Experts in the Field: Open Systems Architecture’s Expanding Role in Defense Innovation

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The Modern Battlespace’s “Experts in the Field” series aims to share with our readers valuable insights and perspectives from thought leaders all across the defense space. This month, we are featuring Sally L. Bixby, who works at Precise Systems, in support of NAVAIR PMA-209 Avionics Architecture Team, led by CAPT Margaret Wilson. This team leads the development and implementation of the Open Architecture (OA) standard, which Bixby told us “results in DoD hardware and software product lines that increase portability of applications, reuse of components, and the ability to adapt to changing requirements more rapidly.” Bixby is also the FACE™ Consortium Enterprise Architecture Chair, and Project Management Analyst for Future Plans/Business Development. She fills many roles in her position and leverages her deep relationships across the world of defense to bring some of the brightest minds into the spotlight.

“I am surrounded by incredibly forward-thinking NAVAIR leadership and technical experts and that provides an exciting doorway for me to connect Tri-Service leaders, influencers, decision-authorities and industry all together to help accelerate Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) program adoption,” Bixby reflected on her current role.

Bixby offered her thoughts on the rapidly growing importance of open systems architectures (OSA) in defense and how they are propelling the sector forward in the direction it needs to head. Here’s what she shared with us in our conversation:

The Modern Battlespace (TMB) Editors: Tell us more about your current role and how you are shaping the future of the battlespace.

Open Systems Architecture
Sally L. Bixby, Precise Systems, in support of NAVAIR PMA-209 Avionics Architecture Team, The Open Group FACE™ Consortium Enterprise Architecture Chair, and Project Management Analyst for Future Plans/Business Development

Sally L. Bixby: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that really rings true for me. I’m not an engineer nor do I possess in-depth technical expertise. Rather, I create successes because I am connected to many Tri-Service leaders and highly talented tech experts that come together by way of Open Architecture (OA) / Open Standards (OS) ecosystem. Over the last two years, this has included those involved in the Hardware Open Systems Technologies standards framework (HOST), Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE), Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA), and C5ISR/CW Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS).

Their efforts help maintain technological superiority against increasingly capable adversaries and deliver the latest technologies to the warfighter at the fastest pace possible. It gives me great satisfaction to hone in on the best way to showcase expertise, value, and vast benefits of OA by supporting advances and latest achievements for more rapid acquisition with the MOSA directive and principles.

TMB Editors: How do you see the future of the battlespace evolving and what technologies do you see having the biggest impact?

Bixby: Earlier, I touched on the importance of OA/OS and the MOSA directive. I’ll add to that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) coming on fast, as we’ve all likely been reading. I do believe that as long as AI and ML developments are carefully utilized and inserted by those aiming for the greater good (vs solely profit-driven), we’re likely to see several significant changes on every front very soon.

TMB Editors: How can industry and military work together to ensure that these technologies get into the hands of warfighters more rapidly?

Bixby: In my mind, it is a serious matter of industry participation over hesitation. The good news is there are several key avenues to make this happen. Some of the best I’ve ever witnessed are in collaborative environments such as being an active member in the FACE Consortium, the  SOSA Consortium, the Object Management Group (OMG) and the like.

And, not to overlook the obvious, participation in focused technical interchange events and conferences whenever possible is imperative. I know many colleagues are especially looking forward to the U.S. Army’s upcoming FACE TIM on September 14 in Huntsville, AL. Coming as safely as possible out of COVID, the turnout anticipated there is 750-1000. Other key events: the Tri-Service Open Architecture Interoperability Demonstration (TSOA-ID) is looking at holding the next TSOA-ID near Washington, D.C. in early 2022. And a most recent success from this past March, the FACE and SOSA Consortia virtual Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) hosted by NAVAIR, brought these distinguished leaders together to present: VADM Dean Peters, Mr. Gary Kurtz, Mr. Randall Walden, and BG Robert Collins.

Companies or organizations actively engaging in vendor-neutral forums with government participation as mentioned, can easily expand their business network to help achieve the goal. It really is all about active participation and not overlooking the advantages of working together.

TMB Editors: What role does open standards have in helping the military accelerate innovation?

Bixby: Readers may recall from this recent CMOA article on The Modern Battlespace which stated, “CMOA will enable both air and ground vehicles throughout the battlespace to more easily share components due to the establishment of unified architecture standards.” Though my view is limited, of course, concerning all Open Standards projects and strategies being employed across the spectrum, I see OS escalating innovation as it sets pace for bolder, more extensive requirements as a core deliverable. No longer in the offing, Open Standards have arrived, and I’m thrilled to be supportive.

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Chelsea is an Editor for The Modern Battlespace, and oversees editorial strategy and content development for the site. Chelsea writes for other federal government and technology industry publications. Her background lies in B2B and enterprise technology, specifically cloud computing, SaaS, travel IT, and mobile devices.