OPEN ARCHITECTURE CUTS COSTS, PROMOTES COMPETITION, OFFICIAL SAYS
By Cheryl Pellerin
05 Nov 14. Adopting open architectures in systems that the Defense Department buys from industry can reduce costs and facilitate competition, the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition said.
Katrina G. McFarland was the morning keynote speaker at Defense Daily’s 2014 Open Architecture Summit, which focused on open architecture in military acquisition.
Open architecture is a system in which the specifications are made public to encourage third-party vendors to develop add-on products. In defense acquisition, the term extends to creating separate modules in a larger system, each of which can be updated to modernize the entire system without rebuilding it, and the modules can be produced by different vendors, promoting diversity and competition at the module or component level.
Acquisition Strategies Implement Open Systems Architecture
McFarland said 75 percent of Defense Department acquisition strategies implement open systems architecture across all services and agencies. “The importance that we place on it is not just in word only, it’s in action,” she added.
“This department is seriously engaged in trying to understand how to help our program managers and our department and our industry look at open architecture and its benefits,” McFarland said, “and understand truly what our objectives are related to intellectual property and making sure that we’re doing it based on the best interest of national security relative to a business case.”
According to the August 2014 Guidelines for Creating and Maintaining a Competitive Environment for Supplies and Services in the Department of Defense, developing an open system may be less expensive than traditional systems because of reductions in material cost, the use of commercial standard interfaces, and the more effective maintenance and modification possible over a system’s lifecycle.
Open systems architecture also may be used to overcome barriers to competition by applying open standards and open business model principles, the Guidelines book says.
McFarland told the audience that confusion exists in the defense industry about intellectual property and open systems architecture. “The government has no interest in pursuing intellectual property when it’s the ‘secret sauce’ of a company,” she said, “but … we are very interested in what I could call the interfaces.”
Owning Interfaces Allows Department to Compete
Owning the interfaces and the architecture allows the department to compete, the assistant secretary explained.
“Conceptually, you’re trying to get your program managers … to understand when they design their functional architecture that they have to take into account what they must go after in terms of … modularity so they can build and change in that area,” McFarland said. “You should have a logic behind what you’re doing, and it should be based on a business case, and you should be able to articulate where you consider those threats to be most prevalent so you can [determine] how to address that interface.”
In terms of defense exportability, she added, “I’m very interested in ensuring that when I build something I know will have export trade related to it.”
“Because of our relationship with other nations,” she added, “I want to make sure I’ve protected the ability of those countries to implement their aspects [of open architecture] as well.”
Guidelines Offer Information on Acquisition Practices
McFarland said the Guidelines book offers good information about the use of open architecture in military acquisition practices.
“In that book you will find … highlights of what we believe people need to think about, … and we give examples throughout the document of how [open architecture] works to the benefit of industry, to the benefit of the government, and most importantly, to the benefit of national security,” she sa