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Benefits of Digital Engineering

Selecting Which Option Is Best

Model-Based Vs. Traditional

In its Systems Engineering Digital Engineering Fundamentals (March 2016), the DoD proposed the use of Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) practices within a digital ecosystem in lieu of Document-Intensive Systems Engineering (DISE). The concept is that acquisitions will embrace concurrent, collaborative processes and forego the traditionally serial approaches currently in use. The expectations are efficiencies (e.g., lower cost, shorten timelines, speed of innovation, enhanced performances) for the U.S. military to remain a dominant force and a significant instrument of power. Although nirvana would consist of all acquisition programs being digital enterprises, reality requires choices and trade offs. That is why program leadership must investigate and determine how much digital implementation – all, some, or none – is right for compliance and program success.

Summary of Advantages

Digital Engineering of data and information provides the AF enterprise with the knowledge to establish, trade-off, verify, change, accept, and sustain functional capabilities, design characteristics, affordability, schedule, and quantified performance parameters at the chosen level of the system hierarchy.

Digital Engineering facilitates “Ownership” of the Technical Baseline through Owning the Technical Stack. The government applies technical baseline knowledge to be an informed decision maker and to go “toe-to-toe” with Industry counterparts. Digital Engineering will improve:

  • Access to Engineering Data
  • Competency of Experts
  • Engineering Analytic Capability

Digital Engineering will allow the AF Enterprise to:

  • Achieve Dominant Capabilities while Controlling Lifecycle Costs
  • Increase the use of prototyping and experimentation
  • Improve Requirements Definition
  • Strengthen Organic Engineering Capability
  • Improve our leaders ability to understand and mitigate technical risk

The Future is Now: Just Not Evenly Distributed

Organizations are currently developing systems using model-based design processes and activities. Indeed, enterprise architecture can be considered model-based design to some degree and JCIDS requirements for DODAF viewpoints have existed for over a decade.

What has likely been evolving is both the ability to model system behavior dynamically for the inspection of emergent system behavior estimation and the ability to more tightly integrate design activities throughout the lifecycle. In other words, charting a use-case temporally is good. Running that use case in a fully integrated Monte-Carlo simulation for near-real time performance impact analysis is clearly better. Such design performance standards are currently being enjoyed by some organizations. We need to move more AF programs in this direction.

Writing parseable, syntactically accurate requirements is a good step. Building architecture is better. Building system dynamic models is even better. The ability to tie system dynamic insights back to early requirement and design updates is better still.

Digital Engineering Manifesto

The Air Force Lifecycle Management Center (AFLCMC) is trying to answer the following questions. First, what should an engineer be doing today for tomorrow’s successes? Second, what do engineers need in order to be more effective? In trying to address both questions, AFLCMC/XZN created a Digital Engineering Manifesto as a guide. Its concept is loosely based on the agile software development manifesto that was created within the software industry.

The AFLCMC manifesto summary is comprised of three parts (Click on the Digital Engineering Manifesto hyperlink in the preceding paragraph to see the summary slides). Slide 1 shows common themes (future vs. current states) the AFLCMC team identified. It depicts what can be achieved with digital engineering (left-side) in comparison to current processes (right-side). Slide 2 contains a list of “Key Values” that are necessary for achieving a digital ecosystem that enables data sharing and collaboration across the lifecycle of an acquisition program. The values are in contrast to current practices that are rigid and stove-piped. The final slide includes three manifesto vision statements. Though incomplete, the draft manifesto is a step toward understanding how we enable success by changing how things are done today.


  • Everyone has access to the same information
  • Graphical representation of requirements
  • Re-use
  • Speeds up requirements development
  • Improves ability to compare alternatives
  • Captures corporate knowledge
  • Improves capability for dealing with complexity
  • Reduces amount of effort producing documents and preparing for reviews