This committee’s approach is to take as a given that a systems engineering approach is critical—and that considering lightweighting early in the process is part of a comprehensive systems engineering approach.54
A follow-up to the Pre-Milestone A report was published in 2011. Evaluation of U.S. Air Force Preacquisition Technology Development55 focused on the role of maturing technologies and inserting them at the appropriate time in the acquisition cycle. It provides additional evidence for the importance of systems engineering in technology development.
Based on the results of earlier reports and the present study, it is evident that lightweighting offers enormous potential for improving the capabilities of military vehicles while simultaneously reducing energy consumption and the associated, burgeoning costs to the military. But the realization of such benefits requires not only the discovery and development of improved lightweight materials (those having high specific performance) but also, more critically, the use of systems-level design approaches that explicitly include lightweighting. Realizing the benefits of lightweighting will also require concerted, coordinated efforts of DoD agencies aimed at accelerating the materials design and development cycle and shortening the time required to field new technologies.
Strategic visions and investment strategies for defense-critical materials, modeling, systems engineering, and manufacturing also need to be formulated. Collectively, these efforts could help to revitalize U.S. manufacturing capabilities, with attendant economic benefits to the nation.
54 This report is not a comprehensive review of systems engineering. It uses terms such as “systems-level approaches” and “optimization” in the general sense of attending to the requirements of a system as a whole, subject to identified constraints. The committee recognizes that such usage may be imprecise. Please see the reports described and referred to in this section for more information.
55 NRC. 2011. Evaluation of U.S. Air Force Preacquisition Technology Development. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13030. Last accessed on November 17.