An agile approach to bring trusted solutions to the defense industry
May 10, 2021Dr. Bill Conley, Chief Technology Officer
We live in a fast-changing geopolitical and technological landscape. The convergence of near-peer rivalries with China and Russia, along with a growing array of new threats and technologies from hypersonics to artificial intelligence to cyber, has quickly and radically impacted the considerations and approach needed to uphold American national security.
These trends also necessitate a shift in our ways of working within the defense industry – something that’s long been considered, but must be acted upon now more than ever.
A New, Innovative Mindset
In 2018, then DoD Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin released the Department’s Digital Engineering Strategy, a framework to transform its approach to decision-making that would keep pace with the realities of a new era.
Then, just last year, Dr. Will Roper, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, published a document calling for a disruptive, agile new approach to defense acquisition. In remarks delivered at the AFA’s 2020 Virtual Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Dr. Roper noted that given the breakneck pace of technological change and an uncertain geopolitical future, “we have to do our part in acquisition and that means being able to develop war-winning systems at a pace that today's technology, trends and threats require.”
Both documents clearly laid out the need for an evolution – even a complete disruption – to the DoD’s approach to technology development. In Dr. Roper’s article, he calls for a range of new strategies – among them owning the tech stack, shifting and focusing on solutions at the edge, and improving digital engineering capabilities – to revamp our approach to technology development and deployment.
Put simply, as threats to our national security become more digital and agile in nature, so too must the processes and capabilities to mitigate them.
A Digital Transformation for the Next Era in Defense
As an industry leader positioned at the intersection of commercial technology and defense, Mercury Systems is in the midst of a significant digital transformation of our own. From Development, Security and Operations (DevSecOps) to agile edge computing and beyond, our team remains hard at work taking the latest advances in commercial technology and making them profoundly more accessible to the aerospace and defense industry – and doing so faster and smarter. We’re adopting new, more agile and more streamlined processes to bring technology development cycles in line with those in the commercial sector, which has positioned us well to keep pace with changes in global threats and capabilities.
One key element of our digital transformation is ensuring that our common development tools and environments streamline the process of creating and deploying new technologies and solutions. From continuous integration at the development level to digital twins that can simulate adoption on the government customer side, our organization – and the industry as a whole – has vastly more tools at our disposal to develop and implement new technologies more quickly and affordably.
You need look no further than our microsystems business to see firsthand how – and how quickly – ways of working have changed to adapt to this new era in defense. Just a few years ago, we operated in a cumbersome paradigm in which sensors would have to transmit data to another location for processing, which would then analyze, transform and then transmit that data to the user for action. Further, these sensors were upgraded via years-long development cycles.
However, the threats of today have made such a construct all but obsolete. By leveraging new processes and approaches to microelectronics development, we have reduced development cycles from 5–7 years to 12–18 months, in line with development cycles in consumer electronics like laptop computers and mobile phones. Not only that, we’ve also been able to drastically reduce the size of secure microelectronics technology and have solved ruggedization challenges, all of which allow computing to take place at the edge in close proximity to the sensor itself, reducing latency and enabling the rapid action needed to counter the threats we face today.
Delivering Uncompromised for the Future
The digital transformation that we’re currently undertaking at Mercury Systems is just one part of our commitment to Deliver Uncompromised for our customers. At the heart of that commitment, we are making trusted solutions profoundly more accessible to the defense community, all on development cycles that parallel the foremost commercial technologies.
It’s an exciting time to be part of such a dynamic sector, and from our vantage point, there is value for everyone along the supply chain in doing things in a different way than we have in the past. We look forward to continuing to shift that mindset, helping usher our industry into a new, agile future.
For an additional in-depth discussion about open architectures and enduring competitiveness, watch our on-demand webinar.