3 Testing: The Bridge to Success for the New Science and Technology Strategy
Chedister, Robert W., McNair Papers
The Department of Defense (DOD) began a new strategy in 1992 for exploiting technology by focusing on Advanced Technology Demonstrations (ATD) to prove military utility and technological maturity before beginning new weapon system development programs. DOD test personnel are key supports for bridging the gaps between new technologies and military utility in the recommended actions.
In early 1992, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) embarked on a new Defense Science and Technology Strategy. (1) The new strategy seeks to exploit new technologies by focusing DOD efforts along specific thrust areas and by demonstrating the military utility and maturity of new technologies before they enter the formal DOD acquisition process. A central tenet of this new strategy is the use of ATDs to assess military utility and technological maturity before proceeding into development and procurement. How DOD test organizations and test personnel can help bridge the gap between proposed new technologies and demonstrations of military utility with ATDs is the question answered in this chapter.
Test and Evaluation in the New Strategy
Test and evaluation (T&E) in defense system development and acquisition is structured to give decisionmakers data and analysis to help them manage the cost, schedule, and performance risks involved in developing a new weapon system. Test and evaluation is a technical management tool for measuring a system's progress on its journey from design board into users' hands. (2) When a new system is being developed, it is tested and evaluated against design specifications to insure that it can do what it is supposed to do. This is the "developmental test and evaluation" (DT&E) phase of a program. Subsequently, when the system is evaluated against users' needs, the process is called "operational test and evaluation"(OT&E). DT&E is generally considered more objective than OT&E. (3)
The new S&T strategy capitalizes on new information technology to involve the users, or warfighters, early in the process of developing technology with military uses. The new strategy focuses DOD S&T efforts along specific thrust areas of most pressing military needs. The strategy also employs ATDs to show that new technologies are mature enough to be included in future weapon systems. These ATDs allow national decisionmakers to reduce the technological risks involved in weapon development programs and give users an early assessment of a proposed system's military utility. (4) Testers are the bridge between users and technologists or scientists when a new technology is proposed for military use.
By design, the new S&T strategy has been separated from existing acquisition processes and controls. S&T efforts will be headed by DDR&E Thrust Leaders and Technologists, while acquisition efforts follow a separate chain of command and line of oversight. This separation will likely increase the distance between technology and end-user.
The new strategy suggests that technology may become the main determinant in the U.S. defense strategy-making process. This suggests that a new technology must be thoroughly understood and its performance capabilities demonstrated, before its inclusion in a new weapon system. The emphasis will no longer be on the urgency for capability, but on proving utility and demonstrating technological maturity. Test communities are major players in demonstrating military utility and technological maturity. Hence, they will be called upon to help establish the links between technological possibilities and military requirements by pushing technology through these demonstrations. Five things can be done to enhance testing efficiency: let test organizations run ATD programs; get testers to streamline and accept more test risk; form ATD teams as the vehicle for enhancing efficiency; let the testers help to decide when a technology is ready; and get users involved early, on the test team. …