MAR 29, 2023

Streamlining the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) Processes

In support of the Department of Defense (DoD) response to Congressional concerns regarding delays in JCIDS processes, the Acquisition Innovation Research Center (AIRC) assessed how it can improve the efficiency of developing and approving capability requirements and develop a model to show the effects of proposed alternatives.  

In a presentation titled “Assessments of the Process for Developing Capability Requirements for DoD Acquisition Programs” on research into a validation process used by the DoD to identify, develop, and meet the needs and requirements of warfighters, AIRC modeled JCIDS processes and proposed improvements such as incorporating lean approaches to the requirements validation process, rapid prototyping, changes to policy, and training for a cadre of requirements professionals.  

Currently, it takes more than two years to identify capability gaps and choose a solution approach through JCIDS, leaving interoperability between military forces at risk and warfighters vulnerable to threats. 

“That is a problem,” said Dr. Donald Schlomer, Acquisition Program Manager SOF AT&L – Policy Manager, US Special Operations Command, who spent three years researching JCIDS processes for his doctoral dissertation, “How do you use current technology if it takes you two and a half years just to get a requirement validated to address and acquire a technology?” 

Schlomer worked alongside Dr. Mo Mansouri, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Dr. Michael McGrath, AIRC Fellow, to develop a problem-focused approach to remedy JCIDS delays and identify improvements. The three researchers presented their findings at the 2022 Annual Research Review, during which they described how they modeled the requirements process based on a sample of Navy programs, assessed the interface between services and joint staff, and identified automotive industry and foreign acquisition best practices to produce a trio of recommended improvements that can potentially streamline the requirements validation process.  

“The idea was to figure out what’s causing the delays in the process and see if we can patch that in the best way using all of the optimization methodologies that we had in mind and could apply,” said Mansouri. 

Their approach relied heavily on the simulation model based on Joseph Wirthlin’s research on acquisition at MIT. “It didn’t include software acquisition programs,” Mansouri said. “We updated it, but we worked on the same level because that was a good baseline for us.” Then, they applied Value Stream Mapping based on Hugh McManus’ handbook for product development, a process first used by Toyota. “We used the same principles and methodology to make the process linear,” Mansouri continued. “The qualitative methodology was mostly focused on interviews with other companies and entities that have a similar approach to requirement development.”  

The first recommended improvement focuses on lean approaches and doesn’t require any policy changes but has the potential to reduce end-to-end time by 25 percent. The second recommendation is more intensive and requires an overhaul of the entire JCIDS process to combine the Initial Capabilities Document and Capabilities Development Document into one integrated document that, according to Mansouri, would “reduce the time by 50 percent, from 852 days to 444 days.” The third approach aligns JCIDS with the Defense Acquisition System using the Adaptive Acquisition Framework and will require significant changes in the law, policies, and manuals. 

“What we discovered here is a capability gap in the JCIDS process itself,” said McGrath. “There’s no authoring system, but authoring a requirement is a challenging thing. You’ve got this handbook that’s 341 pages. You’ve got a policy directive that’s another 114 pages. And the only professionals who really understand that in-depth are the gatekeepers in joint staff and services. The last recommendation was one that we thought was needed. Just as there are acquisition professionals and budget process professionals, there needs to be a cadre of requirements professionals.”  

McGrath continued: “When you look at the agile acquisition framework, we heard that there’s a strong incentive for middle-tier acquisition work around the delays of the JCIDS process. Rapid prototyping and putting a prototype in the hands of a warfighter and then using that as the basis for defining the requirement for what you want to go to production offers a much faster path and one that can keep pace with technology.” 

As is the case with many exploratory research projects, there were constraints. Because of how the project was defined, the team had to look at this problem from the perspective of gatekeepers. “That was one caveat of this research: the level of abstraction was set for us,” said Mansouri. And the model relied on a limited data set. “That’s another restriction of this research. Obviously, they couldn’t give us a lot of these cases, and it has to be sanitized and categorized based on the type of program as well.” 

As further developments occur, success will hinge on embracing better end-to-end governance processes, streamlined documents and staffing, agile requirements, and missions and systems engineering solutions — indicating that digital transformation is integral to improving JCIDS processes. 

“Automating whatever we can is a principle of lean systems — an AI-assisted workflow management that enforces a schedule and is also useful in collecting data,” said Mansouri. “Digitalization is upon us, and that’s probably one of the most important things we should invest in.” 

View the recording from the third quarterly AIRC-DAU Research Forum to learn more about this ongoing research. Follow AIRC on LinkedIn for updates on acquisition innovation.