Office of the Chief Systems Engineer: Integrating Capabilities Efficiently

By July 26, 2012Acquisition, General
OCSE Overview

Terence M. Edwards

Traditional systems engineering is necessary for developing individual systems. However, system-of-systems engineering (SoSE) at the system level makes a significant positive difference in integrating the many existing and new programs into a required overall capability.

The Defense Acquisition Guidebook, published by the Defense Acquisition University, states:
“A SoS is defined as a set or arrangement of systems that results from independent systems integrated into a larger system that delivers unique capabilities. … SoS engineering deals with planning, analyzing, organizing, and integrating the capabilities of a mix of existing and new systems into a SoS capability greater than the sum of the capabilities of the constituent parts. SoS engineering is an activity that spans the entire system’s life cycle; from pre-Milestone A through Disposal.”

Management and oversight of this highly technical and complex process of SoSE is extremely difficult. It is also starting to be recognized across DoD as crucial to developing the required capabilities for the warfighter as well as providing prudent management of scarce resources.


Figure 1
The OCSE and SoSI Directorate are aligned under the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, combining to form the systems engineering “V.” OCSE efforts are primarily on the left side, performing project definition, and SoSI efforts are on the right, performing project test and integration. (SOURCE: ASA(ALT) OCSE)

At a Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Summit held April 2, 2008, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army directed the establishment of a SoSE organization in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA(ALT)). To implement this directive, the ASA(ALT) directed the establishment of this organization in a memorandum dated May 27, 2008.

The organization was established to serve as the lead for executing SoSE systems engineering functions for the enterprise of Army programs, to ensure that the respective overall desired capabilities are achieved. It has since been reorganized as the Office of the Chief Systems Engineer (OCSE), serving as the only organization within ASA(ALT) headquarters to provide analytical support to the ASA(ALT) leadership on critical SoS trade-space issues. The OCSE also conducts studies, establishes vision, designs baselines, and maintains vigilance of affordability, interoperability, and relevance.

In support of these goals and as part of a broader review of ASA(ALT), the SoSE mission and function within ASA(ALT) were realigned to the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management (DASM). On June 30, 2011, the SoSE Directorate in ASA(ALT) stood down, and on July 1, 2011, the OCSE was established provisionally. In October 2011, the function of the ASA(ALT) Chief Information Officer (CIO) was transferred from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Plans, Programs, and Resources to the OCSE.

Additionally, the Program Executive Office (PEO) Integration stood down, and the System of Systems Integration (SoSI) Directorate was established provisionally on October 1, 2011. The SoSI Directorate is also aligned under the DASM (see Figure 1). OCSE and SoSI missions combine to form the systems engineering “V” depicted in Figure 1. OCSE efforts are primarily on the left side of the V, performing project definition, and SoSI efforts are on the right, performing project test and integration. These organizations are currently developing their concept plans for formal approval.

The mission of ASA(ALT) OCSE is to provide the Army’s leadership and materiel developers with the necessary system-of-systems analysis, defining engineering and architectural products to manage and shape the Army’s materiel portfolio; to ensure systems engineering discipline across the materiel developer community throughout the acquisition life cycle; and to grow the systems engineering capability within the Army through education, engineering policy, guidelines, and adoption of best industry practices.

As the ASA(ALT) CIO, the OCSE leads ASA(ALT) transformation to deliver timely, trusted, and shared information, And to create an environment that empowers the acquisition community through an unsurpassed agile, collaborative, productive, lean, and trusted information enterprise.

OCSE’s focus is on:
• Delivering strategic-level SoSE and architectural analysis for current and future force capabilities.
• Common Operating Environment orchestration, and validation and verification.
• Identifying science and technology opportunities that will enhance the SoS capability.
• Fostering the environment for information transparency and collaboration for all architectural and engineering data.
• Conducting program reviews to ensure compliance with established architectures and standards.
• Shaping SoS engineering organizational structure and processes across the PEOs to ensure consistency in implementation.
• Establishing engineering policy, guides, best practices templates, and metrics to insure SoS discipline across ASA(ALT).
• Promoting education and personnel development model to cultivate the SoSE capability across the ASA(ALT) and the Army.
• Orchestrating the domain management of its portfolio of existing Information Technology (IT) systems so as to inform investment in those systems, eliminate unnecessary redundant capability, and retire existing systems as their capabilities are transitioned into the evolving suite of enterprise IT systems.

The OCSE mission is critical to executing SoS engineering functions for Army programs, ensuring that desired capabilities are achieved in an integrated and efficient manner. As the ASAALT CIO, OCSE’s efforts are critical to developing a coherent approach to IT resource management across the acquisition enterprise. The establishment of OCSE is a major step toward more efficiently achieving an integrated capability among Army programs that is greater than the sum of the capabilities of its parts, in an increasingly resource-constrained environment.


  • TERENCE M. (TERRY) EDWARDS is the Director, OCSE. Previously, Edwards was the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s CIO/Chief Technology Officer/G-6. He has also served on the Army Staff, as Director of the Army Architecture Integration Cell in the Office of the CIO/G-6. Edwards holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama; an M.S. in computer science from Fairleigh Dickinson University; and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

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