Pursuing Mission Excellence: Striving to be “Second to None”

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Adam Quick
  • AEDC/Space and Missiles

“Pursue Mission Excellence,” “Invest in our People,” “Improve and Sustain the Complex;” the three priorities laid out by AEDC leadership “to prove the systems required to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy” and put us on a path towards “Sec­ond to None.”

What does mission excellence mean for a professional Develop­mental Test & Evaluation (DT&E) organization? How does an orga­nization balance the demands of today’s mission while investing and preparing to execute tomor­row’s? As Space and Missiles internalized the AEDC priorities, the Branch leadership team de­veloped three principles to guide decisions: Workforce before Fa­cilities; Quality before Capacity; Capacity before New Capability.

People execute the mission; people solve problems! Take care of the Workforce before Facilities.

Trust the workforce to execute the mission, identify issues and define requirements. Give them opportunities to experiment with innovative solutions utilizing the resources they already have. (Ev­ery acquisition professional re­members non-material solutions are preferred.)

A trained workforce has a lead-time, requires maintenance and has a sustainment tail, just like facilities. Make sure to align the development of a workforce with a new capability. After all, a test capability includes both people and infrastructure. AEDC can’t deliver mission excellence without its workforce.

AEDC, through the Test Branches, Squadrons and Oper­ating Locations, is responsible for developing and maintaining a professional DT&E workforce. Professionally executed DT&E is critical to acquiring systems that meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy.

Space and Missiles focuses on four workforce competencies (technical, operational, safety and security) to achieve mission excellence. Not just competence, but excellence resides in the workforce throughout AEDC, and must be integrated into a cohesive team with unity of purpose and mission focus.

Technical competence is the foundation of the AEDC DT&E workforce. It is essential to per­forming the functions of T&E: maturing system designs, man­aging risks, identifying and re­solving deficiencies, assisting in reduction of unintended cost increases, and ensuring systems are operationally mission capable. AEDC T&E professionals pro­vide the technical competence for both test facility/environment and system-under-test to design T&E programs that provide decision quality information.

Operational competence has dual meaning for professional testers.

The first is employment of facilities and creating operation­ally relevant environments for the systems-under-test. It includes ex­ecuting ground and flight test in a safe, secure, effective and efficient manner; the fundamental prin­ciples of Crew Resource Manage­ment; and the mechanical aspects of execution.

The second, operational com­petence, is extrapolating results to the ability to deliver warfight­ing capability. This requires a workforce knowledgeable in the system’s operational concepts and environments. This knowledge is gained through close collabora­tion with our mission partners.

Technical and operational competence are the foundations of safety competence. Understand­ing how the system interacts with the test environment and predict­ing system response to test condi­tions allows the workforce to tai­lor risk management tools to ac­complish the mission. The DT&E workforce must then be trained and qualified to employ those safety principles and requirements during test execution.

Security competence cannot be overstated. Safeguarding the information required to plan and execute tests, as well as the data produced during testing, is essen­tial to successful mission execu­tion. The ability to identify, cre­ate, handle, process, store and dis­seminate information in a secure and timely manner is vital support for test programs.

A T&E workforce that meets the four competencies must focus on Quality before Capacity.

Defining and documenting the expectations is a critical step for delivering mission excellence. The good habits and process dis­cipline developed with a qual­ity focus will increase efficiency. The workforce should understand, document and communicate their definition of quality and the met­rics used to capture status. Let them determine which processes, tools, documentation and train­ing gaps exist. Leadership should provide the resources to close the gaps. The easiest way to in­crease capacity is to make sure we deliver the right information the first time.

Once we’re routinely deliver­ing quality T&E, make sure we’re executing at the required Capac­ity before New Capability.

Strive to be the expert, not just competent, in today’s mission. That focus reveals constraints and limitations in test capabilities for future systems. Establishing re­quirements traceability provides the foundation for defining, plan­ning and growing into tomorrow’s mission. Common commercial economic terms like time value of money, return on investment and lost opportunity should be tailored to our mission and acquisition processes. Communicating what matters when, knowing how and when we “break even,” and know­ing what we’re sacrificing are key to informing leadership about our future test capabilities.

These three principles guide the decisions within Space and Missiles. They directly tie to the AEDC priorities, and put us on the path to mission excellence. When we put the workforce first, they’ll deliver. They’ll earn the National trust by proving AEDC can deliver the DT&E required for warfighting capabilities Sec­ond to None.