Mission Engineering - A Step Change in Capability Management
Updated: Jul 4
Implementing the DSR: Mission Engineering Enabling Timely Acquisition
The Defence Strategic Review (DSR) represents the most comprehensive review of Australia's national security in living memory. Along with the requirement for sweeping changes to Defence's force posture and structure, the DSR makes clear that the Nation's revised strategic outlook requires major upheaval to Defence's capability development and management practices.
Mission Engineering (ME) provides the means to make this happen.
It does so via the coupling of its core principles and practises with enabling digitised tools that intrinsically link the needs of Capability Managers with the expertise of their delivery agencies. Mission Engineering enables the proven Systems Engineering approach to be applied where it matters most - at the execution level of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations.
Mission Engineering will not only enable the integration and interchangeability of ADF systems in the joint environment but will also equip the ADF to engage with broader alliances and coalition forces who are already adopting its methodology.
Moreover, when adopted at the inception stages of the One Defence Capability System lifecycle, ME brings a level of speed, agility, and efficiency of resource allocation that is essential for the realisation of DSR recommendations.
Whilst the timely adoption of new methods into the Defence landscape always comes with challenges, ME's basis in core mission planning principles and sound Systems Engineering philosophy ensures the personnel and skills already resident in the Defence Enterprise are capable of successfully stewarding its implementation with minimal overhead.
Supported by an appropriately digitised toolset, this ensures the application of ME remains focussed on meeting the needs of the warfighter.
Mission Engineering - Defined
Mission Engineering (ME) is a top-down approach to capability design and integration that takes proven Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) concepts and applies them to the analysis of individual Mission Threads (MT). Successful implementation of ME will depend upon the accurate mapping of the MTs to identified threats.
Following the ME approach then results in a mapping between underlying capabilities and systems that enable activities within each MT. The probability of mission success, derived from a range of metrics, is subsequently used to assess the current and planned set of capabilities and identify operational gaps. Prioritisation of capability development decisions is therefore driven by threat forecasting .
As ME extends beyond the Integrated Investment Program (IIP), its application ensures that force design and force integration are aligned throughout the ODCS. This intrinsic link between operational strategy and capability delivery fostered through ME ensures that as the threat environment changes, operational requirements and the development and management of capabilities remain aligned - the IIP becomes responsive to changing threats.
Mission Engineering - A Step Change in Capability Management
By applying the ME philosophy through a digitised toolkit, changes in operational strategy and concepts can flow seamlessly through to the functional performance specifications of delivery agencies. Thus, the need for lengthy rewrites of joint capability needs statements and operational concept documentation, which require subsequent processing by organisations such as CASG or CIOG, is eliminated.
Whereas siloed teams of operators, engineers, logisticians, and commercial specialists once worked separately on their respective and voluminous document suites, the digitised application of ME supports integration throughout the capability lifecycle.
When coupled with agile commercial strategies, the application of ME will ensure acquisition programs remain flexible to support the needs of the ever-changing strategic landscape.
Additionally, joint operations - either within the ADF or with allies - will be further enhanced by accurate mapping of how MTs are enabled by Defence's capability systems.
In a world where each step within an MT could be enabled by capabilities managed under different programs, the ability to determine how changes in the scope of one program affect multi-domain and joint mission conduct is essential.
The digitised application of ME is fundamentally designed to address this pressing need for speed, agility, and efficiency in capability management. In doing so, Capability Managers will reach an end state where the seamless exchange of individual people, equipment, doctrine and/or systems between trusted nation groups is a reality - the true definition of interchangeability.
Mission Engineering - Implementation and Challenges.
Taken individually, the core concepts of ME are not new. However, what is new is the application and integration of these concepts from the strategy and concepts phase of capability development, accompanied by a shift from lengthy, siloed, and paper-based documentation suites to digitised and integrated data packages. When viewed through this lens, is the digitisation of capability development practises and its ongoing management. In seeking to adopt such an approach amongst the strategic uncertainty of the modern era, Defence must remain cognisant of challenges and roadblocks that may impede the successful adoption of ME.
The application of Mission Engineering to Defence capability management is a non-trivial undertaking.
Challenges and Roadblocks include:
The tendency to adopt a bottom-up approach to ME may lead to a capability rather than a threat-based analysis. As a result, operational requirements will not be driven top-down by threat analysis.
If not properly managed, inconsistent and incompatible approaches may be adopted between service groups - analysis across a Mission Thread will be inhibited due to inconsistent design.
Many current projects are geared to deliver against isolated Operational Concept Documents and may struggle to pivot to digitised ways of working.
Insufficient support and direction from Command on the adoption of ME may result in a sub-optimal application of relevant concepts and ideas, leaving acquisition teams to 'do their own thing'.
A lag in the development of Mission Threads may result in a loss of momentum that constrains Defence's ability to deliver on DSR recommendations.
The sunk cost of investment into legacy ODCS software and systems may slow the transition to digitised ME tools.
Insufficient knowledge of Mission Threads may lead to a knowledge bottleneck which slows the adoption of ME.
The effort required to create structured data within digitised ME toolkits may overwhelm ME practitioners - the centre will need support to build momentum quickly.
Poor command and control of ME concepts may result in the misalignment of interoperability and interchangeability goals with allies and partners.
Achieving a balance between agile capability development and the effective management of multiple capability requirement baselines.
ME requires a visual, scalable, analytical, dynamic, and collaborative platform on the DSN that can produce Mission Threads, Mission Engineering Threads, and mission metric dashboards. Digitisation requires leading-edge tools to be available.
The DSR has arrived at a time when Defence is already struggling with deadlines and budgets.
Under the current system, at least 28 projects are collectively 97 years late.
Separately, at least 18 projects are facing cost overruns of $6.5 Billion. 
If ever it was required, now is the time for new methodologies to improve efficiency and accelerate operational outcomes.
Missing Engineering is at the forefront of digitisation and stands ready to meet the needs of Australia's national security interests.
Office of the Deputy Director for Engineering. Office of the Under Secretary of Defence and Research and Engineering. US Department of Defence (2020). Mission Engineering Guide. Retrieved from: https://ac.cto.mil/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/MEG-v40_20201130_shm.pdf
Jackson, L & Jose R. (2022). Australian defence projects billions over budget, decades late. Retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/asia-pacific/australian-defence-projects-billions-over-budet-decades-late-2022-10-10/