NOV 10, 2022

Data-Driven Portfolio Management Pilot Underpins DoD Acquisition Decisions with Clear Traceability

Warfighters are beset by increasingly complex operational needs. From emergency deployments to the procurement of intelligence systems, vehicles and weapons, there’s no shortage of major defense acquisition programs currently in the works for U.S. combat forces.  

The Department of Defense (DoD) presently relies on a traditional program-centric approach to shape and support its acquisition decisions. However, in recent years, it has become clear that such a method lacks the analytical capabilities to synchronize warfighter requirements, which can result in loss of life and mission failure. 

Dr. Dan DeLaurentis (Purdue), Chief Scientist, the Systems Engineering Research Center, is working on improving defense acquisition performance. As the Principal Investigator of a data-driven capability portfolio management pilot, DeLaurentis led a team of researchers to develop a prototype capability to enhance data-driven decision-making regarding acquisition and sustainment programs, motivated by the DoD’s Integrated Acquisition Portfolio Review (IAPR) process.  

The idea is to establish a more holistic, portfolio-centric approach to acquisition integrations that aligns decision-making with operational needs to increase efficiency.  

“There isn’t a single mission that the military accomplishes with only one system,” says DeLaurentis, who specializes in advanced technologies for space exploration and national defensive and offensive systems. “That’s not the way things work. There are always different sensors and logistics, and mobility platforms at play. If you just assess whether you’re doing the right things by looking at an individual program — the tank, the airplane, the ship — you will miss the gaps.”  

A vital feature of the decision-support prototype is the use of Robust Portfolio Optimization, a technique which produces the distinct portfolios of systems that provide the best trade-off between performance, cost and risk. A Discrete Event Simulator developed by project collaborators at Georgia Tech Research Institute uses a computer simulation to predict which events will happen over time when using different portfolios.  

For example, if 100 soldiers needed to be transported to a war zone, the Discrete Event Simulator would not only tell you how many transport aircraft are available in the originating base but also if an advance team is required to prepare a runway and if the troops will need ground vehicles upon arrival. “It explores all of the ‘what if’ scenarios,” notes DeLaurentis, “and informs the optimization routine on whether or not they work effectively.”  

Other features of the prototype include a new technology inject analysis tool tailored to space observation systems. Developed by project collaborators at Stevens Institute of Technology, the tool equips stakeholders with a broader range of accessible information, such as resource tradeoffs and cost sensitivity analysis, to improve anti-surface warfare mission engineering. “It takes a long time from the date acquisition decisions are made to the time systems and platforms are delivered to the field,” says DeLaurentis. “By taking a missions engineering approach, you’re able to look at some of the historical data to know authentically what worked, what failed, and what was used in a particular mission.”  

The Acquisition Innovation Research Center (AIRC), where DeLaurentis developed and implemented his portfolio management pilot, has become a critical component of the DoD’s efforts to rebalance its acquisition portfolio review process. A network of academic researchers from more than 20 collaborating universities throughout the United States, AIRC leverages innovative techniques and methods to transform challenges in defense acquisition policies, practices, education, and training. Although other organizations supply the DoD leadership with similar tools, DeLaurentis says AIRC’s “unique ecosystem of fresh talent and people with decades of experience in the domain offers the right balance of innovation and realism.”