Measuring Perceived Risk of Pitfalls Associated with Systems Engineering Tradeoff Analyses

  •  Matthew V. Cilli    
  •  Gregory S. Parnell    
  •  Robert Cloutier    
  •  Teresa Zigh    


The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has recently revised the defense acquisition system to address suspected root causes of unwanted acquisition outcomes. One of the major changes in the revised acquisition system is an increased emphasis on systems engineering trade-offs made between capability requirements and lifecycle costs early in the acquisition process (Cilli, Parnell, Cloutier, & Zigh, 2015). Given that systems engineering trade-off analyses will play a pivotal role in future defense acquisition efforts, this paper takes an in-depth look at the state of systems engineering trade-off analysis capability through a review of relevant literature and a survey of systems engineering professionals and military operations research professionals involved in defense acquisition. The survey was developed to measure the perceived level of difficulty associated with compliance to the revised defense acquisition system mandate for early systems engineering trade-off analyses and to measure perceived likelihood and impact of potential pitfalls within systems engineering trade-off studies. The survey instrument was designed using Survey Monkey and was deployed through a link posted on several groups within LinkedIn, a professional social media site, and was also sent directly via email to those with known experience in this research area. Although increased systems engineering activity early in the life cycle is a compelling change for DoD, the findings of the literature review and the survey of practitioners both indicate that there is much to be done in order to position the systems engineering community for success so that the improved defense acquisition outcomes as envisioned by the architects of 2015 DoDI 5000.02 can be realized.

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