A test is a program or an approach to obtain, provide and verify process of information or data for establishing the degree at which a system performs or fails to meet the requirements. Evaluation, on the other hand, involves reviewing, analyzing and measuring the data from testing to determine the performances of a system under a specific condition. The importance of having a test and evaluation strategy is to enable the engineers of a program to make right decisions by knowing how to assess and identify a problem and also characterize a system based on its limitations and capabilities (Claxton, Cavoli, and Johnson, 2005). This paper will discuss a significant program that has been managed via the acquisition process. The chosen program for this project is the defense system acquisition program. It is important to note that when developing the system design, the process of testing moves gradually to evaluation.
Defense System and Acquisition Program
The current process of acquisition of software was borrowed from the traditional process of purchasing the hardware. The importance of the T&E acquisition process was to help the DOD to determine whether or not the approach that is established is adequate to perform the required purpose of ensuring the system meets its requirment. When planning to acquire weapons, the head of the ministry of defense is required to recommend the test and evaluation strategies that can be used to provide insight on how the risk related to the acquisition process can be managed. Also, the test and evaluation approaches are used to monitor both the government and contractors, and recommend the necessary changes. In short, the primary purpose of the test and evaluation process is to help the department of defense to acquire weapons and system that work efficiently. Therefore, when a program is dominated by operational cost, T&E approach is used to reduce the chances of having an efficient working system, which is costly in the long-run.
In most cases, before the acquisition process, the DOD ensures that testing and evaluation against a predetermined set of requirement or objectives is conducted. Several activities are involved in the acquisition process; these activities are governed by various sets of rules, test team as well as terms and conditions that ensure that the needs of the customers are met. According to Tyree (2017), initially, the test and acquisition process involved three phases listed below:
- Developmental test and evaluation
- The process of acquiring the stated certification and accreditation
- Operational test and evaluation
This traditional approach encouraged delay of testing and accepting the system, whether or not it can satisfy the customers' needs; as a result, a new responsive T&E process was put in place. According to Tyree (2017), the defense system acquisition process was improved significantly in the year 2003. Thus the primary goals of the acquisition were changed to ensure the quality of the products is improved to meet the needs of the customers. Currently, the structure of the defense system represents the preferred acquisition approach. There are three elements of the acquisition process, which are the pre-system acquisition, system acquisition, and sustenance. These three elements have the following five phases: the first phase is about concept refinement. In this phase, the DOD begins the pre-system acquisition process by identifying the needed materials and also establishing the initial capabilities document. Several solutions are suggested, and the initial test plan is established. This phase ended when the solution is indicated through the analysis of several alternatives is approved.
The next phase is the technology development phase; in this section, the decision of selecting technology is made based on the risks involved and ability to meet the needs of the customers. This phase ends when the decision to review the previous stage is made and useful capability of the technology is identified. The next step is system development and demonstration within the required time frame. This can be achieved by designing a readiness review decision that can indicate where and when the changes on the system can be made. The purpose of the demonstration is to illustrate the ability of the system, how it operates and also showcases its consistency. This phase involves production and demonstration to show the capabilities of the operating and how it satisfies the objectives of the mission. The last phase is an operation and support, which entails modification and upgrade of the system. To determine whether the enhancements and changes are required, the critical thing to do is to check deficiencies of the system that warrants replacement.
The T&E Acquisition Process
The test and evaluation process for DOD program has five phases that try to respond to critical T&E questions that are used to make decisions during the acquisition process (Motley, 2004). The T&E acquisition process usually starts during the formative stages of the program. The following are the major steps that are observed during the T&E acquisition process by Motley (2004):
- The identification of T&E data
- The pre-test analysis of the evaluation of data and goals
- Test activity and data management
- The post-test synthesis and evaluation
- Decision making
Step one is about the identification of T&E data that is necessary to make the informed decision. The required information is usually the central part of forming a test. The data can be in the form of prototypes, past concepts, the manufacturing system, all this depends on the phase of acquisition. It is important to note that the required information and data includes performance evaluations of sustainability and effectiveness of the system. The importance of this first step is to provide an insight of how well the system can meet the expectations of the user.
The second step is about the pre-test analysis of the evaluation of data and goals identified in step one. The importance of the pre-test analysis is to measure and determine the type and quantities of information needed, the expected results from the test, and also the tools to be used to conduct the tests and evaluations. Also, pre-test analysis is essential when establishing the test environment, how to put in place the test correctly and control the staff and resources as well as estimating the outcomes. Step three focuses on test activity and data management. The data identified in step two is used to conduct test and data management. In most cases, T&E managers use historical data to determine the valid data that will be developed through testing. The planning and execution of the test depend on the ability of the managers to accumulate sufficient data that supports the analysis. Before the data is used in step four, it is screened for accuracy and validity. Thus, step four is about post-test synthesis and evaluation. In this step, the data from step three is compared with the expected result from level two, and informed decision is made from the comparison. Therefore, when the actual effect differs from the predetermined outcomes, then the test is re-examined to establish whether or not the performance deviations were as a result of the defect on the system, or the proof was not sufficient. In most cases, simulation and modelling techniques are used during data analysis, and gradually extend the evaluation process of performance. Step five entails decision making. The decisions are made after the managers have compared the T&E information against other relevant data to develop a proper course of action. During the acquisition process, the above steps can be categorized into two broad sections, that is, the developmental testing and evaluation of the operations.
The process of testing the military systems in the country begins with the testing of the components to be used to develop the system, and progress to sub-system, up to when the system will be complete. This simply means that the initial testing is done when the components to develop the system are still in the laboratory, from there the testing gradually improved till the system is fully developed. The early testing is usually conducted by the innovators, it is essential as it issued to provide the fundamental knowledge about the proposed system and also in the identification of possible difficulties during the process. The Department of Defense later can use the initial information from the developer while developing the test plan that is to be used to challenge the system. A continuous testing process consists of the following two features; the testing team which is in charge of proving feedback about the progress, and the ability of the system to meet the end users' needs. The other feature is a well-developed metrics collection and reporting capability, which monitors the capabilities and progress of the system (Tyree, 2017).
One valuable lesson that can be borrowed from testing to the evaluation process is the importance of understanding the reliance of the system to meet the needs of the end user. The evaluation process is entirely derived from the anticipations and expectations. Evaluation of the military system includes measuring and continuously analyzing how best the system can be used to improve the user's experience. There are usually many tools that can be used to gather real-time information that can be used to assess whether there is a potential problem which is then diagnosed before it becomes catastrophic. The current evaluation tools that are used by the Department of Defense include the mechanism that moves from the operational evaluation assessment from a speculative point of view in a well-managed evaluation of the actual goals of the end user (Motley, 2004).
The report has discussed a significant program that has been managed via the acquisition process. The chosen program for this project was the defense system acquisition program. Drawing insight from the discussion, it is evident that the T&E process is an important concept that is used by the DOD during the early stage of the acquisition process of the military systems. The T&E acquisition process has evolved over the years, to become more specific in testing and to evaluate the systems before and after acquisition process. The discussion also explicitly notes that in order for the managers to promote consistency with the acquisition process, the test and evaluation plan should be developed early in the acquisition process.
Claxton, J. D., Cavoli, C., & Johnson, C. (2005). Test and evaluation management guide. DEFENSE ACQUISITION UNIV FT BELVOIR VA.
Motley, M. (2004). Test and evaluation : department of defense has been slow in improving testing of software. Place of publication not identified: Diane Pub Co.
Tyree, B. (2017). Defense AT and L Magazine. vol. 46, no. 6, November-December 2017. Defense Acquisition University Fort Belvoir United States.
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