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Title: Achieving Affordable Operational Requirements on the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS): A Model for Warfighter and Acquisition Success?

Subject: SBIRS approach to achieving validated operational requirements.

Author(s): Jay A. Moody; Mark L. Devirgilio (Faculty Advisor)


Abstract: Well defined, warfighter customer generated operational requirements are the most significant determinants of successful military systems. If the warfighter customers and the acquirers do a good job early of defining the operational requirements, the warfighters will have a much higher likelihood of obtaining a capable system that meets their needs in less time and at less cost.

The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Program, a complex "system of systems" satellite development effort, followed a different philosophy than was the norm to define and refine operational requirements that meet the needs of the warfighters. Drawing upon the management, systems engineering, and business reforms called for by several national commissions over the last 15 years and advocated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, SBIRS followed three basic principles to produce an effective and affordable JROC-validated set of multimission operational requirements to satisfy several warfighter customers. These principles included (1) close partnership between warfighter customers (users, operators) and acquirers (military acquisition personnel and defense contractors) throughout the requirements generation process with the warfighters having the final decisions on operational requirements; (2) disciplined system requirements and affordability analysis from a system of systems perspective, using cost as an independent variable; and (3) streamlined business and acquisition environment. The SBIRS Program applied these principles within the basic existing Department of Defense acquisition framework.

The SBIRS Program effectively overcame potential roadblocks to producing an effective warfighter-supported operational requirements document (ORD) in a severely constrained environment of competing customer and fiscal requirements priorities. The program accomplished this by providing structure, analysis methods, and mechanisms that facilitated effective stakeholder communication, mutual understanding, and consensus decision making at all levels.

Despite some limitations experienced at the working level, the basic SBIRS approach to requirements generation was effective in achieving success for the SBIRS Program. It is concluded that it was an improvement over the previous methods for defining operational requirements on unclassified programs, thereby better meeting the needs of the nation's warfighters. Furthermore, SBIRS appears to provide a validation point for some of the reforms to the Defense Acquisition System regarding requirements definition contained in the latest Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 5000.1 and DOD Regulation 5000.2, dated 15 March 1996. The SBIRS Requirements Generation process also appears to be a valid model for other new systems, particularly complex ones with multiple missions and warfighter customers. Therefore, the SBIRS Requirements Generation Process should be studied for its suitability as a model for not only USAF system programs, but joint service programs as well.

Last updated 1998 January 09

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