The Department of Defense’s lead technology official released a new digital engineering strategy Thursday to guide the Pentagon’s ability to handle increasingly complex acquisition priorities for new weapons systems.

Michael Griffin, DoD’s new Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, announced the directive alongside plans for a new Digital Engineering Working Group (DEWG) and a Digital Engineering Summit in October.

Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering (DoD photo)
Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering (DoD photo)

“Without sustained and predictable investment to restore readiness and modernize, we will rapidly lose our military advantage, resulting in a Joint Force that has legacy systems irrelevant to the defense of our people,” Griffin wrote. “One way we can do this is by incorporating the use of digital computing, analytical capabilities, and new technologies to conduct engineering in more integrated virtual environments to increase customer and vendor engagement, improve threat response timelines, foster infusion of technology, reduce cost of documentation, and impact sustainment affordability.”

DoD officials said the document will guide industry on synchronizing efforts with the department to speed up delivery of emerging technologies, such as hypersonics, needed to meet the growth in capabilities of near-peer competitors.

“Defense programs are increasingly complex. Large systems and systems of systems may involve multiple geographically distributed stakeholders, sometimes with competing priorities and interests. Programs involve ever-greater levels of technology, software, and requirements for both capability and security. The operational and threat environments are dynamic, and current practices are not keeping pace with advancements in technology and technique,” DoD officials wrote in a statement on the strategy.

Increased use of digital engineering in the acquisition and development process is intended to improve transparency on large technology projects, allow for greater flexibility in design, move to more efficient engineering and acquisition practices, and ensure confidence that expensive capabilities will perform as expected.

“Using models is not a new concept; however, digital engineering will address long-standing challenges associated with complexity, uncertainty, and rapid change in deploying and using U.S. defense systems. By providing a more agile and responsive development environment, digital engineering supports engineering excellence and provides a foundation to fight and win the wars of the future,” DoD officials wrote.

Griffin also directed each of the service’s to develop their own digital engineering strategies, and the October summit will allow senior service leadership to learn how to align their practices with the direction of industry.