Air University Review, November-December 1969
Major General William G. Moore, Jr
One day not too many years from now the first F-15 air superiority fighter will be delivered to the Tactical Air Command. This aircraft will represent a new capability designed to counter the increasingly sophisticated manned fighters of the Communist nations. It will also represent the end product of a study advocacy, development, and acquisition sequence that to many persons is a sort of unfathomable "black magic." Probably the least understood phase of this activity is the "requirements process," which begins with the recognition of a force deficiency and extends to the approval of new programs, hardware modifications, or other actions leading to a solution of the problem. This initial step more than any other part of the sequence determines the capabilities the Air Force will attain ten to twenty years in the future. It is important for all of us to understand how the requirements process provides new force capabilities such as the F-15 or the B-1. From my experience as the Director of Operational Requirements and Development Plans in the Air Staff, I may be able to explain the process and dispel any notions that there is "black magic" involved in this or in any other aspect of the development and acquisition sequence.
To begin with, the procedures for initiating development of new force capabilities are spelled out in Air Force Regulation 57-1, "Policies, Responsibilities and Procedures for Obtaining New and Improved Operational Capabilities." The Air University Review of January-February 1968 contained an article by Colonel Geoffrey Cheadle, "What Is an Operational Requirement?" which described very well the intention of this regulation. There has not been, however, a published in-depth review of the working aspects of the requirements process as might be obtained from reading between the lines of the regulation.
The guiding light that illuminates consideration of the most effective force structure for the future is the document entitled, "USAF Planning Concepts," which is revised annually. "The Plan" sets forth either explicitly or by implication the objectives to be achieved in the next fifteen years but is in itself too broadly oriented to be sufficient for management of force developments. Rather it forms the broad base on which requirements are structured.
To be meaningful, the force objectives must have the certification of senior Air Force decision authorities. There must be some agreed understanding as to the relative importance of these objectives if they are to be directly useful to force planning. In practice, specific development programs seldom originate as a direct result of "The Plan" or the objectives contained therein. But those programs which are initiated are related in the force structure reviews to the long-term goals of the Air Force as set forth in "USAF Planning Concepts."
Specific development programs for new Air Force system capabilities usually originate as reactions to deficiencies or lack of adequate capabilities for the job to be done, discovered during force employment or from mission evaluation studies. These studies take two forms examination of force capabilities or application of new technologies. A problem uncovered during tests or force employment normally has a more direct path to resolution than a study recommendation for two reasons: (1) the need is more apparent, and (2) AFR 57-1 provides direct access to reactive elements of the Air Staff. Studies, on the other hand, seldom generate a real sense of urgency by themselves. However, the less stylized review arrangements often result in early presentations to high Air Force management levels, which can result in action if sponsorship develops during the briefings. In these cases the quality of both the briefing and the study may exert considerable influence on the action taken in response to the study conclusions. One of the difficult management tasks in the requirement process is neutralizing persuasive program sponsors so that all candidate projects for Air Force dollars can be viewed from an equally objective base.
Mission evaluation studies are intended to examine force performance capabilities in terms of one or more of the Air Force objectives. These examinations lead to a knowledge of the deficiencies, if any, in the present or projected force structure for accomplishing the mission reviewed, In this sense, the term "mission studies" is often too narrowly interpreted as a theoretical paper exercise Anyone who looks for a better way to do his job is in effect doing a mission evaluation, and his thinking may lead to new equipment or procedures. For major force changes, of course, the mission studies are considerably more detailed than is possible from a single personís viewpoint. The result of any mission evaluation is a determination as to whether there is a need to change tactics or equipment. If an equipment change is indicated, it is fed into the requirements process as a Required Operational Capability (ROC) under AFR 57-1 procedures. Basically, the ROC should describe the new standard of equipping performance that is required or, in other words, what is needed. Since this document is fundamental to structuring the future forces, I will comment in some detail on it.
A determination that must be made for any new development program is its relative importance to the overall capabilities of the Air Force. In this regard it is extremely helpful when the originator of a ROC describes how new equipment will contribute to the mission task of his command and the urgency of acquiring the improved capability. In practice, of course, no ROC is staffed without close coordination between the submitting command and the responding organization. However, this coordination is facilitated by early understanding of the criticality of the solution to the planned operations of the submitter.
A second point regarding ROCíS is that the deficiency must be expressed in such a way that there is no confusion on the part of the responder. Two situations occur most often: (1)The ROC states the problem in terms of a solution; it describes "how" to solve the problem and not "what" the problem is, thus reducing the alternatives available in correcting the problem. (2) The problem is stated so broadly that a large and expensive study program is required to reduce the alternatives to manageable numbers.
One additional comment regarding AFR 57-1 procedures is appropriate. A number of variations to the basic ROC process have been created to facilitate support of special critical mission areas. Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) for handling electronic warfare and reconnaissance requirements is one of the most firmly established. Another is the Southeast Asia Operational Requirements (SEAOR) procedure for handling requirements submitted by Seventh Air Force in SEA. When a deficiency is determined by the operating unit (Seventh Air Force) it is reported electrically to Hq Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), Air Force Systems Command, Air Force Logistics Command, Tactical Air Command, and the Air Staff. The responding command, AFLC or AFSC, commences a review immediately and provides the Air Staff with a Best Preliminary Estimate (BPE). A BPE is the result of a quick analysis and evaluation of what has to be done, and it states the preliminary solution to the problem, including an estimate of cost and schedules. PACAF, in order to reject the stated SEA requirement, must comment negatively, or the efforts toward a funded solution will continue. Such a system does provide quick solutions. For example, early in the SEA conflict, the electrical power in Vietnam had a tendency to fluctuate, resulting in erratic operation of electronic equipment. A SEAOR was submitted, and within several weeks voltage regulators had been shipped to alleviate the trouble. While this problem, fortunately, was resolved with off-the-shelf commercial hardware, requirements are not often satisfied so readily. Usually some development work is necessary to provide the best solution for the operational forces.
In Hq USAF we have become aware that there may be a need to process ROCíS on the basis not only of urgency for a solution but also the cost of the program that will be initiated. Presently, all ROCís are processed under one set of guidelines as defined by AFR 57-1. Yet probably 70 percent of the requirements are for relatively low-cost items that are important but not absolutely essential to the future operation of the forces. Many of these, while not urgent, are so relatively inexpensive that they do not deserve a comprehensive staff review. Very likely there are actions that can be taken to streamline the staffing of such low-cost projects. The result would be to facilitate the overall management of requirements by concentrating on ROCís that call for urgent, expensive projects. We are considering this possibility. Before making any hasty judgments, we must recognize that the total of low-cost projects, if accorded direct access to funds, would impact on the initiation of higher-value programs. In other words, we cannot afford to approve all low-cost projects without regard to the total of Air Force requirements for new equipments. The question is, what is the proper balance of management attention to these smaller projects versus the major weapon system requirements?
In the foregoing, projects and programs are referred to incorrectly. In the normal chronology there would not be a project or program yet identified at this stage, only the expressed requirement. A project or program becomes part of the process only after the concerned elements of the Air Staff and the involved commands agree that action should be taken in response to the ROC or other expression of an operational need. This is not a failure to recognize the very fine work carried on by our research and development agencies on a continuing basis. Rather, I am merely pointing out that until we have identified the approach that best satisfies the requirement stated in a ROC we are not in a position to seek funds for the resultant project or program.
For this reason some further study is always required to determine the best solution to a requirement. To accomplish this, Hq USAF either conducts or directs a mission/ concept study to define how the problem is to be solved. Again the term "study" should not be interpreted narrowly because often the solution is so apparent that a cost and feasibility examination is all that is required. For major new systems the study may continue for a year or more, with considerable contractual support and the associated substantial expenditure of funds. These mission/concept studies develop alternative solutions and define the equipment performances necessary to meet the standards identified in the ROC. The possible solutions are interrelated by mission, costs, technology, and effectiveness. It is important that a full range of alternative concepts be explored. The conceptual studies should describe in hardware terms the systems and subsystems that are potential candidates to close the gap between existing capabilities and the required operating standard. We always seek participation by the originator of a requirement in these studies.
The conceptual studies probably indicate a need for major advances in technology or even a technological breakthrough prior to an acceptable solution. Therefore, the gap between the desired mission performance and the existing capability cannot be closed immediately. In this circumstance, the mission for which the requirement was submitted must be re-examined to determine if interim fixes providing lesser capabilities are acceptable.
Up to this point in the requirements process, matters are very straightforward: determine what the Air Force needs and start the staff actions to provide it. Once there is agreement to proceed toward a solution, however, the system gets considerably more complex, since a number of optional approaches may have to be considered.
Often a requirement can be satisfied by a simple equipment modification. Funds are available each year to accommodate these changes, and the major challenge, outside the normal paper work, is to place the available funds against the most urgent projects and turn the task over to AFLC. An example of the modification procedure is the work the Logistics Command is doing on the C-119 gunships. Electronic warfare requirements can be met by application of technology through the Quick Reaction Capability arrangements. The QRC program has been used to develop equipment to counter the surface-to-air missiles (SAMíS) in SEA. These two methods are unique in that funds are available in a limited amount to be spent at the discretion of the Air Force. In the normal situation we must "advocate" our proposed solution program through the Air Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to obtain necessary funds. This, of course, is an area where many differences of opinion are likely to be overpublicized.
The normal advocacy process usually starts with one or two concept studies prior to concept formulation. The distinction between concept formulation and conceptual studies is very simple: In the latter we are concerned with relating any number of possible solutions to the requirement through a general evaluation of the mission and the technology. In concept formulation we are comparing selected alternative solutions in a rather formal way (realistic costs, schedules, etc.), looking toward making a recommendation on the preferred solution to OSD for approval.
As activity shifts from the original problem to some preferred solution, the task of advocating or selling the program increases in scope and tempo. Each problem has its own best solution, and each solution has its own sales problems. In every case some individual or individuals must exhaust all possible means of ensuring that the program is given fair consideration in relation to all others when decisions on the allocation of funds are made. This is, in fact, a real exercise in perseverance and staff agility and not at all an exercise in "black magic."
One of the complicating factors with which we as advocates must contend is the ever present funding problem, which has several facets. First is the relative cost of new systems. The sophistication and complexity of our proposed systems have resulted in extremely high development/acquisition costs. These costs are reflected in the Air Force budget as added investments. As a result although the Air Force budget has increased over the past several years, a substantial portion of that increase is needed to pay for purchases approved when they cost fewer dollars. For instance, the C-5A investment costs have grown, taking a larger slice of available funds. Secondly, the SEA conflict has increased the operating cost for our forces. These factors have operated to limit the research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) budget to a relatively constant figure of $3.5 billion for the past several years.
However, a constant dollar budget for RDT&E programs does not provide a true picture of what is actually happening in the technical development area. Not only are the SEA operations increasing Air Force operating costs; monies used for normal technical development are diverted to provide quick solutions for SEA operational requirements. Further, the inflationary trend in our economy has resulted in a decrease in the value of available dollars. Thus less research and development can be purchased with the same number of dollars. For example, when the programmed RDT&E funds for FY 63óFY 68 are deflated for the increased cost of conducting research and development activities, the Air Force RDT&E budget can be shown to be effectively reduced by 30 percent.
The final facet of the funding problem is the fact that a gap already exists between the Air Force RDT&E estimate of funding to satisfy stated requirements and the approved Five Year Defense Program. Considering that future prospects of increased funding for the Department of Defense are slight and recognizing the existent RDT&E gap, one can perceive the difficulty that an advocate faces in justifying new systems. Despite the severe competition for funds, several major Air Force programs have been successfully advocated recently, e.g., B-1, SRAM, AWACS, and F-15. These systems will require large expenditures of RDT&E funds over the next few years. Our success in advocating these systems will increase the difficulty in obtaining future systems.
One more point will clarify the requirements process, and that is in regard to advocacy. What is meant, in practice, by this term? It means that we respond to all the regulations, staff offices, individuals, procedures, etc., that contribute to obtaining a positive decision to fund the recommended Air Force program. This includes the necessity of a complete discussion by all elements of the Air Force as to the value of alternative solutions, with the concomitant detailed investigation and resolution of the many factors bearing on the final version of a proposed program. It means much frustration, long hours of overtime for rewriting staff papers, periods of frenetic activity in preparing briefings, rechecking system design details, etc, Whom is this activity directed toward? The answer depends on the size and type of the development program. For major weapon systems, of course, the approval authority rests with the Secretary of Defense. This means that all the interested staff agencies and offices below this level down to the major commands must be fully acquainted with and in agreement with the proposed program. No precise staffing procedure is followed, but eventually the Air Staff Board, Air Staff Council, Chief of Staff, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force R&D, and the Secretary of the Air Force must in turn approve the program before it is forwarded to the Secretary of Defense. When the proposal reaches the OSD staff, actions such as responding to Development Concept Papers, Draft Presidential Memorandums, and other key staff papers are normally required. These actions require meticulous, detailed attention due to their potential impact on the decision to proceed with or disapprove the advocated program.
At this juncture let me amplify an important point: once the Chief of Staff has approved a particular program, it serves no beneficial purpose for any element of the Air Force to continue voicing reservation or disagreement. On occasion Air Force interests have been jeopardized by overzealous persons publicly proclaiming their own version of a new system while we are pushing approval for the preferred Air Force design. It is very important that all of us express our concern and honest convictions regarding new ideas, but not after a best solution has been determined and accepted by the proper authorities.
Appointment of a single manager for a proposed program focuses the numerous essential activities on the overall objective of obtaining expeditious development decisions. The staff officer charged with this responsibility may be of any rank. Large programs that markedly affect the future of the Air Force may have a general officer appointed as the single overall manager, as for the F-15 and the B-1 programs. Any officer who has negotiated a program through the entire sequence, from receipt of the requirement to final approval for acquisition, deserves recognition by his fellow officers.
These steps and restraints are the framework within which we in the Directorate of Operational R&D Plans pursue the necessary programs to ensure the continued effectiveness of the operating forces. Our task is to create order and progress from a continuum of hundreds of new requirements each year. We have learned from experience that the dynamic nature of supporting sciences and the demands of an ever varying Air Force mission preclude the establishment of one "grand plan" to achieve the order and progress we seek.
An analogy to the Air Force requirements process can be seen in our day-to-day personal activities. All of us have at one time or another mentally chosen some goal in life that we wished to attain, the object of our ambition. Furthermore, that position evolved from our present status and the knowledge gained from past exposure to the environment around us. This dynamic view of our ambition in the world is analogous to "The Plan" in the Air Force. Our personal "Plan" contains objectives that we want to reach. In this sense a constant mission evaluation occurs so that our goals are evaluated with respect to our present capabilities, to determine "what" is needed to ensure their accomplishment. These "whats" or additional capabilities may range from the austere to the excessive, from material to spiritual. What are the possible solutions to the deficiencies we recognize in our lives? Where and how can we obtain the means to remedy them? Seeking answers to these questions leads immediately to a comparison of alternative methods for reaching our goals. The alternatives pose different funding problems and very likely quite different completion times. Nonetheless, the alternatives are compared, and the best choice is made within the limits of our mental and financial capabilities. Having made a choice, we must then advocate the solution, to our parents, possibly to our wives, or to the banker whose low-interest loan is crucial to proceeding. (I hope this simplistic but true analogy has not again raised the specter of "black magic.")
In the Air Force, the problem of ordering goals and related requirements is that any listing of goals is never absolute. Too many variables enter into determination of the listing, and these variablesóthreat, technical feasibility, urgency, etc,óare interpreted from different viewpoints. The requirements process in the Air Force and DOD is built on innumerable judgments or decisions, which are in turn based on interpretations of the data base. Further, these judgments change with evolving circumstances. Achieving order requires a dynamic working format. This is where requirements planning becomes necessary.
We have under way at the present time a thorough study of requirements planning. Our approach might be called the wormís-eye view, since we are in effect working from the level of considerable detail toward the broad perspective of Air Force objectives. The purpose of this re-examination is to create a continuing planning capability that provides three outputs:
A. A direct correlation between known deficiencies and ongoing or new research and development programs.
B. A fuller appreciation of the basis available to support decisions on major system programs.
C. A more easily understood relationship between apparently disparate Air Force missions, such as counterair and assured destruction.
In working terms this means starting with mission areas selected for their understandable relation to the force structure but sufficiently narrow in scope to be manageable. Within these mission areas a determination is made as to the appropriate measures of effectiveness. The outstanding requirements are then viewed against these measures, to determine their relative contribution to Air Force capabilities in that mission area. As one would suspect, there is a considerable need for judgment in this exercise, since performance criteria that clearly distinguish comparative capabilities seldom exist. If they do exist, they are almost never universally accepted by all persons in the decision chain. However, knowing the agreed measures of force performance is in itself a partial solution to the requirements planning problem because such knowledge reveals the latitude remaining for judgments regarding the particular solution to the requirement. This information strengthens and focuses the arguments that are part of the approval process for the new project.
If the force capabilities can be weighed within selected mission areas, there is hope that relative evaluations can be made between mission areas. The idea is to expand our understanding of the role and contribution of each element of the force until the pieces integrate into the whole.
Whether we are successful depends on diligence we apply to this formidable task; I have little patience with skeptics who say it is impossible. We are making decisions relative to equipping the forces every day. Additional understanding derived from detailed study certainly cannot detract from the decision process. Further, I do not agree with the view that all planning must start from broad objectives. If we can develop methods for viewing a limited portion of the Air Force mission, it will certainly contribute to better understanding of the "big picture." In some instances it may influence the expression of objectives. We must find ways to relative ordering of our programs if we are going to make best use of available dollars toward achieving the greatest overall force effectiveness.
One further thought concerning the whole requirement-development-acquisition sequence. The staff officer who has followed his program along the tortuous path from conceptual studies to engineering development is most knowledgeable in both the requirement and the preferred solution. He has perforce become committed to the program. Although there are prescribed procedures for transferring programs between Air Staff elements at various phase points in the development/ acquisition sequence, the complete involvement that a staff officer has with his program cannot be transferred. His involvement and expertise only further the progression of the program towards development for the inventory. Having decided that the best interests of the Air Force are served by keeping staff officers with their program throughout the development cycle, two procedures can be adopted towards accomplishing this objective. The staff officer could be transferred to other elements of the Air Staff as the program progresses between elements. Alternatively, the program could remain in one office throughout its development cycle. Of the two alternatives, the latter should be considered the more acceptable, for this reason: Under the former, Air Force personnel requirements not related to the program can cause a change in assignment of staff officers. These assignments can occur at unpropitious times in a program development cycle, thus greatly reducing the expertise and commitment to the system or program. On the other hand, if the program had remained within one office of the Air Staff, the project officerís involvement would have been assimilated to some extent by other officers in that same office through the normal dialogue. In this way, loss of expertise and commitment caused by reassignment of the project officer would not be nearly as great.
Therefore, I propose that responsibility for systems/programs remain in one office from the initial Air Staff response to a requirement until resolution of that requirement. This would be in line with the concept of charging a staff officer with the responsibility as was done for the F-15. This would also be in line with a proposed reorganization of the DCS/R&D, whereby the total study advocacy, development, and acquisition sequence for a given program will be under one Air Staff Director.
It is important to remember that through the entire sequence there is one continuous thread: responsiveness to the needs of the operating forces. While the task of responding to operational requirements principally involves research and development activities, the first principle in structuring programs is to accommodate the needs of the operating forces. An important condition is that no final decisions on new programs are made without major command inputs.
In short, the requirements process in the Air Staff is designed to construct a bridge between the operating forces and the technical community. In the requirements planning process we try to develop better understanding of the factors that bear on decisions for future force equipage. Requirements planning also provides a continuous evaluation of requirements and responses. If we do all these things well and pursue our program with a singularity of effort, the Air Force will continue to be the most effective fighting force in the world.
Hq United States Air Force
Major General William G. Moore, Jr., is Director, Operational Requirements and Development Plans, DCS/ Research and Development, Hq USAF. After flying training, he served in Italy as squadron commander and group operations officer, Fifteenth Air Force, 1943-45. On inactive status except for Air Command and Staff School (1950), he was recalled and commanded the 3d Bomb Group in Korea, 1951-52. Subsequent assignments have been as Chief, Bases and Units Branch, DCS/O, Hq USAFE; Assistant DCS/O, Hq USAFE; Commander, 314th Troop Carrier Wing and 839th Air Division, Sewart AFB, Tennessee; Deputy Director, Operations, J3, USSTRICOM, MacDill AFB, Florida; and Commander, 834th Air Division, Vietnam, 1966-67. General Moore is a graduate of Air War College and National War College.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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