical reference designs delineating how interoperability needs to be achieved across diverse domains is crucial for mission success as measured by desired effects criteria.

The following definitions provide contextual information for critical terms used in this article and throughout this edition of Leading Edge magazine.

Integration: The composition of a capability by designing and assembling elements in a way that allows them to work together to achieve an intended purpose.

Integrated Capability Technical Baseline: An architecture that consists of a list of functions and some indication of their interfaces or Information Exchange Requirements and interactions with each other and with functions located outside the system’s boundary. Establishing this baseline facilitates a shared understanding across multiple products, organizations, and disciplines with respect to mission needs.

Integration Readiness Level (IRL): A systematic measurement of the interfacing of compatible interactions for various technologies (components) and the consistent comparison of the maturity between integration points.

Interoperability: The ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to effectively use the information that has been exchanged.

Interstitial Space: The interstitial space consists of the logical information characterizing the relationships between system integration. It is where the interface requirements and characteristics between elements are exercised. Characterization of the interstitial space enables insight into higher level system behaviors.

Mission Engineering (ME): Planning, analyzing, organizing, and integrating current and emerging operational concepts for the purpose of evolving the end-to-end operational architecture and capability attributes, across the Doctrine, Organization,
Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel and Facilities (DOTMLPF) spectrum, including anticipated Blue Force (BLUFOR) and Opposition Force (OPFOR) behaviors, that are needed to inform the communities of interest involved in fulfilling mission needs statements.

Systems Engineering (SE): An interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. This structured, quantifiable, iterative and transparent development approach integrates all the disciplines and specialty groups into a team effort that proceeds from system conception through disposal covering the complete life cycle of a system.


The I&I Activity is a concerted approach to develop recommendations for functional end-to-end accountability for I&I sequential activities that incorporates warfighting capabilities assessment; gap and solution recommendations across the DOTMLPF spectrum; adjudication, resourcing and acquisition of solutions; successful Fleet implementation; validation of solutions; and a workable governance. This new approach incorporates a mission focus on integrated capability development into the traditional SE “V” as depicted in Figure 1.


On 9 December 2010, the CNO hosted a summit on I&I. During the summit, the concept of an approach to I&I was briefed that would provide for sequential activities as a proactive means to: identify shortfalls in current capabilities (Warfare Capability Baseline); develop comprehensive solution recommendations to identified operational gaps (Capability Solution Management); and process the results within the Department of the Navy (DON) for approval, execution, and implementation in the Fleet. The critical outcomes of this summit are identified below:

Integration and Interoperability
                       Summit Outcomes                        

  • Sharpen our focus on creating Integrated Warfighting Capabilities
  • Develop/Institute formal governance approach for creating Integrated Warfighting Capabilities
  • Promote awareness of existing capabilities in our Warfare Centers (people and facilities) to create Integrated Warfighting Capabilities
  • Obtain agreement to adjust some Acquisition processes to ensure interoperability requirements are emphasized

An update on the progress of developing an effective approach to I&I was briefed on 20 April 2011 during the CNO Executive Group (CEG-V) meeting that included a proposed sequence of critical steps and the associated roles, responsibilities, accountability, and products for each step. Commander United States Fleet Forces Command (CUSFFC) and VCNO directed a war-game to assess the functionality of the I&I approach presented at the CEG-V, with a specific focus on organizational alignments, accountability, and capability to pass results between critical steps. Leadership direction was to evaluate the ability to achieve executable results within the framework of existing processes. The war-game was conducted 13-16 June 2011 and consisted of three and a half days of mission analysis and course of action (COA) comparisons that revealed findings and recommendations on how to institutionalize I&I activities and influence positive behavior change within the naval enterprise. The war-game objectives were set as shown below:

Integration and Interoperability
                      Wargame Objectives                       

  • Identify and align supporting processes and expertise required to address effects/kill chain capability shortfalls
  • Provide for development of notional DOTMLPF integrated capability recommendations and actions to address shortfalls
  • Demonstrate a methodology to effectively address the products from each step of I&I activity, leveraging the available USN processes for capability development and implementation
  • Define the concept of a warfare mission area owner

Over 40 war-game participants were drawn from across the naval enterprise providing expertise in Systems Engineering, testing, operations, acquisition, and governmental processes. Where possible, the I&I approach leverages existing DON processes (e.g., Joint Capability Integration and Development System (JCIDS), Capability Based Assessments (CBA) process, NCDP, Programming, Planning, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) System and the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA process). Specific focus areas were accountability and expertise within each step, and product wholeness of each deliverable. For the purposes of the war-game, all I&I organizations executed their respective roles within existing resources, recognizing that full execution of I&I within DON may require individual organizations to realign resources and re-prioritize current efforts.

Executing the I&I Activity

The information and products developed under the I&I Activity provide naval leadership with current capabilities and future requirements, thus equipping decision makers with the information necessary to better prioritize limited resources. This naval leadership charge focused on conducting end-to-end mission thread assessments of critical warfare mission areas and to rectifying the identified operational gaps. The recommended fixes would be drawn from the entire DOTMLPF spectrum to consider all possible solution sets. These solution sets must then be synchronized across the individual elements of the spectrum to conduct complete and rigorous integrated warfighting capability transformation.

The I&I Activity execution plan takes into account a holistic approach to include operational, developmental, and conceptual execution states. Operational I&I focuses on near-term investments to execute quick returns to the naval force and serve as the foundation for future interoperability enhancements. Developmental I&I emphasizes mid-term investments to build on the “as-is” foundation and strives to produce a highly interoperable naval force by 2025. Finally, Conceptual I&I drives long-term research and development (R&D) investments to help guide the science and technology (S&T) efforts necessary to design, create and implement a future naval force network that is fully interoperable with the joint force.

In order to solve complex integration and interoperability challenges early in the systems engineering life cycle, it has become apparent that these issues need to be addressed during experimentation and test on the left-side of the Systems Engineering “V” Model. This requires the ability to execute mission threads in a representative operational environment. Since the integration of new and legacy systems is required, a live/virtual environment must be developed to incorporate modeling and simulation (M&S), Hardware-in-the-Loop (HWIL) and virtual testbeds to include virtual worlds. Agent-Based M&S techniques and frameworks has become a critical research and development area for investigating the behaviors between systems, which provides insights on emergent behaviors not characterized in requirements. Likewise, virtual worlds and virtual testbeds have been developed to provide a representative environment for both training and the development of mission-level requirements. This ability to evaluate I&I during early engineering development better prepares the acquisition community for success during final operational test, which has now been transformed into mission-based test.

A foundational element of working across many mission-based products is a structured metadata structure to relate and store crucial information for easy retrieval in a tool agnostic way. The I&I team has developed an Integrated Capability Framework (ICF) to define cross-domain relationships as shown in Figure 2. This framework develops the contextual relationships across the naval enterprise, which allows for an effective working relationship and better understanding of roles and responsibilities when working between technical disciplines and tactical tribes.

This metadata structure needs to support the alignment of crucial technical baseline elements of the I&I Activity. These technical products define the mission requirements and engineering development details across programmatic boundaries through the appropriate architecture products with an emphasis on effective mission success. The goal is to define the required SoS linkages to provide an integrated warfighting capability as illustrated in Figure 3. These products serve as the technical reference documents to drive synchronization.

Operational I&I

This aspect of I&I addresses the near-term factors associated with current warfighting capability gaps. The process provides critical decision-making information through a feedback loop to the acquisition process on capability delivered according to themethodology in Figure 4.

The assessment of naval technologies, systems and/ or capabilities requires a system-of-systems (SoS) approach to analyze the impact of making these naval investments across the diverse domains of surface, undersea, air, land, and networks as well as maritime coalition force integration. This assessment is accomplished through the development of effects/kill chains to illuminate capability advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives; consider joint operational plans; examine sufficient feasible alternatives; characterize key assumptions, variables, and sensitivities; as well as assess technology risk and maturity. Figure 5 shows an example of a notional Air Warfare (AW) effects/kill chain which consists of eight mission tasks (plus three sub-tasks) and six C3 nodes as illustrated by the rectangles.

The second phase of this process identifies proposed DOTMLPF solution sets to fix the degraded/ broken effects/kill chains according to Fleet priorities. The Warfare Centers of Excellence serve as the lead for these solution sets, which are documented in an Integrated Capability Package (ICP). The subject matter experts across the DOTMLPF spectrum collaborate on solutions considering important trade offs across that spectrum as well as the synchronization of modifications across the spectrum elements. An example of this collaboration is the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counter Air (NIFC-CA) project, which was officially recognized as a joint venture in 2002. This system-of-systems engineering effort extends the Naval Theater Air and Missile Defense battlespace to the maximum kinematic range of our weapons. The capability focuses on targets beyond the detection range of the shooter, including Engage-on-Remote (EoR) and Over-the-Horizon (OTH) targets. Formal scoping and structure were required based on detailed examinations using effects/kill chains and operational test data to determine operational needs for Fleet leadership. A critical governance element of this formal integrated warfighting capability structure involved the decision to direct Program Executive Office – Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) to establish a NIFC-CA Systems Engineering and Integration Project Office to integrate across the elemental programs in support of the development and acquisitionof a NIFC-CA capability. This instantiation of a formal NIFC-CA project began with the critical elements identified in Operational I&I, namely the determination of facts-based operational gaps and recommended solution sets across the DOTMLPF spectrum and warfighting domains.

Developmental I&I

In today’s environment, most technical decisions driving the POM are based on the advertised performance of a system as a prediction of what should be versus data-driven measurements obtained during operational evaluations representing ground truth of what is. These operational evaluations can provide a higher level integrated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the system in context with the real environment and therefore the I&I of multiple systems to achieve a warfighting capability. What has been missing is the inclusion of the Integration Readiness Level (IRL) into the modulus where the interaction between systems is evaluated to recognize the activity resident in the interstitial space between systems where SoS behaviors are realized. This bridge between tactical and technical operations provides additional technical depth to existing Front End Assessment (FEA) products to ensure accuracy in determining capability gaps and therefore acquisition decisions on what needs to be procured for Fleet readiness. The overall objective is to produce a data-informed Warfighting Capability Plan as part of the PPBE System to eliminate financial waste, increase competition, and procure more relevant products.

Another critical element toward improving the acquisition process is to provide good linkages between the left and right sides of the SE “V” and prepare for increased technical emphasis on mission requirements. The scientists and engineers engaged in the I&I Activity are currently taking the lessons learned in evaluating today’s independent systems on the right side of the SE “V” (refer to Figure 1) to better inform the left side of the SE “V”. This is accomplished through DASN RDT&E initiatives by modifying the Systems Engineering Technical Reviews (SETRs) and acquisition Gate Review Requirements to identify problems early in the development process and therefore drive toward better success in the production of I&I systems while gaining more pre-Milestone B trade space. In addition, the SoS Guidebook is being updated to incorporate mission-level SE operational objectives and designated technical authorities. These efforts are also providing the naval workforce with more experience in understanding ME and the production of SoS capabilities versus myopic views of individual systems, which may or may not affect the overall capability. A major part of this education has come from the development of the Mission Level Assessment and Evaluation (MLA&E) process, which is an engineering approach to an iterative Fleet/Acquisition capabilities-based methodology by which operational needs are defined through warfightervalidated mission architectures that influence Joint/Fleet rehearsals, exercises and experiments.

Continuing with the NIFC-CA example thread, Developmental I&I elements play a crucial role as NIFC-CA executes as a capabilities-based acquisition project, levying minimal requirements onto the component systems while deriving SoS capability from the federation of these independent systems. Multiple programs must be tightly synchronized across both actual development and future acquisition strategies. In today’s environment, this approach has matured into the execution of three effects/kill chains called From the Air (FTA), From the Sea (FTS), and From the Land (FTL) with the challenge of keeping all in sync on a daily basis. The NIFC-CA project exploits capabilities inherent in existing systems, optimizes current and emerging technologies in component system upgrades, integrates them and performs effects/kill chain tests, therein forming an interoperable SoS to maximize future air defense capabilities. Early in the effort, the emphasis was to support system definition and architecture development, performance prediction, performance assessment, system test and risk reduction efforts, system analysis, modeling and simulation, and capability demonstrations in order to drive the acquisition decisions in the PPBE system. This project also facilitated the development of the concept of operations with the warfighter to maximize effectiveness when deployed with the Fleet.

Conceptual I&I

Conceptual I&I concentrates on the longer range objectives to establish government-controlled trade space to enable more affordable and flexible weapon systems. The naval environment is implementing Open Architecture (OA) as an overarching strategy to acquire, upgrade and maintain weapons systems using an evolutionary approach to achieve commonality. Conceptual I&I takes into account acquisition law, program delivery schedules, and supportability from both a financial and personnel resources perspective. This convergence of business practices and technical design agility is producing modular systems with greater success in the I&I of complex systems. A challenge and significant part of this future direction involves the linkage between new and legacy components/interfaces to facilitate rapid development and effective I&I between systems.

In order to reduce the total ownership cost (TOC) of weapons systems, it is essential to design and develop systems based on cross-domain solutions with a move away from platform-centric capabilities. Sharing data and building modular systems is essential to leverage across programs (buy once and reuse) with the ultimate objective to reduce cycle time for transitioning new capabilities to the operational environment. The success of the Open System Architecture (OSA) depends heavily on an innovative and well-educated workforce. The naval enterprise must produce a workforce that is well versed in identifying and managing cross-domain and life cycle dependencies, understanding and responding to adverse vendor behaviors, ensuring that competition yields the desired results, and incorporating OSA best practices as an integral part of program management.

Force level security and safety are being investigated as part of Conceptual I&I under the auspices of the Naval Ordnance Safety & Security Activity (NOSSA), incorporating and utilizing the Weapon System Explosives Safety Review Board (WSESRB) and its current processes. This is essential to ensure that the resultant distributed effects/kill chains will perform effectively and safely across all SoS component systems. Key to Conceptual I&I are discovering and documenting how best to review and assess the I&I characteristics of weaponized systems to understand safety risks; identify hazards and causal factors; assess monitors and mitigations; assess test and
validation; and issue I&I safety findings or actions. According to systems engineering best practices, common taxonomy, processes, tools, and objective quality evidence shall be injected into naval policies and guidance, into SETR criteria and the Probability of Program Success (PoPs)/Gate Review process and metrics.

The critical areas of investigation for the I&I Activity are illustrated in Figure 6.

These areas of investigation were addressed in a SYSCOM Mission Level Technical Authority Summit held on 9 December 2013 to synchronize processes and approaches for the execution of these complex initiatives across the SYSCOM communities. This event provided reviews and in-depth discussions on the critical elements of the I&I Activity and set the path forward.

Recurring actions sponsored by the Program Executive Offices (PEOs) are driving change in the way we do business based on this facts-based approach concentrating on end-to-end execution of mission threads. Discussions have focused on the coordination of the Capability Phasing Plan (CPP), Surface Warfare Technical Requirements Group (SWTRG), I&I Activity, and Warfare Improvement Program (WIP) processes. As part of this coordination, detailed discussions are occurring with the Major Program Managers (MPMs) to discuss the execution of the I&I process and the critical output products driving the POM.

As demonstrated within the NIFC-CA project, successful management of acknowledged SoS systems engineering projects requires reaching across organizational boundaries to establish a capability- based endgame. NIFC-CA is charged with bringing together independent major defense acquisition programs (MDAP) as component systems of an integrated warfighting capability. The NIFC-CA DODAF architectures, in the form of Integrated Capability Technical Baselines, have proven to be powerful tools for capturing the functionality, communications, and essential information of this acknowledged SoS. These products serve as the authoritative source of information to capture conceptual systems engineering ideas and guide tasking to form actual engineering products. NIFC-CA has implemented the key systems engineering and software engineering techniques, including modularity, open architecture, abstraction, and information hiding which are critical to Conceptual I&I activities. These techniques were applied during the functional allocation and distribution process resulting in a system that is far more extensible, allowing dramatic evolution and innovation in the future.


An increased emphasis has been placed on accessing the I&I of warfare mission capabilities through the effective and efficient integration of current and future systems. These assessments are being accomplished through the development of effects/kill chains to identify I&I issues between the critical warfighting systems across mission areas. This is being accomplished through the assessment of effects/kill chains for specific tactical situations (TACSITs) threads within joint Operational Plans. The future vision of this mission-level analysis capability is to interject warfare system technical details into the major acquisition processes to drive the POM for future naval integrated warfighting capabilities. It is absolutely necessary to define operational gaps through effects/kill chains and to govern these, but also needed is government control and accountability of major weapon system interfaces and integrated capability reference baselines. The naval environment’s annual acquisition budget is founded on a “commodity” philosophy and is driven by a fast-paced environment where rapid decisions must be made without adequate time to determine the second-order impacts (interoperability, non-synergy of material procurements, operational capability imbalances, etc.) the acquisition decisions within the POM. Although the commodities are continually manipulated, rippling effects may aggregate consequences upon warfighting capabilities that are exercised by the Fleet at the force-level and therefore require investigation. The goal is to maintain technical and operational cohesiveness across mission areas in a fiscally constrained environment while increasing the overall capability for the warfighter. Adding a structured mission focus to the acquisition process will serve the I&I needs of integrated warfighting well. We don’t acquire commodities the way we fight, but we MUST engineer for the way we fight.

Article Images

Figure 1. Mission Engineering Within the Systems Engineering "V' Model

Figure 2. Integrated Capability Framework - Meta Data Structure

Figure 3. Mission Level Technical Reference Products


Figure 4. Integration and Interoperability Activity Methodology

Figure 5. Notional Air Warfare Effects/Kill Chain

Figure 6. Integration and Interoperability Activity Critical Areas of Investigation