TABLE C-2 Standard Definitions of Systems Engineering (SE)


SE Definition

International Council on Systems Engineeringa

Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems.

Military Standard on Engineering Management 499Ab

The application of scientific and engineering efforts to:

  1. transform an operational need into a description of system performance parameters and a system configuration through the use of an iterative process of definition, synthesis, analysis, design, test, and evaluation;

  2. integrate related technical parameters and ensure compatibility of all related, functional, and program interfaces in a manner that optimizes the total system definition and design; and

  3. integrate reliability, maintainability, safety, survivability, human, and other such factors into the total technical engineering effort to meet cost, schedule, and technical performance objectives.

Department of Defensec

Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach or a structured, disciplined, and documented technical effort to simultaneously design and develop systems products and processes to satisfy the needs of the customer. Systems engineering transforms needed operational capabilities into an integrated system design through concurrent consideration of all lifecycle needs.


Systems engineering is a robust approach to the design, creation, and operation of systems.

aBenjamin Blanchard and Wolter Fabrycky, 2005, Systems Engineering and Analysis (4th Edition), Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

bUnited States Air Force, 1974, Military Standard—Engineering Management, MIL-STD-499A, May 1, Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense.

cDefense Acquisition Guidebook, Chapter 4, Section 4.1.1. Available at\IG_c4.1.1.asp. Last accessed on December 3, 2007.

dNational Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1995, Systems Engineering Handbook, SP-610S, June. Available at Last accessed August 30, 2007.

inherent to the execution of traditional engineering. It is not solely intended for those products described in the academic definition of a system but should also include subsystems, systems of systems, and enterprise-level problems. SE should be applied to all areas that affect the successful completion of a system, including financial management, management of technical risk, political support, and social context.

SE practices and approaches have historically been applied to everything from single systems to complex systems of systems. The SE community (e.g., the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, SoS conferences, the Inter-

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