Department of Defense Has a New Approach to Systems Development

In an article for Defense News, Navigant says the Department of Defense is innovating using high-performance computing and digital modeling

As priorities shift in the federal budget, discretionary spending is paramount for the military where research and development into modern systems design is of utmost importance.

In an article for Defense News, John Walker, managing director with the defense and national security advisory practice, said, “As fiscal pressures mount, modernization is by no means certain unless we do something about the efficiency of our acquisition programs.”

To adjust to fiscal budgetary changes, members of the military's Department of Defense (DoD) are strategizing to increase the speed of systems design and development by using high performance computing and digital modeling to do so. Compared to the older “design-build test-development” cycle, which could take between one and three decades, the military intends to put the modeling step first.

Digital models allow designers to better test new physics-based designs using software without starting the expensive manufacturing process. These models, or “digital twins,” allow for making informed decisions throughout a system’s life cycle.

According to Walker, the Pentagon believes a shift to computational modeling is necessary due to other countries’ access to superior funding and technology, leaving innovation as America’s biggest resource and solution.

DoD already has a mechanism to innovate in this manner — the High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP). This program provides DoD with supercomputing power and software capable of trillions of computations per second resulting in quicker development timelines.

“All that capability translates into the potential to dramatically accelerate development timelines. It is not so much that HPCMP is a new organization, because it is not. It’s that the DoD is changing the way it does development, and HPCMP is an enabler to help make that happen,” said Walker.

In the Navy, tens of thousands of ship designs were designed with computational modeling, allowing authorities to select designs much earlier in the development process. And in the Army, HPCMP was to generate accurate predictions of helicopter performance for rotor blade upgrade of the CH-47F Chinook.

Today physics-based modeling applications for DoD is almost never ending, and the new development process is becoming standard.

"The DoD cannot afford not to employ modeling on the front end of weapons system development. To not do so would prove too costly and time-consuming. Embracing physics-based modeling is a surefire way program managers can risk-reduce their programs," said Walker.

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