Commentary: Model Based Systems Engineering

MBSE Connects the Engineering Dots

MBSE Connects the Engineering Dots

By Thomas Haduch, Director of Systems Engineering, RDECOM

As our systems become more complex, integrated, interoperable and designed to operate in an increasing systems of systems environment, the use of modeling can enhance our ability to analyze and truly understand system performance behaviors and identify developmental risks.

Model Based Systems Engineering is an innovative approach that allows a systems engineer to organically create a methodology to assess and understand the challenges and risks and develop possible solutions associated with the development and implementation of systems.

It is an emergent, increasingly accepted application of modeling as a more affordable and ease of analysis approach to systems engineering. Its innovation involves the systematic application of information and imagination of the processes to work smarter and not harder in our cost-constrained environment. It also enables more effective and efficient systems development processes by:

  • Specifying the system as a single evolving computer model, not a series of disconnected, static documents
  • Formalizing the practice of systems engineering through the use of analytical models
  • Integrating with multiple modeling domains across the systems development lifecycle from systems of systems to system and sub-component
  • Helping to manage complexity
  • Incorporating predictive modeling and simulation analysis to conduct systems engineering trade analysis
  • Encouraging and facilitating integrated architectures in projects for a better understanding of interfaces and a better understanding of system requirements, behaviors and structure

The importance of Model Based Systems Engineering quickly emerges when one compares and contrasts it to a traditional document-based approach to systems engineering. In a traditional approach, the process produces reams of paper documentation that appropriately outline requirements flow-down, functional analysis, design specifications, and verification and validation approaches in a stove-piped, expensive and time consuming format that is prone to errors and/or incorrect assumptions. Systems analysis becomes difficult when one wants to view system relationships between these domains. Add on top the complexity of a system interoperating with another in a network-centric format and / or in a systems of systems and it becomes exponentially difficult to do appropriate analysis whether it be functional determinations or sensitivity analysis of design feature iterations.

James Lackey, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center director, described Model Based Systems Engineering as the “ultimate cool way” to look at our systems in a refreshing approach that holistically captures the system in operation.

“It is a reinvigorated approach that I hope garners the excitement and attention of our young and future leader workforce,” he said. “If and when it makes sense from a timing and opportunity for insertion standpoint, use of Model Based Systems Engineering needs to be increasingly adopted so that RDECOM can provide the best, robust, systems-capture analysis and architecture of our enterprise and tactical products for our customers.”

This is about growing our skill sets in this area and working to communicate the affordability and efficiency benefits of Model Based Systems Engineering to various program office leadership personnel. Using modeling techniques has caught more substantive defects and created more technical communication in a project than reviews of text-based documentation does.

Projects quickly realize the benefits of systems engineering with modeling when provided with a systems engineer experienced in modeling who could lead a facilitated discussion on a whiteboard. systems engineering with models emphasizes use of a common language and common data thus helping with communication, collaboration and consistency in work efforts across a project. Model Based Systems Engineering has a bright future and RDECOM is on the leading edge in its use for the Army. It is an ultimate innovation for our workforce as thinkers, designers and developers to ensure that modern, complex enterprise and tactical systems are created and produced in a more efficient and effective manner. Better Buying Power.

Editor’s note: AMRDEC Director James Lackey contributed greatly to this column. Also contributing were Allan Lagasca, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Rick Makowski, Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, and Monte Porter from CSC.


This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on innovation. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.