foundation to gain the experiential knowledge and understanding of engineering in the context of an entire system. Systems engineering is enabled by tools that have been developed to assist in the management of systems engineering (not to be confused with the practice of systems engineering).
Both industry and Air Force presenters told the committee that there are not enough domain-knowledgeable and experienced systems engineers to support all of the programs that need them.
Recommendation 3-1. The Air Force should assess its needs for officers and civilians in the systems engineering field and evaluate whether either its internal training programs, which include assignments on Air Force programs that provide mentoring by experienced people and hands-on experience in the application of systems engineering principles, or external organizations are able to produce the required quality and quantity of systems engineers and systems engineering skills. Based on this assessment, the Air Force first should determine how and where students should be trained, in what numbers, and at what cost, and then implement a program that meets its needs.
The Air Force needs to attract, develop, reward, and retain systems engineers across the full spectrum of relevant domains, engage them in the early (pre-Milestone A) phase of new programs (or modification programs), and sustain their participation throughout the life of the programs. One important step in this process would be to create an Air Force occupational code for systems engineering so that engineers’ experience and education can be tracked and managed more effectively. The Air Force should support an internal systems engineering career track that rewards the mentoring of junior systems engineering personnel, provides engineers with broad systems engineering experience, provides appropriate financial compensation to senior systems engineers, and enables an engineering career path into program management and operations.
Finding 3-2. The government, FFRDCs, and industry all have important roles to play throughout the acquisition life cycle of modern weapons systems.
Since the need for a new or upgraded weapon system is most often first recognized by the military user, it is appropriate for the military to codify its requirements and, with support from FFRDC and independent systems engineering and technical assistance (SETA) contractors, to explore materiel and nonmateriel solutions (such as doctrinal, organizational, or procedural changes) as well as to assess the potential for new technology to provide enhanced capabilities. While it is appropriate and usually desirable to engage development contractors in the pre-Milestone B process using competitive study contracts, the source selection for system development and demonstration should not be made until after the work associated with Milestones A and B is complete.